Granite Mountain is aptly named. It is really a very tall pile of granite boulders, or at least that’s how its summit appeared. Not very far North in the Enchantments stand mountain peaks with jagged sharp edges jutting skyward. Granite Mountain must have appeared like this a long time ago, but it isn’t a short mountain just because it’s peak is a jumbled piled of rocks.
Saturday morning I hit the trailhead at exit 47 at about 7:15am. The Pratt Lake Trailhead can take you to many different destinations, but most of the rest of shorter options from other starting points (including Pratt Lake). My guess is most starting here are heading to Granite Mountain. The trail wasn’t crowded this early but it wasn’t empty.
Heading up Pratt Lake Trail wasn’t tough in the cool morning forest. At .6 miles it splits and the trail to Granite Mountain starts with a vengeance. It climbs quickly from this point and by the time the trees part and there is a view, I-90 is far below.
Continuing to climb the trail passes through avalanche chutes and more forest before it finally breaks out above the tree line and I’m hiking through mountainside meadows. While enjoying the meadows, I looked to the South to see Mount Rainier starting to show over Humpback Mountain. This breathtaking view and the continuing climb upward required several standing breaks to enjoy the scenery and give my lungs a chance to catch up. The pile of boulders at the top of the mountain are now visible but the Fire Tower is still blocked from view.
A few more switchbacks and then off in the distance, the tower is finally in view. When I arrived at the ponds and the base of the boulder field, I realize a choice needs to be made. I can head up the ridgeline over the boulders in the most direct route to the summit and Fire Tower or I can head around the North Side on the summer route. After consulting some other hikers who were making a return trip I took the scenic route around the back.
There was still snow on the North side, but only in patches and with careful steps I avoided post-holing. Climbing up the trail along the ridge on the back, Crystal Lake shows itself below the trail.
Finally, when it seems I am about out of steam, the trail ahead points right at the top of the boulders and I step onto the pile of boulders and grab a hold of the cross beam of the Fire Tower.
The views are amazing and I can see Mount Rainier from bottom to top. Looking around, Mount Adams and Mount Baker can also be picked out under the clear blue sky. The Fire Tower provides shade but the door over the stairs are locked and no rangers are there currently. It is still manned at times I understand. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend a night in a room with a view like that in a wooden structure bolted to the top of a pile of granite boulders. I watched as a small single engine Cessna flew far below, I’m staring at the top of it.
After some lunch and enough time to soak in the view, I head down and leave a group of young men who are trying to figure out where to setup a picnic for a friend hiking up with his girlfriend to propose to her. I see the happy couple heading up as I hike along the North side of the summit and hope their friends were ready for them.
The meadows are still beautiful but its warm now and I look forward to the shade of the trees below. My knees and toes are taking a pounding as I try to keep from falling down the mountain. Tightening up my boot laces reduces the pounding to my toes, but my knees don’t get a reprieve until I’m on the Pratt Lake Trail and finally in my vehicle, enjoying the A/C and looking forward to Arby’s in North Bend.
My legs are still recovering, but it was an awesome experience. To top off the day, after washing off the grime, I was able to get to a movie and dinner with my family. I hope to do hikes like this more often but I need to start earlier and be back before lunch. But the rewards are worth it.
My Granite Mountain photo set on Flickr.
My route on Everytrail
Granite Mountain Guide – Washington Trails Association