As easy as Goat Lake was, the 1300 feet elevation made my still-bum hip flare up–a major disappointment as I had been wanting to do some tough hikes to prepare for an upcoming camping/hiking trek. I was worried it’d be a lost cause–where can one find an easy-yet-still-pretty hike within two hours from Seattle?
Look no further than Talapus and Olallie lakes! Thanks to WTA’s site, I found this 6 mile hike with 1200 feet elevation gain. While that still was a bit more gained per mile than Goat Lake, I figured I could suck it up. My friend Marissa from Postcards to Seattle and I set off. I have actually known Marissa since her pre-blogging days, and we both enjoy spending time outdoors, so it was a perfect plan!
Eastward on I-90 we went, until exit 45. Not long after turning left towards the mountains, we hit the gravel. Lots of gravel. According to WTA the road had been filled a month prior, but those without a high-clearance vehicle might still want to take it easy. By 8:15am, the trailhead parking was full on a Saturday. Talapus is a little diferent from other nearby hikes–instead of a guestbook, they require all hikers, even dayhikers, to fill out a tag and attach it to your pack stating number in your party, with a hangtag detaching for a box for the rangers. The form states this is not for safety, so I’d assume it’s to see who is using the trail to determine things like maintenance–so fill these out to get that pit toilet serviced more often!We hit the pit toilet (which was smelly, even by pit toilet standards, dark, and lacked hand sanitizer) and hit the trail.
The initial climb was bit more than either of us had expected–this trail goes from uphill to flat and back again, so if you’re struggling on the uphill, fear not! The plants here were similar to Goat Lake, with plenty of small swordferns, skunk cabbage, and Devil’s Club, as well as wildflowers like Edelweiss. The trail has been undergoing a lot of maintenance, so please heed any taped off cattrails or areas where a bunch of branches are stacked–that is done for a reason. As you climb upward, you are greeted with the sound of running water–at two parts of the trail you are gifted a beautiful stream-sized waterfall.
Before the sun even had time to melt away the clouds, we were at Talapus Lake. Marissa and I were both shocked–we had hiked just over a mile! I don’t know if I’ve ever had a hike with that kind of payoff for the effort put in. There is a small clearing to view the lake with some logs (some more stable than others) to walk out a tiny bit more–both coming and going, this was the single most-crowded part of the hike. We stopped to be dazzled by the view and take pictures.
As this was our first stop, we were a bit unprepared for what came next–bugs. Dozens–no, hundreds of bugs, descending on our sweaty faces! I thanked my lucky stars I had worn a lightweight button-up REI shirt and kept that baby on for the whole hike, leaving just my face and ankles exposed. As long as you are moving, the bugs don’t pay you no mind, but once you stop (especially for a snack!) be prepared to be devoured.
We continued upwards to reach Olallie Lake. After my extensive research, I was very surprised to find a fork to Pratt Lake! No other signs at the trailhead or Forest Service road had mentioned Pratt Lake, so this might be a less-trekked route compared to the more typical on up on exit 47. However, with my bum hip and the sun coming out in full force, we decided to stick to the plan and continue to Olallie. Other than stepping up and down boardwalks, this next stretch was very flat compared to the first mile.
Similar to Talapus, when we reached Olallie there was a small clearing (marked to be day-use only) when we first hit the lake. We immediately set our packs down (and, as is tradition, the mouthpiece of my pack went straight in the dirt–one day I’ll learn) and got to snacking and swatting away bugs as we took in the view. Olallie Lake, for you budding photographers, is not the kindest of light at ten AM. You’ll have to trust my eyeballs that this was a beautiful crystal-clear lake. We think we even saw fish jumping–I know Pratt Lake allows catch-and-release fishing, but unsure about the rules here.
While the trail does continue a bit further around the lake (including some backpacking sites), it does not go the full loop around. We explored a bit before turning around and embarking back. Like most hikes on the I-90 corridor, this one was far more crowded heading down as those who had slept in hit the trail. While we could have started a bit later in the day, I loved seeing the how the views changed on our way down as the sun came out in full force, compared to the clouds going up. Even with a longer stop at Talapus (now even prettier with blue sky stretching above it) on the way back, we made it back to the car by noon– judging by the parked cars continuing well down the Forest Service road we had made the right choice in choosing an early getup!
If you have any youngsters, I’d highly recommend Talapus Lake for introducing them to hiking–other than the areas next to the waterfalls, this was a very safe trail with no steep dropoffs, and at just over a mile out, if a toddler gets tired it isn’t *too* cumbersome to return. I say this with an aunt’s lens and not a parent’s though, so always check WTA to see what’s best for your families’ ability level. I see this is also a popular snowshoeing trail, but be warned–the Forest Service Road is often not plowed, so you will be starting at the very bottom, but I can only guess this will be a stunner covered in snow.
Distance (according to WTA): 6.2 miles (Using Runkeeper, I had 5.7 miles–a fairly large discrepancy!)
Elevation (according to WTA): 1220 feet
Parking: Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass (they do have a self-pay station at the trailhead for a day-use pass, but unsure what forms of payment they take)
Bathrooms: Pit toilet at trailhead–but no hand sanitizer!
All in all, a beautiful hike for how easy it is–but bring bug spray!