Nestled in the heart of Washington’s captivating Snoqualmie Pass area, the Granite Mountain Trail beckons hikers with its awe-inspiring vistas and invigorating ascent.
As you lace up your hiking boots and prepare to conquer nearly a thousand feet of elevation gain per mile, get ready to be captivated by the pointed majesty of Kaleetan Peak and the dramatic presence of Mount Rainier dominating the southern skyline.
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This trail, outdoor bestie, is not for the faint-hearted, but its offerings are more than worth the challenge.
Complete Guide to Granite Mountain Trail in Snoqualmie Pass
Welcome to the complete trail guide for the classic I90 hike, Granite Mountain. I will cover how to access the trail, trail facilities and the best season to visit, any necessary permits, what to expect during the hike and of course if the hike should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington.
Granite Mountain Trail Stats
Region: Snoqualmie Pass
Distance: 7.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,700 ft
Time: 6 hours +
When to go: July – Oct.
Pass/Permit?: Northwest Forest Pass
Dogs Allowed?: Yes
Date Completed: 8/12/23
Map to Trailhead
Granite Mountain is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Snoqualmie tribes. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
When it comes to Washington Trails, the Granite Mountain Trail is one of the easier trails to access, because it does not require you to drive twenty miles down a half driveable dirt road.
Getting to the Trail
Drive east on I-90 to exit 47. Head towards the Pratt Lake Trailhead by turning left at the stop sign to cross over the freeway and make another left. Park at the Pratt Lake Trailhead.
The trailhead gets extremely busy, especially on the weekends so be prepared for an early start or to park along the road.
There is a pit toilet at the trailhead as well as a picnic table a couple yards into the trail.
Season to Visit
This trail is best visited during July to October.
When snow is present, the trail becomes extremely dangerous with various avalanche chutes present. I would not advise hiking this trail unless you have proper rescue equipment and experience navigating avalanche terrain.
Passes and Permits
What is the difference?
- The Northwest Forest Pass provides access to all National Forests operated in Washington AND Oregon. The pass is good for a year and costs $30 annually. Purchase Here!
- The America the Beautiful Pass provides access to ALL National Parks and Forests in the United States for a year. The pass costs $80. Purchase Here!
What to Bring to Granite Mountain
When hiking a trail as challenging as Granite Mountain, proper gear is essential. Here is a list of suggested gear for hiking this Classic Hike of Washington:
When gaining almost 4,000 feet of elevation, temperature and weather can change drastically. Here are some of my favorites when it comes to hikes such as Granite Mountain.
Rain jackets are a must in the PNW! The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch is the perfect rain jacket. I love that it fit’s comfortably over my layers while remaining breathable.
Whether you’re doing an alpine start, catching sunset, or simply hiking in the fall a good, light and insulated jacket is a must. The Atom Insulated Hoodie is my go-to jacket come fall.
I completed the trail for sunset and knew as soon as the sun went down, it would become extremely cold. The following were extremely helpful.
Once the sun starts to set on Granite Mountain it gets extremely chilly even in summer months. Make sure you bring a hat! This one by Urban Native is a favorite of mine.
You never want to underestimate how long a hike will take and be left in the dark. Bring a headlamp with you! The Spot 400 Headlamp is rechargeable which I love!
Water and Nutrients
This trail has few water sources along the way, so while I usually use a filtering water bottle, I brought my water reservoir for this hike, plenty of snacks, and electrolytes.
Pack plenty of water for this hike regardless of time of year. The 3 L Osprey Reservoir worked great for me on this hike.
Pack extra high-energy snack for this trek! The Honey Stinger Energy Chews are some of my favorites on the trail.
Hope this helps you be extra prepared for your hike!
Hiking to Granite Mountain Lookout
The Granite Mountain Trail is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding hike that offers stunning panoramic views from its summit. I completed the trail as a sunset hike, here is what to expect.
Beginning in a cool, mossy forest you will begin at the Pratt Lake trailhead. The path meanders along a wide, moderately-graded trail consisting mostly of dirt.
As the trail climbs in elevation, you will pass a stream crossing the trail. This will be the last water source during the summer months and is also an indicator that you’ll be reaching the Pratt Lake Junction.
At 1.2 miles in the Pratt Lake Junction begins the true trek to Granite Mountain. The path narrows and the trail becomes rockier and steeper.
While still in a wooded section of the trail, the steep grade is riddled with roots and quick switchbacks. There are gaps in the trees that divulge just how much elevation you’ve gained at that point. The sound of the road noise lessens.
After crossing some rocky outcroppings, the trees open up and the grade of the trail lessens. The high meadows offer panoramic views of the mountains to the south and I90 is just a small break in the trees below.
It is still a mile to the summit.
Route Options to the Fire Tower:
Tread northward and lookout is barely in view. There is one final steep push to the summit but you need to choose your route.
1. Class 3 Scramble
The Class 3 Scramble requires you to have the route downloaded on a device as there is no route to follow and no cairns to mark the way. The boulder field leading to the Fire Lookout is composed of large, mossy boulders with expansive holes between them. Often causing you to stretch or jump to the next one. This route is not for the inexperienced.
2. Turpentine Switchbacks
The other route to get to the Fire Lookout takes you around the backend of the fire lookout and has you hiking through a small meadow and up some steep, short switchbacks. I actually found this route to be rather quick and easy compared to some of the other steep portions of the trail.
Granite Mountain Fire Lookout
The Granite Mountain Fire Lookout was truly a sight to behold.
I will be honest in saying that I am not always a fan of I90 Snoqualmie Pass Hikes because they are just a view of the highway, but with Granite Mountain you gained so much elevation you could barely see the highway and definitely couldn’t hear the road noise.
This is what you could see from the Granite Mountain Fire Lookout:
- Mount Rainier: Towards the South you could see the snowy peak of Mount Rainier.
- Kaleetan Peak: To the Northwest, you’ll have fantastic views of Kaleetan Peak, a stunning, pointed mountain in the Snoqualmie Pass area. Its distinctive shape makes it a prominent feature of the skyline.
- Crystal Lake: Looking downward, you’ll see the beautiful Crystal Lake.
- Mount Stuart and the Teanaway: To the East, you can take in views of Mount Stuart and the Teanaway Mountains. If your name is Stuart and you need a band name…
- Mount Baker: If the weather is REALLY clear, Mount Baker is to the North.
- The Tooth: A popular rock climbing destination in the region known for its jagged appearance.
Everything depends on weather conditions, time of day, and visibility.
Should Granite Mountain be a 100 Classic of Washington?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington” and Granite Mountain is one of them.
But the question is, Should it be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
Granite Mountain is a challenging but awe-inspiring hike in the Snoqualmie Pass Corridor. With an extensive list of sites to take in from the fire lookout it is nothing short of perfection. While the hike is not for beginners, it should be on every Washingtonian’s List of Hikes to do in their Lifetime. That being said, Yes, Granite Mountain should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. What do you think?
Let me know in the comments if you think Granite Mountain should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.
Happy Hiking, Outdoor Bestie!