Hike description: This hike is high and it is a rock – no forest at the top, just views, spectacular views.
The trail takes you on a short, steady, pleasant climb through the forest to a fire lookout with a breathtaking view of Mount Rainier. As you approach the lookout, the trail changes to a steep climb up slanted rock with guidewires for handholds. The rewards are the view of Mount Rainier to the north and of Cora Lake below. The lookout sits on a point of a rock that juts out like the prow of a ship. This is a wonderful hike to do at sunrise and sunset on a clear day – a photographer’s paradise.
In season the trail is huckleberry heaven, making for slow progress up and down the trail. This is a good hike for children but it is potentially hazardous because of the exposure at the top. The guidewire is a guide not a barrier; it will not prevent anyone from slipping and falling off the rock. Children will enjoy visiting inside the lookout when it is staffed in the summer but should be discouraged from scampering over the rock.
Directions: Drive state Route 706 east from Ashford about two miles and turn right on Kernahan Road (Skate Creek Road/Forest Road 52). Follow the road for four miles and turn right on Forest Road 84 (gravel), signed High Rock Trail. At an unsigned junction, go left on Road 8440 until you come to the High Rock/Greenwood Trailhead at Towhead Gap, elevation 4,100 feet.
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Difficulty rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 5 is most difficult)
Miles round-trip: 3.5
Elevation: 1,400 feet
Best time of year: June to October
Map: Green Trails 301 - Randle
Pass: None needed
Also: Rules for National Forest trailheads passes keep changing; check with the ranger and/or the website for current information before heading to the trailhead. Although this hike is recommended for children, the last bit of climb with the guide wires is steep. Hang on to small children.
Info: Gifford Pinchot National Forest: www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/; Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, Randle; “Day Hiking South Cascades,” “100 Classic Hikes in Washington,” “100 Hikes in Washington’s South Cascades and Olympics,” “Best Hikes with Kids Western Washington & the Cascades,” all from Mountaineers Books.
Hike of the Week is presented by The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch Hiking/Backpacking Committee.