The trailhead can be accessed by taking Exit 34 off I-90 and taking a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. The road has a few twists and will split about two miles in; take either branch, as they merge together just before the asphalt ends. There will be some signage and likely a few cars in the clearing here as this is the Mailbox Peak Trailhead. Continue past, watching for a road with blue gate on your right less than a half mile beyond. There is only a small amount of parking at the gate itself, so you might have to park back at the Mailbox Peak Trailhead. View Google Directions >>
The hike itself starts off just past the maintained logging roads up to the lakes. A few sections of the trail have been washed out near the beginning of the hike, but after that the path is wide and fairly smooth. About a mile into the trail we encountered what Harvey Manning describes as the warzone, a steadily re-growing swath of clearcut forest that the road switchbacks through. As you climb the haystack of Mount Si is visible just behind Mt. Teneriffe and Green Mountain. Behind you Rattlesnake Mountain eventually becomes visible, before the road takes you around the back of Mailbox Peak.
Youll cross Granite Creek about two miles up, and shortly thereafter run into a Y in the trail; continue up and to the right. From this point on the trail is almost exclusively an uphill affair. As you climb, small creeks and streams often cut across the trail which need to be navigated with some care depending on the time of year. At five miles you come to a signed intersection giving you the choice between leaving the logging road and going down to the Granite Lakes, or pressing on to Thompson Lake. We clambered down between the firs toward the lakeshore and took in the spectacular views down the valley: a veritable sea of snow-capped mountains dominated the northwestern horizon. The tree-lined lakes are pleasant and there's plenty of room to find a place to settle in and enjoy the views.
While the setting is not ideal, this is a thoroughly enjoyable hike that takes you through a mix of forest at a moderate pace, with lots of water around to spice things up. At the same time, the trail provides some unexpectedly good views and some solace, as most hikers opt for the hike up to Mailbox rather than this climb up a creek valley. As such Granite Lakes is a great option for those that enjoy Mailbox, but are looking for something a little different.