Mailbox Peak Trail
The hike on Mailbox Peak Trail is no small task, but it’s a very popular pick for hikers feeling ready to take on more difficult trails. The views from the top are very rewarding, and yes, there is a mailbox to be found at the top! The old trail was fraught with injuries and rescues, so the Department of Natural Resources stepped in to create a new, safer trail to the top. This new trail is much easier to navigate. Once you make it to the top, see what else is in the mailbox beside the trail register—sometimes, interesting things get left in there for the next group up!
The trailhead for the Mailbox Peak Trail is off Middle Fork Road. There is a turnoff on the right just after the merge with SE Dorothy Lake Road. There is a lot with room for about 40 cars.
|When to do|
Yes - On Leash
Out and back
Mailbox Peak Trail
Mailbox Peak Trail Description
What’s in the mailbox? Besides the trail register, sometimes it’s toys, sometimes it’s beer, sometimes it’s just some ants looking for shelter. The Mailbox Peak Trail leads you to a viewpoint adorned with a sticker-clad mailbox where hikers from all over leave goodies for the next groups up. This trail is difficult, but a monumental effort vastly improved the conditions after the old dangerous trail was ditched in favor of a much safer new trail. Still, be ready for a bigger ascent and lots of fellow hikers on this popular route.
The hike begins along Middle Fork Road. You’ll walk for a bit along a paved path, skirting around a gate. A hundred yards past the gate, you’ll see the entrance to the new trail.
You’ll cross bridges and creeks, and then the switchbacks really set in. You’ll be gaining about 850 feet of elevation per mile, and it doesn’t relent until the peak. Just keep climbing!
The switchbacks go on for about 4 miles, at which point you rejoin the old trail for the summit ascent. This stretch is rockier, so watch your step. From now until the summit, you’ll gain closer to 960 feet of elevation in half a mile. Keep going!
You’ll crest the peak, which sits at the end of a ridgeline. Mount Rainier is right there, and the Middle Fork valley lines the ground ahead in green.
Check the mailbox, sign the register, maybe leave a trinket, and then retrace your steps back to the parking area, taking care on the steep initial descent.
Hiking Route Highlights
The tallest mountain in the state is a dominant part of your view on the Mailbox Peak Trail. This 14,409-foot stratovolcano is an iconic sight and the highlight of your sightline.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is there a mailbox at Mailbox Peak?
Back in the ’60s, a postman named Carl Heine was working as the director of Valley Camp, a retreat near the base of the mountain. He had built a mailbox at the top and challenged the kids of the retreat to climb the summit and reach the mailbox.
What pass do I need to hike Mailbox Peak?
Please have your Discover Pass ready to go for this hike.
Can you still hike the old trail?
Yes, the old trail still exists and you can still hike it. We don’t recommend it, as it’s in much worse condition than the new trail and was notorious for injuries during its use.
Parking for this trail fills up quickly on the weekends. Get here early! The trail can also feel congested so we definitely recommend hiking on a weekday if you are able to.
Try to stay off the old trail, even if it seems tempting given the crowds this hike sometimes sees. It’s not as safe as the new trail.
The gates to this hike typically open an hour after dawn and an hour before dusk. Check current gate times at the trailhead so you don’t get locked out!
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