Only a few spots near Mt. Rainier National Park will blow your mind. Hiking the High Rock Lookout Trail is one of them. With unparalleled views of every inch of Rainier, the High Rock Fire lookout will disappoint no one. Sitting on the end of a cliff with 1,000+ foot drops in multiple areas, it’s not for the faint of heart or those scared of heights. But, if those don’t bother you, you’ll be in heaven.
Your Guide to the High Rock Lookout Trail
What you need to know about the hike
High Rock Lookout Trail Details:
- Length: 3.2 miles RT
- Elevation Gain: 1365 feet
- Difficulty: Hard – But the pain will be over quickly
- Total Time: 2-3 hours
- Route: Road 84 is good for low-clearance AWD
Update as of 9/12/22: The lookout has been removed for rennovations. A foundation still remains.
What sort of gear do I need to hike here?
- 32L – 40L backpack
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Base Layer: Sun shirt (men’s) (women’s)
- Lighter Down Jacket
- Water filter
- Sunglasses, Wide Brimmed Hat, Sunblock
- Wind Jacket (Rain Jacket too if you think it could rain)
- Hiking Poles
- Download map offline
How big is the parking lot?
The parking lot is not that big. I would say it can hold 10-12 cars. I would recommend visiting this on a weekday when visitors are fewer.
How hard of a hike is High Rock Lookout?
It’s a tough butt burner, but it’s a short hike. Once you start to get tired, you’ll be all one and ready to enjoy the sights!
What kind of car can make it to High Rock Lookout?
I would say most cars can make it if the road is dry. The last time I went, in 2020, we made it to High Rock Lookout in a standard clearance AWD.
The hike to High Rock Lookout
How to get to the High Rock Lookout Trailhead
This is a somewhat popular trail, and it’s gaining steam every day. Due to this, be aware that you won’t be alone, and the parking lot isn’t endlessly large. With that in mind, come early or later. Plus, the views are better at sunrise or sunset anyway.
To get there, take FR 84. It’s a good road when considering how forest roads go. We traversed it in a Subaru Impreza, a low-clearance AWD. I’m pretty sure a 2WD could also make it – but I’ll leave that call up to you.
The trek to High Rock Lookout
As you can see above, the hike isn’t too long. The trail is easy to follow but steep and a little over one and a half miles. At around 800 feet per mile gained, you’ll be sweating shortly after starting. Luckily, it’ll be over before you know it.
I estimate you can get here in about 40 minutes if you’re a regular hiker. There’s no need to have your camera out before you get there for the photographers. You’re hiking amongst trees with no views until you reach High Rock Lookout.
There’s no sleeping allowed in the fire lookout, but you can look inside and hang out in it.
Views at High Rock Lookout
Oh boy! You’ll be drooling once you see the high rock fire lookout views. If clouds stay away, Mt. Rainier will be directly in front of you, and all of the 14,400-foot volcano will be visible. This is where you will have the opportunity to go photo crazy.
Once you’ve finished the High Rock Lookout trail, go inside the hut or go to the cliff’s edge. Just don’t fall off, okay? I will also note that drones are legal here as you’re on national forest land. So be aware of those around you, as you probably won’t be the only one flying when you’re there.
Where to stay when visiting Mt. Rainier National Park
If you’re looking to hike High Rock Lookout and stay near the park, the town of Ashford is the best bet. You’ll be maybe 35 minutes from the Paradise Visitor Center and be able to beat the crowds in the morning.
High Rock Lookout – Wrapping up
This is one of my favorite hikes and views in all of Washington. The High Rock Lookout hike is hard but manageable, and it’ll quickly be over. Then, you’ll be left with incredible views for as far as the eye can see!
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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