I've been told by a friend that Granite Mountain is the pinnacle of summits in the Snoqualmie region. I now believe him.
Peaking at 5600 feet, Granite Mountain even has a lookout tower still standing at the top. It offers amazing panoramic views, and one can see Rainier, Adams, Baker, and Glacier Peak from the summit. Not to mention numerous peaks and ridges throughout the Cascades. Simply awesome.
To get there, take I-90 to exit 47, go north, and head left at the first intersection. In a quarter mile you will reach the trailhead for Pratt Lake Trail. Elevation here is 1800 feet. From here it's a four mile, 3800 foot elevation gain hike to the summit. 500 feet up the trail splits to take backpackers to Pratt Lake. Stay right to continue on to the Granite Mountain summit.
The trail starts off in the woods, fairly steep through the first half of the hike. At about 4200 feet the trail levels off and moves into open meadows on the southeast side of the mountain. The trail continues in the open for another mile and a half, meaning it will be a killer on hot, sunny, days. I did this hike in the morning, but even then the sun beating down on you wore you down.
At 4300 feet Mount Rainier peeks over the top of Humpback Mountain, and the trail out in the open leaves phenomenal views of the Snoqualmie Valley and Snoqualmie Pass. Eventually the trail turns back to the northeast, and you'll spot the lookout tower at the summit. At 5000 feet the hiker has a choice - continue on the trail around the backside of the summit and come up the north side, or head straight up for the next 600 feet, .4 miles through a rock scramble. I opted for the trail, and found it to be easy and quick. Lots of snow still on Granite Mountain, but passable without snowshoes. Feel free to take in the views of the North Cascades, Geyser Peak, and Mount Baker.
Finally, at 5400 feet the trail heads back south for a quick but steep summit climb, dropping the hiker off at the base of the tower. It wasn't open today (not sure if it ever is), but I used it as shade to cool down on this 80 degree day. Took me 2.5 hours to hit the summit.
I also opted for the hiking trail back down, which was definitely quicker than rock hopping down. Took just under two hours to hit the parking lot.
Unfortunately my camera wasn't too cooperative today (or the photographer didn't bring his A game), and the pics don't do the vistas justice.
Looking toward the pass from the summit.
Glacier Peak peeking behind Kaleetan Peak.