Mailbox Peak
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Jan 1, 2019

I have done the Mailbox Peak Hike many times, yet somehow it has always escaped becoming a part of this site. It could be because I’m too tired by the time I get back home. Or, it could be because I don’t want to be the “next hiker” with my photo by the mailbox.

Either way, the Mailbox peak hike is a Washington state legend and it must get its day. Over the past few years, a new trail got installed making the summit far easier to attain. While I still love to hike the old trail to the summit of Mailbox, the two combine for a loop that is growing on me.

mailbox peak from north bend gas station
mailbox peak from north bend
start of old trail up mailbox peak
start of old trail

To get to the old trail, hike up the road from the parking lot. After half a mile, a faint trail leads off into the woods. There are some warning signs about the danger in front of you. Heed them as the trail is no joke. The “old” trail is a brutal hike straight up the side of Mailbox peak.

Right now it is icy and snow-covered starting halfway up the hill. Microspikes or some kind of traction are a must this time of year if you want to take the old trail. There is nothing to distract you from climbing. You will be in the woods for several hours. It will hurt and you will question why you are doing this.

trail progress marker old trail
trail "progress" marker
exiting the woods and meeting the new trail
exiting the woods on old trail

On this occasion, in the area where the old and new trails meet, there was a considerable amount of snow. Though, there always seems to be an ample size boot path to follow to the summit. From here follow the switchbacks and other climbers. You will cross a large boulder field amongst other features as you work toward the summit.

Heading through the rock fields the snow was deep and icy. I had crampons to get me through it, though many people seemed to be doing fine with less intense traction

Reaching the end of the Mailbox Peak hike felt like a joyous end to a trying moment. The several times that I have stood on this peak I get the same feeling. I wish I could freeze the moment in time along with the sense of accomplishment that climbing it brings. Instead, I will have to settle for another photo with the famed mailbox. After all, I know I will return again at some point when I forget how painful it is to reach the summit

Though it is not the tallest of mountains you will get some great views from the summit. Rainier dominates to the south while Dirty Box and compared to Dirty Harry's Peak On your way back down, be careful to follow the main trail past the trail junction. It should be obvious as you walk. The new trail is very easy to follow and well-cut compared to the old one. This will allow you a good loop of both of Mailbox peak’s trails.

An excellent way to start off the new year. Can’t wait to see what the rest of it holds in store.

view southeast from mailbox peak summit
view southeast from summit
waterboy on mailbox peak
waterboy on the summit
view north mailbox peak summit
view north from summit
Feb 15, 2023

I miss the days when the hike up Mailbox Peak was relegated to that nasty old trail and the mystique it brought along. After the trail renovations in 2014, it seems like any sunny day up there is an all-skill level free for all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the challenge is open to more people. We diehard type 2 fun seekers can always move further into the backcountry for some solitude. But it’s days like this one that the nostalgia eats at me.

Following that trail renovation, Mailbox peak has, for me at least, become an early-season training ground. Normally I would head straight for the old trail and work on getting my legs in shape. But due to a recent collarbone surgery, Trailcutter and I settled on taking the new trail to the top. The last thing I wanted to do was risk slipping going up the old trail and ending up back in a sling…

start of the new mailbox peak trail
start of the new mailbox peak trail
trailcutter on mailbox peak
Early Section of Trail
new trail bridges covered in snow
bridge along the new trail
trailcutter and waterboy
trailcutter and waterboy

The snow started early. I would say we had our micro-spikes on within the first mile. The weather was perfect though, and despite the melting snow creating tree rain, it was a perfect afternoon for the ascent.

Prior to this outing I have only ever used the new Mailbox peak trail on the descent. On the way up, for lack of a better adjective, it sucks. The long switchbacks seem to go on forever winding up the peak. Until several miles in, the new mailbox peak trail lacks any views, which really emphasizes the monotony.

There are a few views at 3ish miles in of Mount Teneriffe and out over the valley. But by that point they feel more like a consolation prize for suffering than anything else.

view out over the valley towards north bend
first views
mount teneriffe and mount si
mount teneriffe and mount si

Trailcutter and I hoped to come up for a nice sunset view. When we broke out of the trees at the scree field the sun was just starting to set. Rainier looked fabulous. The sky was lit up with colors. If it wasn’t due to those views at the end, I don’t think the long slog up the New Mailbox Peak trail would have been worth it.

route up to the scree field on mailbox peak
route leaving the trees
trailcutter with the sunset on mailbox peak
sun nearing the horizon
mount si from near the summit of mailbox peak
mount si from mailbox peak
susnet over i90 valley
susnet over i90 valley

We managed to make the summit about 10 minutes before sunset. With the cold wind blowing over the peak and a long walk back down ahead of us we turned around after 5 minutes. 5 minutes or 50 at the top of this peak in winter for sunset though. On a clear day, always worth it. New trail or not.

mount rainier at sunset
mount rainier at sunset
rainier from mailbox peak

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