In the midst of buying a house and moving, it seemed I’d never catch up to my blog! Luckily (?) a sick day has knocked me on my rear, unable to do anything but sip fluids and write.
Back in (checks calendar) July, I made plans with my friend Marissa to tackle Granite Mountain. Marissa is behind Postcards to Seattle and had accepted my invite to join me for a training hike. Granite Mountain is known as one of the better conditioning hikes in the area, but also one with a great payoff, so I was excited to hit the trail! I had already made up my mind after West Tiger 3 to bring my poles–my first time doing a hike (and not snowshoe) with them.
The trailhead and first mile for Granite is the same as popular (easier) Pratt Lake, so take into account you’ll have crowds to contend with. Luckily, the first mile is easy and straightforward. Not long after we left the junction with Pratt trail, we quickly began climbing, and I saw something I had never seen before–the entire sides of the trail were dotted in pole marks.
For this reason, and the next three miles of upward climbing, I’d strongly recommend bringing poles on the hike. We both kept thanking out lucky stars we had brought them. Clouds above us swirled, but there still were peek-a-boo views across the 90 corridor. The switchbacks are plentiful in this second mile–according to my Runkeeper, the steepest part of the trail.
Luckily, when you break out of this part of the trail, you are rewarded with a nice alpine meadow. The swirling clouds were actually even more pretty to me than if it had been clear.
All around in the meadow were a blooming cat-tail like structure. I’ve heard in the right parts of fall, this hike can also be covered in stunning fall color. The breaks we took here (breaks all along this hike were plentiful) were far prettier than the previous mile. We also started to notice more and more titular granite boulders, giving us a clue as to how the peak got its’ name.
According to WTA, from your first view of the lookout, you have a mile to go. I got nervous as mile 3 came and went with nary a sight of anything on the horizon but clouds. We pushed forward as the trail snaked up and out of sight, climbing left. We didn’t know it, but we were closer than we thought.
From here, the trail mercifully flattens and widens a bit in a large basin. However, it also gets a bit confusing in places, with Marissa and a few other hikers getting lost in the cat trails. What helped me here was looking for clear man-made signs–some rocks are clearly put in place as steps, not naturally there. Soon, the one trail becomes more obvious as it’s one long way up of stairs. It also got very narrow here, and there was confusion of trail ettiquette, as a very slow group of people more into photoshoots than the trail who had been dogging me the entire hike stopped (with us and another group stuck behind them) to let a group of 12 headed downward pass. Don’t stop to let downhill people go if you’re holding up other groups behind you! Luckily, our anger subsided as we got to the top.
Sadly, like Mount Townsend before, the view was completely socked in for us. However, we were so broken and tired that it didn’t matter. My hip wasn’t as anguished as previous hikes though, which I’d take as a massive victory, but the crowds at the top, and the the swiftly dropping temperature (re-layer up here!) had us not as relaxed as a typical hike. We both kept hoping the crowds around the fire lookout would dissipate, but no dice. Desperate to leave the photoshoot people (not professionals, just inconsiderate) behind, so we ate our snacks and hit the trail downward fairly soon. I think we were both afraid if we rested for too long, we’d never want to get up!
The route down went far quicker than the one up. We were again grateful for our poles, but we also were so ready to be done that I’m sure our posture and form were giving away our (for lack of a better term) doneness. We both rejoiced to be at the junction with Pratt, grateful to be on flatter ground. While we both had plans we were hoping to do later that day, by the time we got to the car (hiking time of five hours, not including breaks), we were already committed to a beer. When the bartender at No Boat Brewing heard we had done Granite Mountain, her jaw dropped, which made me realize how proud of myself I should be! It definitely made up for the bags of ice I had on my hips and knees all night.
I’d do Granite Mountain again for sure and will recommend it–just don’t forget hiking poles and ibuprofen!
Distance: 8.6 miles according to WTA (my GPS said 7.8 RT)
Elevation: 3800 feet of gain
Parking: Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful)
Bathrooms: Pit toilets at trailhead
Best Beer Bet: No Boat or Snoqualmie Brewing in North Bend