A new trail is only the start in the Middle Fork
Long have many hikers lamented the conditions of the mostly boot-built trail at Mailbox Peak in the stunning Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. The steep scrambles and near-vertical parts of the trail have long-challenged even the most physically fit of hiking enthusiasts. Long have some hikers commented on the packed parking lot at the trailhead. But, lamenting comments aside, it’s a hike well worth doing because once you get to the summit and take in the sweeping views of the lower Snoqualmie River valley, the Issaquah Alps and Mt. Si across the Middle Fork Valley, with Rattlesnake Ledge just across the South Fork Valley, it’s easy to feel vindicated for the sore legs and muddy boots encountered along the way to the top of this crown jewel of local hikes in the Mountains to Sound Greenway. The old metal mailbox at the summit, for which the peak gets its name, offers hikers a way to permanently etch their conquest into the tattered pages of the notebook tucked inside, a long-standing tradition since the mailbox suddenly appeared at the summit many years ago.
Despite the views, many hikers have stayed away from Mailbox Peak due to the rough trail conditions, steep inclines and difficulties parking.
Thanks to the work of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WA State DNR), Washington State Recreation Conservation Office, the Spring Family Trust, Federal Highway Administration, many volunteers and concerned citizens, Mailbox Peak and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley are about to get a major facelift.
A new and improved trail to the summit of Mailbox Peak starts construction this June. A brand new trailhead and parking lot will be constructed to support what will undoubtedly be a significant increase in usage paralleling that of the ever-popular Mt. Si trail that sees thousands of hikers per year.
A once-tarnished area that was plagued by illegal dumping and unsafe conditions, the magnificent Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley, which leads into the Cascades and the spectacular Alpine Lakes Wilderness, has become a significant conservation story, thanks to the unflagging advocacy and hard work of many individuals and groups. Over the past decade, volunteers have worked tirelessly to transform this former dumping ground into a recreational paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, complete with improved wildlife habitat, ecological preservation and resource management in this spectacular, 100,000-acre valley that is less than an hour’s drive from Seattle.
Now, with most of the valley conserved, it’s time to get it ready for re-introduction to the masses aka “The Middle Fork is about to go LIVE.” In addition to the new trail and trailhead at Mailbox Peak, improvements to the infamously bumpy Middle Fork road, including paving, will begin this summer. Road upgrades will improve public access to the many recreational opportunities in the valley, including hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and camping. Conversion of former forest roads to trails in the Granite Creek basin, providing new ways to explore the surrounding valley, is also scheduled to begin soon by US Forest Service and WA State DNR. Soon, many more people will be able to access and enjoy this incredibly beautiful area of the Greenway for real. It’s a very exciting time in the Mountains to Sound Greenway!
There are ways you can help. Sign up for a volunteer event on Saturday, June 2nd, National Trails Day. Volunteers are needed on Mailbox Peak to help break ground on this milestone trails project and to do trail maintenance at Tiger Mountain.
Stay tuned this summer for updates on all of these exciting projects in the Middle Fork.