Another well-known hike just off i90, Granite Mountain had been on the list for a while. It gains almost 1000ft per mile in elevation (meaning great views) and the trailhead is literally less than a mile from the highway, making it easily accessible with great views and a lookout at the top. Unless you hike it on a crappy day, which is exactly what we did. 11/20/2014, 30% chance of rain, close enough to sunny (ha!) that we decided to go for it.
- Distance: 8.6 miles round trip
- Elevation: 3800ft gain, highest point is 5630
- Weather: 40’s and rainy
- Commute from Seattle: 45 minutes
- Did I Trip: No
Before I get started, Jean also has a great blog called jandjnorthbound (started when she hiked the PCT) if you want her side of things. Hopefully she isn’t making fun of me over there for the six layers I wore on this hike or the fact that all I brought for snacks were almonds and some GU.
Starting out, the trail was covered with the lightest dusting of snow. Just enough to stick, but not really enough to say it snowed. The beginning of Granite Mountain is the same trail as the Pratt Lake trail, which I found boring but runnable last time I was there. This time I had company, so no running. But I had conversation to distract me from the first hour or so, which is just through forest. Did I mention it was raining? It was pretty gross out, but the rain let up after about an hour, which is about all I can ask for in the Pacific Northwest. We decided the hike might end up being “Type II fun.” Not always fun while you’re doing it, but you look back and think yeah, that was pretty good, I’m glad that happened!
Once you break out of the forest, you’re hiking along a slope, and I imagine have some pretty good views on a clear day. The trail can be rocky in places with big steps to get over, but poles were helpful and we weren’t in any sort of rush. The trail eventually flattens out a bit as it swings towards the lookout. I have to wonder if you can see the lookout from the lower trail when it’s not completely socked in by clouds. There were so many points when we thought we had to be close, but ended up hiking another half hour. Anyway, as the trail flattened out, the snow began!
We’re guessing that while it was raining on us down below, it must have been snowing at the top, because it was all perfectly fresh. Just a couple inches, no footprints or anything, so we got to break the trail. It was tricky to find, but there were small giveaways every few minutes like steps and bridges. Somehow we managed to stay on it. Visibility wasn’t much more than 100 feet – no views in any direction, and since we hadn’t hiked Granite Mountain before, we had no idea how far up the lookout would be.
We finally decided to take a break and have snacks since we weren’t sure how far away we were from the top. So we put our things down and whipped out the bars and almonds and gazed into the white void. I turned to Jean and mentioned it’d be ironic if we were, you know, two minutes from the lookout and just had no idea because we couldn’t see anything. After some food we felt refreshed, and carried on. Two minutes later, we were at the lookout! Hooray!
Except it was locked. I shook the door until Jean saw the padlock on it. God. Dammit. All I wanted was a place to sit and snack! And the last lookout I had been to (Hidden Lake) was stocked with games, books, a bed, all sorts of lovely things. Yet here we were, locked out. With
amazing no views (left). So… we had more snacks, and then headed back down.
Going down was a little easier because our own footprints were there. We never put on microspikes or any traction devices. When we got out of the clouds and were back on the snow-free slope, we noticed that a lake of fog had rolled in across i90, and just the peaks of some small mountains were peeking out above it.
I don’t want to quite call it “Type II fun” because it wasn’t that bad, but we know we’ll have to go back someday when the sky is clear and we’ll have more impressive things to look at. But I think that being in the snow is always a good time.One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve always loved fresh, pristine white snow – in cities, like Chicago and Boston, that snow turns brown so quickly. Out here, you’re in the mountains. That snow stays white for quite a while! Even on cloudy days, that crisp white snow is awesome. I meant to make a small snowman, but I forgot. Next time. Hopefully he’ll have some nice views too.
When we started, I was thinking that this might be one of the last “<20% change of precipitation” days before winter officially hit. I’ve been told that if chances of rain are low, you should just go. So we did! Fresh air and a workout, can’t complain about that. And hey, most of the hike ended up being dry after a rainy start, which is pretty good. Wonder when they’ll open the lookout again.