I hiked to Mailbox Peak, taking the old trail up (2.6 miles) with 4,000 ft. elevation gain, and the new trail down (4.7 miles).
The old trail started pretty flat as it wound its way through the forest. Then the terrain turned steep. The trail was marked by white diamonds, but they were rather sparse. Everywhere I looked was exposed roots and erosion and dirt, so I wandered off the trail a few times. Not that it mattered though, because as long as I continued upwards, I would hit the trail again.
At the edge of the forest, the old trail and the new trail met up. I continued along the exposed trail, flanked by leafy bushes.
I hit a talus slope, and here, the trail was truly well-maintained and a joy to hike. The rocks for the trail were all flat and arranged neatly into a staircase, any openings tightly filled with smaller rocks.
Finally, I reached the homestretch, the steepest part of the hike: a dirt trail that cut through a meadow. Wildflowers were in bloom: purple and white lupine, fiery Indian paintbrush, fluffy white beargrass. This section had the most animal activity. There were white and orange butterflies, a brown lizard, sparrows, and some buzzing flies.
I hiked Mailbox Peak on a weekday, so when I reached the mailbox, I had a glorious 20 minutes all to myself. I left some Nintendo swag inside the mailbox. There were panoramic views of the mountain ranges.
All at once, groups of hikers started streaming in to the peak area. So I began my descent. Not far from the top, there were a couple children complaining loudly. To cheer them up, I congratulated them on almost reaching the top and told them there were prizes in the mailbox. At that, they excitedly started running. I spoke to the mom a bit, and was surprised that her children were only 8 and 10-years-old, and yet were able to hike this strenuous trail. They only brought one bottle of water and drank it all, so I gave her the rest of my water.
I hiked down the new trail without seeing a single person. The new trail is wider and less steep than the old trail, but took longer to hike. It felt like the switchbacks would never end, as it is twice as long the old trail. I tried hiking the new trail earlier in the year, but I turned back because I didn’t have the correct gear to hike in snow. Currently, there is no snow at all, and as I descended I noticed that in my previous attempt I had turned back right before the talus slope.
As for views, the forest section gets rather repetitive, but the hike is breathtaking at the talus slope and onwards. Perhaps the reward to effort ratio is not quite there, so I can see why Mailbox Peak is more of a conditioning hike.