Granite Lakes

After a short but very steep trip up Kachess Ridge the day before I wanted a longer gentler trip for Sunday. A short drive also sounded good. I decided on a return to Granite Lakes. I had snowshoed to the lakes in 2006 but it had been about 15 years since I had made a snow free visit. I was on the road by 7:40 and to the Mailbox Peak parking lot on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road by 8:30 am. There were about 35 cars parked for Mailbox. I was amazed at how popular that trail had become. I drove a short way farther to the Granite Creek Road gate to find that the two spaces were taken. One group was just getting ready to go.

I drove a short distance and found a wide spot where I could park well off the road. A few minutes later I was on my way. On my last summer visit there was still active logging going on and the road was hard gravel. Time has allowed grass to grow and the road looks much more like a wide trail now. Flowers began immediately and never really ended all the way to the lake. At the first waterfall I passed the group who had started just ahead of me. A few minutes later I met a lone hiker coming down. He said that 500' ahead was the biggest black bear he had ever seen. I took my camera out but saw no signs of the bear.

At the big switchback I recalled how the road used to go straight ahead before a creek blew out the road and this longer route was put in instead of repairing the old road. Not a sign of any road can now be found. The forest takes back so very quickly. I kept up a steady 20 minute mile pace with just a number of short photo stops to take in all the flowers. Yellow buttercups and white spring beauty are blooming on both sides of the road as well as right in the middle. At the other end of the washed out road the route changes. Small trees give way to deep dark forest. The grassy road is now covered in needles.

This is the most forested part of the hike. The route winds around a rib coming down from summit of Mailbox Peak. Right at the nose of the ridge I saw a cairn. A little checking shows a trail heading down. I'll explore that at a later date. I'd heard of a short cut connector trail and this must be it. Soon the loud crashing sound of Granite Creek began. The amount of water coming down is impressive. Small waterfalls were all along the route. The white water of Granite Creek is much more than I had seen here before. I reached the bridge over the creek at 3.15 miles and about 1:10 of hiking. I had hiked 60% of the distance to the lakes but had gained only 33% of the elevation.

The route turned steeper right on cue. It's never all that steep but it did gain 1200' more in the next 1.75 miles. That's pretty steep for a road. The forest was now left behind and it was much warmer in the sunshine. I slogged on to the signed junction for Thompson Lake and the Defiance Trail ahead and Granite Lakes downhill to the right. On my last visit there were two picnic tables buried by snow at the junction. Now there is one totally flattened and one that is just broken.

It was just about 5 miles to the junction. I started downhill then uphill again. Here I met a solo hiker. He had started at 6:30 am and spent lots of time at the upper lake. He mentioned that the brush made a trek to the lower lake nearly suicidal. On the winter trip it was easy to snowshoe down to the lower lake as the brush was buried by snow. The old road ended and a narrow trail continued on. In just a few minutes I reached the end. The outlet creek or I should say creeks were very high. No rock hopping this time of year. I managed to get onto a big rock and jump to the other side. I quickly realized I was now on an island with shoulder high brush all around. I recrossed on an old rotted log and went up the left side of the lake.

I still could not see the lake through all the brush. I came out at the outlet logjam. The ground was mucky and the logs too small and widely spaced to easily get across the outlet. I settled for sitting on a small log and having my lunch. It was only 10:40 as I hiked the 5.6 miles in just over two hours. Not bad while taking 75 photos. The view of the lake was nice but the sounds were even better. A big waterfall dropped into the lake. Most of it was hidden in forest. The sounds of birds were continuous. I spent about 45 minutes relaxing at the lake.

I had bushwhacked almost back to the trail when I met two more guys. Only the third group on such a beautiful day. Just a few miles away there were a hundred hikers on Mailbox Peak. The slide alder and devils club convinced me that following the outlet creek down to the lower lake was a bad idea. I did see on my GPS map that the route back went nearer to the lake. Also there is a ribbon of forest heading down towards the lake. When I reached the forest I left the road and headed lower.

It was fine at first before some more brush but a second ribbon of forest allowed me to get nearer. One last short push through a wet spot with some devils club brought me to a high spot above the lake. I had a fine view of the lower lake from here. Best of all, I did not get chopped to pieces getting there. I hiked back up to the road and headed back to the junction. I met one more group along here. They were the fifth and last group I saw all day.

Clouds were coming in down the valley as Green and Teneriffe Peaks were covered in white. I still had sunshine. The trek out went fast with the exception of many more photo stops. By a little after 2:00 pm I was back at my car. Driving back by the Mailbox lot I counted 52 cars. I was very pleased to not be in the zoo on that trail. After the steep climb on Saturday this was a nice relaxing trip with 11.5 miles traveled and 2500' gained. Great flowers, two nice lakes, and no crowds. Add in sunshine and I couldn't ask for more.

Grassy Road/Trail
Flowers Everywhere
Mt. Teneriffe
White Flower Border
Granite Creek
Small Pink Flower
Skunk Cabbage
Picnic Tables
Clouds Coming In
Upper Lake Outlet
Upper Granite Lake
Lower Granite Lake
Yellow Violet
Peaks In The Clouds
Another Cascade
Marsh Marigold
Puff Ball
Lone Spring Beauty
Granite Creek Again
Mossy Fern Wall
More Spring Beauty
Nice Color
Single Buttercup
Flowers In The Middle
Buttercup Duo
Last Buttercup
Ripe Salmonberry
Mossy Forest
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010