Granite Mountain will take your breath away any time you hike this peak near Snoqualmie Pass, but it does a particularly good job of this in early Fall.
The trail is an uphill workout that starts to showing its fall colors in late summer, making it an ideal destination for those looking to get an early start on the colorful hiking season. Saturday is the first day of fall and Granite is usually hikeable through October.
A big hike with big views, you’ll want to be in good shape to take on the climb to the fire lookout perched high above Interstate 90. The trail climbs 3,800 feet and is 8.6 miles round trip. The upward ascent is relentless as it climbs through the trees. You’ll get some doses of reds, yellows and oranges as the path zig zags through an avalanche chute, but the most colorful parts of the hikes are the final miles above timberline.
Finally, you’ll reach the fire lookout perched atop the 5,629-foot rocky peak. Here, the blue sky and a sweeping view that includes Mount Rainier overshadow the colorful leafs below.
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The trail can be dangerous once it starts snowing, so check conditions before your visit.
Map: Green Trails 207-Snoqualmie.
Directions: From Interstate 90, take Exit 47 and turn left on Forest Road 55. Turn left on Forest Road 9034 and continue to the Pratt Lake-Granite Mountain trailhead.
4 EASIER OPTIONS
And if Granite Mountain seems like too much work, here are five easier options that reward visitors with fall colors.
The maples can start changing color in late spring in the 72-acre woods on the outskirts of Centralia. The woods are packed with short trails that can be linked for hikes of various distances.
Bring trekking poles and sturdy boots, Mittge said. The trails are steep in areas and can be slippery.
Mittge recommended making a mini-vacation of your trip by visiting by train. The train station is near McMenamins Olympic Club and a short walk from Seminary Hill. Mittge said adding on a trip to nearby Fort Borst Park is another good option for experiencing fall colors.
Getting there: From Interstate 5 in Centralia, take Exit 82 and drive southeast on Harrison Avenue. Continue east as the road turns left and becomes Main Street, which ends at Berry Street. Turn right, then left on Locust Street. The trailhead parking area is well-marked and on your right.
Pass: None needed.
Map: Available for download at cityofcentralia.com. Also, a map is posted at the trailhead kiosk.
Summit Lake is a 5-mile hike with about 1,200 feet of elevation gain.
Until the snow starts falling, this trail includes the option to climb higher for more dramatic views and additional fall colors. Just follow the spur trail to the 6,089-foot summit of Bearhead Mountain.
Getting there: Follow state Route 165 to the intersection with the Carbon River Road. Veer left and continue to Forest Road 7810, just before Mount Rainier National Park. Turn left and drive over the Carbon River and continue about 6.4 very bumpy miles to the trailhead.
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass.
Map: Green Trails 237-Enumclaw.
This easily accessed Tacoma park has plenty to offer as it continues to grow and carve out its place in the South Sound's recreational landscape.
Start from the Pioneer Way trailhead and climb about 600 feet while following the creek. Then return on the Canyon Rim Trail. This loop covers 4.5 miles but can be extended with several short trails at the upper park.
The upper park also has a mountain bike trail system. It's closed to foot traffic just as the other trails are closed to bikes.
Getting there: From Interstate 5 in Tacoma, take Exit 135 to East 28th Street, which will become state Route 167 (River Road). Veer right on Pioneer Way and continue to the trailhead, on your right, after the Clay Art Center and before Waller Road.
Pass: None needed.
Map: Maps are available at metroparkstacoma.org.
This popular Capital Forest hike is a short but fascinating walk. The trail is flat and only about 1.6 miles. In addition to fall foliage and wildlife around Beaver Pond, visitors can experience the life cycle of chum salmon.
See salmon splashing in the creek depositing and fertilizing eggs. The fish die after spawning and are either eaten by animals (but keep your pets away) or fertilize the watershed.
Part of the trail uses a boardwalk that can be slippery when covered with wet leaves.
Getting there: From U.S. Highway 101, take the Black Lake Boulevard exit and drive south for 4.2 miles. Turn right on Delphi Road and find the entrance to the McLane Creek area on your left in about half a mile. Follow the road until it ends at a small parking area near the trailhead.
Pass: Discover Pass.
Map: A map is posted at the trailhead kiosk.