Since my old housemate (Logan) is moving this week, I decided to send him off in the best way I know how–with a grueling hike through the woods to a ridiculously gorgeous viewpoint. Mailbox Peak (Old Trail) is one standard by which hikers in the PNW are measured, featuring an almost 4000 foot elevation gain in a short 2.5 miles. However, Logan hadn’t been hiking in a while, so we were planning on taking New Trail instead, which is half as steep and twice as long. We left from Kent at 8am sharp and arrived at the trailhead around 9–this hike requires the Discover Pass at the parking lot–and headed up to the trail. We somehow managed to completely misinterpret the map at the bottom and ended up taking Old Trail anyway.
Old Trail is everything they say about hiking Mailbox–it is a steep, poorly maintained (although there are reflective markers on trees along the way), relentless trail with few switchbacks. Despite it being the most challenging hike I’ve done to date, I found it to be much more enjoyable than I was anticipating. It helped that the day started off cool–we walked through a few clouds on the way up–and I can’t imagine doing this particular hike in mid-summer heat.
The majority of Old Trail takes you through a seemingly never-ending wooded area. We definitely got lost a couple of times, since the “trail” is pretty unclear at times, but luckily were eventually able to locate the reflective markers every time. There were quite a few other people taking Old Trail too, so we tried to keep an eye out for hikers who knew where they were going when possible. We played leapfrog with a group of hikers all the way up–in fact, we passed each other so often that we actually learned their names!
Once we exited the forest, we came to a much greener trail where the Old and New Trails met up and eventually made our way to the daunting pile of rocks in the picture below. These are very stair-like, and I would argue that navigating our way up the first section of Old Trail was more challenging than trekking up the rocks. At the top of the rocks, you can finally see the peak in the distance. We ate lunch here, and it was entertaining to watch people’s faces as they realized there was more climbing to do. We heard “I changed my mind, I don’t think there’s a mailbox on this hike!” and “This hike is such a tease!”
Once we were finished, we slowly made our way up the last stretch of the trail, where we were rewarded by a breathtaking scene at the top. We stayed there enjoying the view for 20 minutes before started the hike back to the parking lot, this time taking New Trail to save our knees some wear and tear. New Trail is much more scenic, but felt so much longer–in the future, I might just take Old Trail to save myself some time.
My biggest recommendation for this hike: poles were a MUST for me. While I would definitely repeat this hike, I don’t think I would ever do Old Trail without them. Additionally, I would suggest bringing more water than you expect to need–I went through nearly 2 liters, and I imagine I would have needed more on a warmer day. Overall, I rate this hike 9/10 for the view and for the feeling of accomplishment you get after making it to the top. This is a hike you can truly say you conquered!