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Heybrook Lookout: One of the Closest Fire Lookout Hikes to Seattle

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Looking for an awesome hike near Seattle? Heybrook Lookout, just over an hour east of Seattle, packs in a lot of punch for such a short trail, with incredible moss-covered trees, a historic fire lookout from 1925, and jaw-dropping views of the Cascade Mountains. Here’s everything you need to know about Heybrook Lookout.

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About Heybrook Lookout

Length: 2.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 912 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Dogs? Yes, but leashes are required

Couple overlooking Heybrook Lookout

How to Get to Heybrook Lookout

The trailhead for Heybrook Lookout is located here, in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and near the adorable mountain town of Index, Washington. The parking area is located right off Stevens Pass Highway, so, unlike a lot of Washington trails with gnarly and potholed access roads, the roads you’ll take to get here are almost always in perfect condition.

Winter is the exception here, when the Pass can get quite a lot of snowfall from time to time- if you’re visiting during this timeframe, be sure to check traffic reports and, if you venture out, have tire chains in your vehicle, just in case.

North Fork Skokomish River in Index, Washington

The gravel parking area holds about 15 or so cars and can get quite packed during the busy summer season- so if you’re visiting during a summer weekend, I’d recommend getting here early to make sure you snag a spot!

When to Hike Heybrook Lookout

One of the best things about Heybrook Lookout is that it’s open and accessible throughout the year and is one of the first trails in the area to become snow-free each season.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t expect snow and ice along the trail during certain parts of the year- if you’re heading to the trail from November through April, I’d recommend checking AllTrails for recent reviews and, if there are reports of snow, bringing along some crampons and trekking poles to provide additional traction on the slippery terrain. Cuz buckle up- portions of this trail are STEEP.

Trees along the Heybrook Lookout Trail

What to Expect Along the Heybrook Lookout Trail

From the parking lot, the trail leads into the forest and runs alongside the highway until, after a short distance, the trail curves to the left and you begin to climb uphill. 

As the sound of the highway traffic fades away, the forest around you will transform into an absolutely stunning second-growth forest that has regenerated from the clearcutting that took place here in the 1920s. Now, the area is full of what can only be described as, in my scientific opinion, “Muppet Trees”, with branches that are totally and completely covered with vibrant green moss. Along the ground are enormous primeval ferns that look straight out of Jurassic Park- some will be as tall as you!

The climb up to the tower through this beautiful forest is short but fairly steep, gaining over 900 feet in just 1.2 miles. Eventually, the hike’s intense incline will even out a bit and, before you know it, you’ll reach the base of the 67-foot tall fire tower in a clearing along the Heybrook ridgeline.

And while you won’t really be able to see much of the neighboring mountain peaks from the foot of the lookout, climbing up the 89 stairs to the viewing platform provides (on a clear day, anyway) a dazzling view of the surrounding Cascades, like Mount Peris, Mount Baring, and Mount Index (including even its Bridal Veil Falls!).

In fact, the lookout provides such spectacular and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, it was used by the National Forest Service until the 1970s to detect burgeoning forest fires in the area. Now, it’s reserved for hikers (that’s you!) to take a breather, have a snack and enjoy the gorgeous vistas before retracing their steps back to the trailhead.

Woman standing at the top of the Heybrook Lookout in Washington

Tips for Heybrook Lookout

  • You can camp here! One of the coolest things about Heybrook Lookout is that you can actually stay here! You’ll need to snag a highly coveted reservation (for $75/night), but, if you’re lucky enough to get a permit, you’ll be able to stay in a private open-air “cabin” directly above the public observation deck in the lookout that sleeps up to four. That’s my kinda room with a view!
  • Leave no trace. Between people leaving bags of dog poop along the trail to carving their names into the outlook’s railings, lots of visitors unfortunately do not respect this beautiful trail. Please don’t be that guy- be sure to know, love, and follow the leave no trace principles while visiting this (and all other!) trails.
View of the Heybrook Lookout from its base
  • Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. The parking lot is essentially a glorified shoulder along the highway, making it a prime target for ne’er-do-wells, who have a quick and easy getaway route. Car break-ins and catalytic converter thefts are quite common here, so don’t leave anything of value in your car while you hike and, if you happen to drive a car that’s popular with catalytic converter thieves (like a Prius), consider taking a friend’s car instead!
  • Stop at Espresso Chalet. After you’re done with your hike, make a quick pit stop to pick up a treat at the Espresso Chalet, 1.4 miles west of the trailhead. The shop has basically everything I love- kitschy vibes (lots of Bigfoot memorabilia!), delicious coffee, and a patio with one of the best views of the Cascades!

Heybrook Lookout is one of my favorite hikes near Seattle- do you have any questions about the trail? Sound off in the comments below!

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