Embark on a vertical journey to the top of one of the most scenic mountains along the I-90 corridor. Enjoy the progression from dark thickets of evergreen trees to flowering alpine meadows to granite cliffs as you climb up to the mountain’s highest peaks. A rickety fire lookout stands aloft at the very top of Granite Mountain, offering spectacular 360 degree views on a clear day.

Set off from the trailhead and follow the Granite Mountain Trail. The trail climbs up a set of wood and rock stairs, making its way through a thicket of trees and underbrush. The broad trail winds lazily up the base of the mountain, crossing several trickling creeks before coming to a fork. Take a right onto a switchback, following the sign to Granite Mountain. Here the trail becomes noticeably steeper, offering thigh-burning obstacles such as rocks and roots to scramble up. Eventually the trail steers out of the forest and into an underbrush thicket, bordering a small trickling stream fed by snow banks high above. The trail switchbacks in and out of the forest, following the stream upward before crossing it and continuing on the other side.

 

© Michael Cline

As the trail gains elevation, the trees begin to thin until at last you are standing on the ridge of a lush alpine meadow brimming with huckleberries, strawberries and wildflowers. Follow the rocky trail as it climbs upward along the mountain’s shoulder, offering spectacular views of the Cascades on the other side of the I-90 corridor and glimpses of Snoqualmie Pass. Soon the trail is covered by remaining summer snow. Follow the cairns and other hikers’ footprints to make your way up the snowy ridges. As the trail begins a steep, snowy ascent, climb vertically through the rocky underbrush along a hiker’s impromptu trail to meet up with the official trail. If you look upward, you should see the fire lookout looming to your left, on the mountain’s highest ridge. When the trail disappears beneath a snowy ridge, follow the well-established path of snowy footprints clinging to the mountainside. Avoid walking too close to the edge, as this is a cornice and could be unstable in warmer weathers. Carefully pick your way up the final snowy cliff to reach the fire lookout, a building held aloft by narrow stilts set into the granite peak. Although the fire lookout is generally locked, sit on its granite foundation to reap your reward: a 360 degree view of the surrounding Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and Lake Kachees glittering in the distance.

Open to: Hikers, dogs on leash

Passes/Permits: NW Forest Pass

Elevation Gain: 4000 ft

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 8 miles

Maps: Green Trails #207 Snoqualmie Pass, USGS: Snoqualmie Pass

Facilities at Trailhead: privy

 

Directions:

From I-90 East take exit 47 for Asahel Curtis/Denny Creek. Turn left to cross the freeway, and turn a second left at the end of the road. Drive briefly to the Pratt Lake-Granite Mountain parking area.

© Michael Cline
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