Are you looking for a great trail in the North Bend area, Washington? There are dozens of great hiking trails, biking trails, running trails, and more. Perhaps the most famous is the Mailbox Peak trail. This popular hiking trail is located near North Bend town between South fork and Snoqualmie Middle-fork drainage systems off I-90. It is within an hour’s drive from Seattle.
Mailbox peak Trail is a fantastic hiking trail with a significant social aspect to it. You will get to engage with fellow hiking enthusiasts as you brave the 4,000 ft of elevation together. It is also a great training ground for those planning to summit higher mountain peaks like Mt. Rainier.
Since this is a popular hike, the Washington Trail Association website provides recent trip reports during the hiking season.
Mailbox Peak Trail History
The Mailbox Peak Trail experience was started on the 4th of July 1960 by Carl Heine, a local Seattle postman and part-time head director of valley camp. He hauled a mailbox to the summit of the trail and left a notebook that teenagers at the camp would sign upon reaching it. What began as a fun challenge for teenagers soon became a thrilling experience for many people who have since flocked up the steep trail to see the mailbox and leave mail and other trinkets for fellow hikers to find.
The original trail was not made to any regulated standards and has inevitably experienced severe erosion over the years. It is insanely steep, rugged, and dangerous for inexperienced hikers, and many have gotten lost or suffered injuries. A new, less treacherous 9.4-mile trail had to be built by the Department of Natural Resources and opened to the public in 2014.
Mailbox Peak – Old Trail
The Old Mailbox Peak Trail climbs 4,000 vertical feet in under three miles. It is slick with mud, snow, or ice depending on the season and gnarled with roots. Stories of unsuspecting or underprepared hikers getting hurt, lost, or needing rescue are well documented. Before you start the hike, it is essential to know that this trail is entirely optional. It should be avoided if you doubt your ability to navigate a poorly-maintained dangerous hiking trail.
To get to the old trail, follow the unmarked gravel road past the new trailhead. Continue for about 0.3 miles until you reach the information sign that marks the old trailhead. The main warning cautions that the trail is wet, very steep, unmaintained, and challenging. It encourages hikers to respect their ability pointing out that search and rescue teams are often called to assist distressed hikers. Before you continue, consider carefully if you wouldn’t rather head back to the new trail.
The trail starts with a gentle slope, which quickly gets steeper. You have to transverse the chaotic web of informal footpaths between the trees using their trunks and roots as steps and handholds. Look out for the silver diamond markers on the trees to avoid getting lost.
The old trail eventually intersects with the new. There is a signpost to direct hikers to the new trail. You may choose to take the new trail the rest of the way to the summit or push through an old section of the old path. You can slow down here and enjoy the wildflowers if they are in season. Climb another 0.2 miles to reach the talus field. The carefully crafted steps make it a relatively easy climb, but slide activities can loosen the rocks making it very dangerous.
Past the talus field is a series of steep, short switchbacks to the summit. It is a short climb until the mailbox appears, and the scenic views of Mount Rainier that make the grueling climb worth it opens up.
You can pause at the summit to catch your breath, hydrate, and recharge as you soak in the views and peak into the mailbox for exciting trinkets.
Mailbox Peak – New Trail
The New Mailbox Peak Trail is an impressive 4,000 ft of elevation gain in 9.4 miles. Unlike the old trail, it is much broader, well-groomed, and easier to navigate. It starts with a gentle elevation gain on a wide winding trail through the forest. This first part is calming and features several stream crossings. The trail begins to steadily steepen switchback after switchback, gaining roughly 850 feet a mile.
You will trudge up a hill at about 25% angle incline on a path that is always damp due to the dense tree cover for about 4 miles before getting to the intersection with the old trail. From here, you will continue up a large boulder field for the final 0.75 mile stretch with a 960 feet elevation gain. Be careful not to twist your ankle on the boulder field. As you near the summit, you’ll start seeing breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley.
Beyond the boulder field is a short climb to the summit where the mailbox awaits.
Reaching The Summit of the Mailbox Peak Trail
On a beautiful clear day, the views from the summit are as scenic as any since Mailbox Peak stands at the prow of a long ridge. You will be able to see Mt. Rainier, Bandera Mountain, Glacier Peak, Granite Mountain, and Mount Defiance. You will also be able to spot the teal waters of Rattlesnake Lake.
The greatest reward, however, is the joy of conquering the mighty Mailbox and inscribing your name in the summit register housed in the mailbox next to random treasures and letters dating back more than 20 years.
This trademark mailbox at the summit has been replaced several times over the years due to vandals and natural wear and tear from the elements.
Quick Tips to Consider when Hiking the Mailbox Peak Trail
Here are some tips that can make your Mailbox Peak Trail hike more fulfilling.
Get to the trailhead early
Mailbox Peak Trail is a popular hike frequented by many people, especially on summer weekends. Spaces in the parking area fill up fast, especially the upper parking area. If you want to secure a spot, you have to be an early starter. Early starters can also access the parking area outside the gate.
If you cannot hike mid-week when the number of hikers is low, you should aim to arrive at the trail as early as possible before all the parking spots are taken.
Use the shuttle service
To avoid the hassle of scrambling for parking space at the trailhead, use the shuttle service that operates on weekends. The shuttle runs to the trailhead from Twin Falls Middle School every 20 minutes and charges $2.75 per rider.
Bring your discover pass
You will require a discover pass to park at the trailhead. Plan and get a discover pass before your hike. If you don’t have a discover pass, avoid parking at the trailhead and instead use the shuttle. It can be really annoying to find a ticket on your dashboard after a grueling hike.
Give yourself enough time
Being an early starter is highly recommended. You may face challenges as you hike up and down the trail and end up taking longer than you anticipated. If you arrive at the trail later in the day, you should avoid the parking areas since they close their gates at 9 pm. Park further down the road if you feel like you will not have made it back by closing time.
Carry enough water and food
The hike up and down Mailbox peak is long and extremely exhausting. You should carry at least 3 liters of water to keep yourself hydrated and a snack to keep your sugar levels high.
Bring trekking poles
Trekking poles are handy when hiking. They will assist you as you climb uphill and can help alleviate the pressure from your knees as you go downhill. The Mailbox Peak Trail is steep and can be dangerous, especially during winter and spring. You can easily fall and get hurt while taking the angled climb on compact ice or mud. Trekking poles will provide you with the extra support you need on this notoriously perilous path.
Bring hiking boots with anti-slip ice crampons
When hiking in the summer, you can use regular hiking boots. However, if you are hiking in the winter, fall or spring, you will need extra traction. To get through the snow and ice-covered paths, you need hiking boots with anti-slip crampons that can dig into the ice to provide excellent traction.
Plan for your 4-legged friend
The mailbox hike is dog-friendly, but you have to make sure that your pup is in good shape to tackle the 4,000 feet of elevation gain. Dogs are allowed on the trail if they have a leash. In addition to the leash, you should bring a dog bowl and poop bags.
Bring something to leave in the mailbox
In addition to the 360 degrees panoramic view from the peak, the fun novelty of looking at what is inside the mailbox makes hiking Mailbox Peak special. Sign your details and write something interesting inside the spiral-bound journal in the zip lock bag inside the mailbox and leave something for the next hiker.
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