Middle Fork Area
8 miles, roundtrip
(This is from what we recorded on a Garmin Fenix 6x)
Gain: 3937 ft.
Highest Point: 4791 ft.
The most famous mailbox in Washington State is not located directly in front of anyone's house. In fact, if a mail carrier needed to drop off the mail at this box, it's going to take them a long time and some hard work to reach it.
The famous mailbox is located at the top of a mountain along the Middle Fork River, and has spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding cascades (at least in good weather).
It is not uncommon to run across people training on this hike for larger objectives, such as Mt Rainier.
The trailhead for Mailbox Peak is pretty easy to spot along the Middle Fork Road. It is the first major parking area you come across.
There are 2 options for climbing the mountain:
- Take the old trail, which is steeper at 4000 ft gain over about 2.5 miles.
- Take the new trail, which is way more gradual but longer at 4.75 miles and 4000 ft of gain.
We opted to take the old trail up, and the new trail down just to be nice on the ol' knees.
Climbing to Mailbox Peak
If you are taking the old trail, get ready for lots of water breaks (or breaks to catch your breath). There are few switchbacks as the creator of the trail decided to punch in a straight-line trail directly uphill.
Each season has its unique challenges while hiking up Mailbox, but right now with it so dry, the dirt is very loose. Utilize roots and rocks for more secure footholds to keep yourself from sliding back down the mountain.
About 1000' from the top, you start to break free of the forest and enter a boulder area. This then morphs into a pretty wildflower area which is your first indication that you are getting close.
At the mailbox itself, you can find some cool little goodies hidden in the mailbox. If you have any mementos you wish to leave behind, feel free to do so. There was a Monty Python and the Holy Grail movie in it when we were there.
The way back down is much nicer on your body if you take the new trail, however it is twice as long and took us the same amount of time as climbing up to the peak.
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Practicing LNT Principles, and Giving Back
We really want to encourage everyone to practice LNT principles when they explore these beautiful places. We spent years trying to minimize social impact on these locations, but the cat is out of the bag and these places are easy to find online. So it is our mission to share more about ways to keep these places as pristine as possible.
We also donate 3% of all our profits to organizations supporting the outdoors and working hard to keep these areas protected and safe.