If you're looking for an avalanche-free snowshoe to mountain lakes with moderate elevation gain, Granite Lakes is the place to go. It's just a few miles outside of North Bend up the Middle Fork. I just learned yesterday for Tor in this hiking group that there is a new trail to Granite Lakes I would like to explore.
Distance: 11 miles roundtrip to upper lake
Elevation: Upper GraniteLake - 2300'
Maps: Green Trails Bandera No. 206
In the summer, the views are marred somewhat by the presence of recovering clearcuts. But in the winter, this just doesn't matter. The trail offers gradual elevation gain and on clear days views open up to Mt. Bessemer and others. If we make it to the lakes, we will be rewarded with views of nearby Mailbox Peak, Webb Mountain, and Mt. Defiance.
From the Meetup point at Sno Valley Coffee, we will carpool and caravan to the trailhead which is about a quarter mile up from the Mailbox Peak parking lot, or 15 minutes from Sno Valley Coffee.
Bring warm cloths, snow shoes, sun glasses, and your camera.
If it's a stormy day, this hike will be shortened.