Perched on the edge of a serrated cliff and facing three glaciated volcanoes, sits the retired High Rock Fire Lookout. Back when the outpost was in operation, visitors had to trek 20 miles round-trip to experience the sweeping views, but today a network of well-maintained Forest Service roads make this an easy, three-mile day hike.
After two-and-a-half hours of driving from Seattle, we were ready to get our feet on the ground. We began with a steep walk through wild flowers and mossy trees. Just before the first mile marker, the trail veered off to a cliff overlooking part of the Nisqually Valley which gave as hint at the panoramic views ahead. As the trail continued upward through the forest we passed what looked like the remains of an old cabin before switching back and reaching the exposed rock summit.
Once on top, Mount Rainier dominated the horizon Staring straight down off the cliff in front of the our picnic spot we could see little Cora Lake tucked in the dense forest valley 1,500 feet below us. As we gazed to the south, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens appeared and disappeared with the passing clouds and to the the east we could see the notched summits and craggy edges of Sawtooth Ridge.
After sharing a picnic at the top and taking in the views one last time, we began walking back down to the truck. Given how quickly we made the summit we decided to tack on another destination to the trip before heading back to Seattle.
After jumping back in the car we headed to La Wis Wis Campground. Within walking distance of our parking spot was a deep, calm pool of glacially-fed water below a 20-foot cliff known as the Blue Hole Swimming Area. The water here was shockingly cold and left us feeling refreshed for our drive home.
The hundred mile view is the whole point of this hike, so check the local weather report for a visibility forecast before leaving home.
This would be a wonderful sunset hike. Bring a headlamp if you plan on hiking down in the dark.
At just three miles, this hike is super-short, so it's easy to carry a great meal to the top. Should you bring wine? Yes.
Pack it in. Pack it out. Bring a small plastic bag for your trash and any other rubbish that might have accidentally been left behind by other hikers.
We recommend adding a second destination to the trip. Green Trails Map Randle, WA no. 301 shows this trail as well nearby trails to Cora and Granite Lakes. If you need a car camping and swimming spot, check out La Wis Wis Campground.
The Forest Service roads were in great shape when we went. Contact Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station (Randle), Gifford Pinchot National Forest for updated information on this trail and access roads (360) 497-1100.
Getting to High Rock Trail: From Seattle, follow I-5 S to WA-167 N/E Bay St/E R St in Tacoma. Take Waller Rd E and 22nd Ave E to WA-7 S/Mountain Hwy E in Spanaway. Turn left onto WA-7 S/Mountain Hwy E. Take SR 706 east (passing through Ashford) for 10.1 miles. Turn right (south) onto Skate Creek Road (FR 52) and follow for 4.7 miles. Turn right (south) onto graveled FR 84 and follow for 6.8 miles bearing right onto FR 8440. Continue 2.7 miles to trailhead at Towhead Gap (el. 4,330-feet).