Granite Mountain- classic fire lookout hike at Snoqualmie Pass


Quick Facts:

Location: Snoqualmie Pass Region

Land Agency: National Forest Service

Round Trip: 9.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 3700 feet

Contact: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Snoqualmie Ranger District North Bend

Green Trails Maps: Green Trails, Snoqualmie Pass Gateway no. 207S

Notes: Northwest Forest pass or Interagency Pass required; Alpine Lakes Wilderness use permit required May 15—Oct 31, free, self-issued at trailhead; Dogs permitted on leash;

Access: From Seattle, take I-90 east to Exit 47 turning left and reaching a junction in 0.1 mile. Then turn left and reach trailhead in 0.3 mile.

Good to Know: One of the 100 Classic Hikes, exceptional bear grass and wildflowers, historic fire lookout, Wilderness rules apply; Practice Leave No Trace Principles and Can the Music!

Hike to a restored fire lookout and some of the best views in the Snoqualmie Pass area. In summer, marvel at bear grass and wildflowers galore—and in autumn delight in hiking across a crimson carpet of blueberry bushes. What’s not to love about this hike? Perhaps the climb! It’s a steep and rocky-at-times bear of a hike! But even that doesn’t keep the crowds away, so opt for a weekday when you can enjoy more of this peak for yourself and give the marmots a little break from the commotion.

Don’t be deceived early in the season if Granite Mountain’s southern slopes show bare ground. A series of avalanche chutes from summit to near the highway must be crossed—posing extreme danger that has claimed the lives of several hikers. If there is snow in the chute, hike to nearby alpine lakes instead.

The trail starts as a wide path. Start hiking through mature second growth with the freeway humming in the background. Cross twice a cascading creek and reach a junction. You want to go right and after some gentle side-sloping, switchback along the edge of a brushy avalanche chute. Then cross the chute enjoying an excellent view straight down to I-90.

The climb eases as the way snakes through beautiful meadows. Much of Granite’s upper reaches succumbed to wildfires leaving bear grass, blueberry bushes and mountain ash in its wake. All three provide excellent forage for the mountain’s resident pikas and marmots.

The trail enters the Alpine Wilderness Area and bends west reaching a little basin graced with some pools. It then works its way through boulder fields, snow patches and mud holes. Careless hikers have trampled way paths through the meadows—stick to the trail and help guide wayward hikers back to legitimate tread.

Reach a small gap; then traverse a basin beneath the summit block before making the final grunt to the rocky 5629-foot summit topped by a restored fire lookout. Check it out and the sweeping views. Rainier dominates. Look east to west all along the I-90 corridor at its popular peaks, lakes, and ski hills. Walk to the northern end of the summit for an excellent view of Crystal Lake in a basin directly below—and out to scads of other lakes and craggy summits in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

For detailed information on this and many other great hikes in and around Snoqualmie Pass, pick up a copy of my best selling 100 Classic Hikes Washington (Mountaineers Books). Get your copy today and start exploring some of the best trails in the state!

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