Latest update: July 2010 (from NWHikers)
Want a viewpoint of Mt. Rainier that takes your breath away? Want one to give you a "Wow" experience? Want to enjoy one of what is considered as a "Classic" hike (not a climb)? Two words: High Rock.
When I first came to Washington State, it co-incided with the publishing of a book
called "100 Hikes in Washington" That book changed the face of hiking and climbing in the Evergreen State because, like it or not, it opened the eyes of so many people to the treasures that could be found at the end of a hiking trail. Many in the book led to lakes, many to peaks, and many to special places. This is one of those special places.
I had wanted to do this one about 40 years but never got around to it because something else always came up to lead me somewhere else in the Cascade range. Now, I had a chance to do this one after Bob Bolton recommended it to me and reminded me that this little gem was still out there.
Now this peak stands out because it is a magnificient viewpoint. Mt. Rainier appears so close that you feel like you can reach out and touch it. Mt Adams and the Goat Rocks are a bit of a turn to the south east and Mt. Hood shows up directly south and Mt. St. Helens (what's left of it) is a bit more to the south west. Add to it the old "National Historic Site" lookout that is seemingly precariously perched at the very top and you have a nice place to sit and enjoy the views. Tons of people must make their way to the top each year since the hike is listed in the "100 Classic HIkes in Washington" book as well as "50 Hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park" (even though it is outside the parks boundary.
High Rock is called one of the most spectacular in No. America as stated on this page that I linked to.
High Rock also comes in at #45 on the Prominence Peak list compiled by Greg Slayden at his great peakbagger site.
Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood show themselves towards the south
Getting ThereFrom Packwood's highway 12, drive 18 miles on highway 52 (Skate Creek Road) and turn left onto FS road 84. It is well signed. The road is dirt for the next nine miles to the trailhead, located on FS road 8440, a spur road off of the main trunk road, FS 84. 2 1/2 miles on 8440 gets you to a wide spot in the road where you find the trailheads for both High Rock and Greenwood Lake. Park there.
From Seattle, you need to drive to Ashford on highway 706 and go about 4 miles to Kernahan road and turn right. Look for a sign that says Big Creek Campground-Packwood and you'll be on the right road. Continue south across the Nisqually River and at the 1 1/2 mile mark, turn right again onto FS road 85 and stay on this one for six miles (watch for chuckholes) until you come to FS road 8440 and continue on for another 5 miles till you come to the trailhead described in the Packwood approach.
See Map at the bottom of this page
Red TapeNo permits, NW Forest Pass or other irritating regulations at the present time.
There is NOT a nice looking pit toilet at the TH and gosh, there is no pit toilet at all. There are plenty of bushes nearby though.
Special Conditions: Not recommended for bicycles or horses because of steep cliffs and exposures. (that came from the FS website)
When To ClimbWhen you can drive the road when the snow has melted away, which is variable most likely from May to late October so I suspect that May to October would be the hiking season for this one. No climbing other than a little class 2 as you approach the lookout. The steep drop offs do warrant some consideration and common sense. Small children should be closely supervised and dogs could be taught to fly. (just kidding of course).
La Wis Wis Forest Service Campground. Some nice sites along the river.
Mt. Rainier National Park:
(reservations taken) See linked site below.
More information on nearby National Park campgrounds can be found HERE
Mountain ConditionsNo web cams but Packwood's weather will give you a feel for what is happening up higher. Click here
A list of contacts can be found here at this LINK
I'd try this one first:
Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
10024 US Hwy 12
PO Box 670
Randle, WA 98377
History of the LookoutOriginally built in 1925, it was manned for quite a few years and then decomissioned and scheduled for demolition. Local lookout preservationists took over and refurbished and rebuilt it so well that the forest service started manning it again a few years ago. As I dig up more history or find someone who knows more about it, I'll post that information here.
This information was provided by marzsit (not a SP member)
" it took quite a bit of work to restore that cabin. when i visited it in 1982 the trail was just over 3 miles, the lookout was abandoned and every window and shutter was gone.... the interior was covered with graffitti, and the forest service was going to tear it down. local volunteers restored it, and the forest service started manning it again about 8 years ago."
Another bit of history is added by another anonymous writer (calls himself "Snowshoe Hare"):
"That's too bad about the vandalism. Last couple times I did the LO a few years ago it was staffed by an older grizzled fellow was had been featured on Evening Magazine or another local TV program. Nice fellow, very knowledgable and protective of the lookout. Kept shooing kids and adult visitors away from the cliff edges. I was intrigued by little Cora Lk way below and later that day I cooled off in it. Short easy trail to it off the road to High Rock. You can just make out the LO roof from Cora's shore. Before all the FS rds to it were built I guess it was quite the hike in to reach the LO- like so many NW spots. The view like you mentioned is fantastic, the light better later in the day. They evidently used to have some kind of winch system set up atop the lookout site to haul supplies straight up from down below."
I found more of the history of the lookout in Ira Spring's book, "Lookouts, Firewatchers of the Cascades and Olympics"
The lookout is registered as a historic site.