Try This Trail: High Hut
Strap on the snowshoes, it's gonna be quite a climb.
Trail Name: High Hut
Distance: 8.6 miles round trip
The crown jewel of the Mount Tahoma Trails Association’s four winter backcountry huts is High Hut, which sits on a 4,760-foot perch over the Nisqually Valley with an astonishing view of Mount Rainier. It’s a challenging snowshoeing trip however requiring 2,400 vertical feet of climbing. But a warm hut waiting at the top works as extra incentive.
Follow the Outer Loop Trail. The way is lined with thick forest, but gaps in the green cloak reveal window views of the nearby jagged Sawtooth Ridge. At 2.6 miles reach a low where the Outer Loop Trail veers left to the Snow Bowl Hut, the Yurt, and beyond. Continue right, steadily ascending.
Crest the windblown ridge housing High Hut, and it soon becomes apparent why this tough trip was worth it: the views! Peer straight down to frozen Anderson Lake, then look north all the way to Puget Sound and west to the Olympics. Stare south to America’s most famous recently-erupted volcano, Mount St. Helens. Then turn east to America’s grandest volcano, Mount Rainier.
Rainier forms a spectacular backdrop for High Hut, appearing close enough that you swear you can feel its icy breath blowing down on you. Get yourself inside the warm and inviting hut and make yourself some hot cocoa; you remembered to bring some, right? If you’re spending the night (reservations required), sit in awe captivated by the alpenglow on the massive volcano; and watch a dark shroud blanket the Nisqually Valley below.
Watch For: Backcountry skiers in the glades below the hut
Getting there: Follow I-5 south and then State Route 7 to Elbe. Then continue 10 miles east on State Route 706, turning right onto Kernahan Road. After 1.4 miles bear right onto Osborn Road, then immediately turn left onto Forest Service Road 85. Continue for 1.5 miles, turning right onto Department of Natural Resources Road No. 1. After 2.1 miles turn left at a junction and proceed 3.1 miles to trailhead.
Note: Sno-Park Pass required; for information, check out the Mount Tahoma Trails Association.
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Winter Hikes of Western Washington.