I hiked to the top of Mailbox Peak today, near Snoqualmie Pass. The trail has a reputation of being one of the toughest short day hikes in the Cascades: it’s only about 3 miles one way, but you gain 4,100 feet. That makes it a bit steep. The Mountaineers and the Washington Trail Association has this to say:
Wimpy hikers, turn the page. This trail offers nothing for you but pain and heartbreak. If you think you've got the goods to scramble up more than 1000 feet per mile, read on. Mailbox Peak brings a serious burn to the thighs of even the best-conditioned athletes, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.
Mailbox Peak Trail is a very steep, wet, unmaintained, difficult, challenging trail. It is 2.5 miles one way to the top and gains 4,00 feet in elevation. Search and rescue teams are frequently called to this trail to assist distressed hikers. Please respect your own ability.
I figured it was all just a bunch of hype. It didn’t look that bad, standing at the bottom.
The trail starts out on an agreeably shallow grade for the first 100 meters or so. Then it gets steep. Then steeper. Then a bit steeper yet. Still, it’s not the challenge it’s made out to be. It may separate the obese, McDonald’s eating, TV watching, weekend warrior (1 in 4 people in the state, last I heard) from anyone who’s ever climbed a mountain before, but it certainly isn’t going to “bring a serious burn to the thighs of even the best-conditioned athletes”.
The view from the top, in contrast to the hike up, was not over-hyped. Today was a crisp, clear Autumn day and one could see for miles in all directions. Mount Si, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Rainier were all visible. And at the top, there is not one but two mailboxes. (I vote we change the name to Mailboxes Peak.) One contained something called a TerraCache, which is some sort of alternative to geocaching. The other held the log book and a number of odds-and-ends that people had left behind. At the base of one of the mailboxes was a firefighting helmet. The state’s Fire Training Academy sits just at the base of the peak and they often use the trail as part of their physical training. (I’m told that they once hauled a fire hydrant up the peak. That is quite a feat.)
I’d like to return to the trail with a fully loaded rucksack on my back. That would be some thigh burning!