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Up up and away
This hike ascends 8,091' Granite Peak just west of Trinity Lake in the beautiful Trinity Alps of Northern California, and the exertion needed to climb 3,500' in just over 5 miles is rewarded with unbelievable views. This hike can be divided into four parts based on flora. Roughly, the lowest mile is high chaparral mixed with black oak, incense cedar, and Ponderosa pine. The next portion up the switchbacks hold a dense forest of Ponderosas and Douglas fir. The next mile and a half go through a deep forest of firs, and the last half mile is in krummholz-like terrain for the final assault on the peak.
The parking lot at 4400' has a large circular parking lot with rough-looking roads heading off to the left and right of the well-marked trailhead. Head up the Stoney Ridge Trail as it gradually climbs through chaparral woodland and red dirt that are reminiscent of many parts of the Southwest. The trail climbs 1.3 miles and 600' to the start of the switchbacks. There are a few views here to the south of Monument Peak and the large Stuart Creek drainage. The dreaded switchbacks climb 1,500' over 2.3 miles (not too bad, but definitely not a stroll in the park) on a well-maintained trail to the first junction of the hike.
The Stoney Ridge Trail continues to the left so take an evidently unmaintained trail off to the right across a meadow that's wet in spring and early summer. Crossing isn't too difficult, and soon enough you are rambling across an open landscape with great views in multiple directions. The character of the trail changes about 500 yards from the junction as the trail enters a deep forest and begins to climb very steeply. The trail was not in good condition here in May 2013, but I didn't have any trouble following it. There was a small snowfield that had to be conquered/skirted, and the biggest challenge is the steep terrain. The trees begin to shrink about 3/4 mile up from the junction, and the trail improves as it climbs to a small spur ridge pointing east from the summit area. This spot offers the first really nice views as Mount Shasta and the entire Trinity Lake region is visible.
The trail heads to the north until meeting up with the Granite Peak Trail 1/2 mile ahead before another 1/2 mile and 400' of switchbacks leads to the summit. I understand there are the remains of an old lookout, but I didn't actually visit the summit on my initial hike due to a snowfield before the Granite Peak Trail junction (and being 20 min. past my turnaround time) so take that portion of this description with a grain of salt.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
This is a moderately difficult hike.