If you happen to be in the Seattle area, like hiking, appreciate a good challenge, and are not easily intimidated by a big elevation difference over a short distance, this hike is for you…
Mailbox Peak is one of the most challenging and enjoyable hikes I’ve ever done. You hike about 4,000 feet up over a distance of 2.5 miles, and then the same going down. That’s an average of 1,500 feet per mile. If you’re experienced with hiking, you know that’s something to be proud of in anyone’s book. And BTW, there is a mailbox at the peak! You can find pictures I took during this hike here (http://cid-d812bede9f14d3df.skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?page=play&resid=D812BEDE9F14D3DF!850&authkey=bdlHFC!mUIc%24).
In case you’re considering bringing a dog with you; I haven’t seen any signs disallowing dogs; I even read in one of the websites a comment referring to the hike as an excellent hike for dogs. Just note that there’s a small stream a bit after the trailhead (IMG_2269, IMG_2270), but then there are no other water sources for the rest of the hike. So make sure you bring enough water for both yourself and the dog, because you will need it. I used about three litters and I was alone.
Hike date: Oct 15, 2010.
Length: 6 miles round trip; 0.5 miles from parking lot to trailhead, 2.5 to peak, and same on way back.
Total elevation difference: 4,100 feet; highest point: 4,926 feet.
Duration: 2:40 hours up; stayed 1 hour at peak (was so beautiful up there); a bit under 2:00 hours down. Total gross: 5:40 hours, net: 4:40 hours.
Difficulty level: very hard.
Rating (mine): 5/5.
URLs to sites with good info on the hike:
Directions (courtesy of wta.org):
The hike is in the Snoqualmie Pass—North Bend area, WA, USA.
Coordinates of the parking location: (47.4674, -121.6749).
From Seattle, drive east on I-90 to exit 34 (Edgewick Road). Turn left (north) onto 468th Street and follow it to the junction with the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road (Forest Road 56). Turn right and continue up the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road to the end of the pavement (about 3 miles from the I-90 exit). Turn right onto a gated road and park, being sure not to block the gate.
Notes about the Hike
The hike starts in a road just across from the parking lot. There’s a blue gate at the beginning of the road (IMG_2336). You go up the road for about half a mile and you will find the Mailbox Peak trailhead to your left. At the trailhead you will find a sign with a warning alerting you about the difficulty of the hike (IMG_2264, IMG_2265).
A note regarding the difficulty level; after reading a few articles about the hike, and the warning at the trailhead, I was prepared for the worst. The difficulty level was indeed very hard, but not as hard as I anticipated. I would say that for someone who is in good physical shape it’s pretty doable. Just take it slow, and enjoy the challenge…
The trail is marked quite well with diamond-shaped blazes pinned to the trees. Some of them have comments people wrote. For the most part I didn’t care too much for the comments, but a sarcastic comment on a blaze at the very beginning of the hike did make me chuckle. It said “Almost There!” (IMG_2267). From the trailhead to the peak you keep going up very steeply.
The first part of the trail (and the bulk of it) is in the forest. The trail conditions depend on the season. I did the hike in the fall (Oct 15), and the trail in the forest was quite wet. As mentioned, there’s a small stream quite early in the trail (IMG_2269, IMG_2270). You keep going up steeply in the forest (IMG_2271, IMG2272, IMG_2273, IMG_2274) until you get above 4,000 feet. Then the view opens up. There are beautiful views of Snoqualmie Valley (IMG_2275, IMG_2276), as well as Mount Rainier (IMG_2325).
At this point you have two options: either continue straight in the trail through the woods, or go to the right and up on very steep rock boulders (IMG_2279, IMG_2321, IMG_2322). I went up the rock boulders, at times on all fours. There are cairns to suggest a route but they are easy to miss. On the way up I saw only one cairn at the beginning of the pile, but then couldn’t find any others, so I just went straight up. On the way down I did spot several more, so it looks like I just missed them when going up.
Side note: somewhere in that area I lost my hat. It was attached to the backpack, and somehow got disconnected. I have sentiments for that hat because a good friend gave it to me. It has Guinness written in front (IMG_2266). I guess the chances are slim, but if you go on that hike and happen to find it, I’ll be forever grateful.
I found the rocks to be a bit slippery; perhaps it was the season and perhaps the fact that my hiking boots were already worn out after years of use; at any rate, if you do take the route on the rock boulders, make sure you take it slow and easy. If you’re taking a dog or kids, I would say stick to the trail.
The last part after the rock boulders goes straight up towards the peak (IMG_2281). It was quite cold over there. There was ice and snow on the bushes in the hillside and on the trees (IMG_2288, IMG_2291). There were also nice views of the Snoqualmie River (IMG_2286, IMG_2287).
And then you reach the peak… Of course, there’s the mailbox (IMG_2312). But besides the mailbox, you get a spectacular 360 degree view of the surroundings (IMG_2295 through IMG_2317). Besides the views to the Snoqualmie Valley and Mount Rainier that you could see already earlier, you also get great views of the mountains to the north. It was so beautiful there; I stayed for a whole hour. I signed the book in the mailbox, had a meal, took pictures, and sent an e-mail to friends.
Then I started going down. Even though I did try to take it slowly, the going down was very hard on the knees. I felt sorry that I didn’t bring hiking poles. I thought they would just interfere; but in retrospect, I could have just folded them during the climb on the rock boulders, but for the rest of the hike they could have been very handy. Anyway, make sure you don’t rush the hike down. You will probably feel the effects of the hike several days after. I felt those well for about three-four days in my knees and thighs. But it was well worth it…