Friday, June 22, 2018

Hike of the Week : Granite Lakes Trail

This week our training schedule had us at a 3.5-hour hike. We haven't exactly been burning up the trails this year -- at least not in comparison with last year's Kili-training festival. But I wanted to get out and get a proper hike in ... even if we didn't want to drive a long way.

To be honest, I can't really remember where I first read about this trail -- it but the distance and elevation profiles seemed good, and I do like a trail with a payoff at the end. So we set off early Saturday morning to drive to the trailhead.

As we made our way to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road, we passed a school with a big sign saying "TRAILHEAD SHUTTLE". I saw a small clump of people waiting for the shuttle, and we thought, wow, how great that people are using the shuttles!

Then as we approached the trailhead for Mailbox Peak, there was a little line of cars, a closed lower parking lot, and a parks department employee telling people to turn around and go to the shuttle parking. Well okay then! As we got to the "front" of the line, we told the man we were headed to Glacier Lake, and he laughed and said we would be fine, and that this chaos was all people wanting to hike up Mailbox.

So we drove another two-ish miles down the road -- really, how great is the repaved road? It's awesome! -- and right by the entrance to the trailhead parking. But we made a u-turn, headed back, and were really surprised to find the parking lot reasonably empty.

Thirty-seven spots, only about 10 of which were taken when we pulled in at 8:10. Amazing!

Apparently this trail was rerouted in 2017; a new trailhead being created to take pressure off other local trails (cough-Mailbox-cough). We made pitstops at the very clean restrooms and then headed up the trail.

As you can see on the map, the "new" trail is shorter and steeper than the old trail (now called the Granite Creek Connector), but it's new, very well maintained, and very well graded. So while you're climbing steadily, you spend the time admiring how nice the trail is. At least I did.

Seriously, it's like a poster girl of trails!

There are several handsome chainsaw benches on the way up, perfectly placed for little breathers.

But, really, the real attraction is this lovely trail. It feels open yet shady -- not the corridor of forest one often finds. This felt light and airy.

Soon we reached the junction with the old trail, and headed on toward Granite Lake.

This was older trail, but still very nicely maintained. 

We caught glimpses of what Granite Creek rushing alongside the trail, though we could hear it more often that we could see it. 

We did cross the creek on a handsome bridge that was apparently helicoptered into place. Fancy!

We reached the split in the trail and decided to go to Granite Lake, rather than Thompson this time. It's clearly marked, though I neglected to get a photo. The trail got a little rougher and yet flatter, and soon we were heading down to the lake.

The trail got very faint -- in fact, it sort-of petered out into a "choose your own adventure" thing ... but we picked and leapt our way to the lake itself.

The lake was, obviously, lovely, though there wasn't much of a trail around it and the handful of people -- 8 including us -- seemed to have found all available lakefront seating.

We didn't linger too long, however, because it was very, very buggy. I mean, I know that I am delicious, but...

So we took another look and turned back for home.

The lower part of this trail, especially, was so smooth, so well graded, that we fairly flew down it, moving absurdly quickly.

And then, suddenly, we were back at the parking lot which, even at nearly noon, wasn't full. It goes without saying that we eyed the crowds of people at the shuttle stops for Mailbox Peak with some amusement...

We liked this trail very much -- great for training because you can get a great workout, it has a nice payoff at the top, and the trail is nice, too. We plan on going back in the not-too-distant future to hike to Thompson Lake.

Granite Lakes Trail
8.7 miles
2428 ft elevation gain


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