Let’s call this the “bring a non-hiking buddy” hike. The Talapus and Olallie Lakes trail is a great introduction to Pacific Northwest hiking, for kids or for those new to hiking. It’s easy to access, is well maintained, has gorgeous views, varied terrain, and takes you to not one but two alpine lakes. This two-fer also allow you choose your mileage: You can turn back after reaching the first lake or continue on. It’s also an ideal destination for those looking to try out backpacking, with great accessible sites for a first overnight in the woods.
The trailhead is found on a forest service road just off I-90’s exit 45. The parking lot is small, so on weekends expect to park along the road. (Don’t forget your Northwest Forest Service Pass!) The trail is wide and well-maintained right from the beginning, and winds through lush forest at a gentle incline—enough to feel like you’re hiking, but not daunting for little legs. As you progress, it will get a little steeper, and you’ll soon hear the rush of Talapus Creek, which will hug the trail for a bit, offering many photo ops. It gets wetter as you get higher, and you’ll appreciate the boardwalk over some boggy parts of the trail. You’ll cross a newly-built footbridge over the rushing creek as you approach Talapus Lake, at the two-mile mark. This is the first of your two lakes, and is a perfect picnic spot for day hikers. There’s even a backcountry toilet for those who don’t mind primitive facilities. There are also a few tent sites a short walk up from the lake for those looking to overnight. When the weather is warm, a quick swim might be in order.
If your group is up for more, continue up the trail to Olallie Lake. This next stretch gets more difficult, with many tree roots keeping your eyes focused on the ground as you choose your footing. In early summer you might still see some patches of snow as you steadily climb and approach the lake. Just a little over a mile from Talapus Lake, you’ll see Olallie Lake come into view. There are several campsites around the lake and options for picnic spots. You might see folks around the lake with fishing rods—it’s a popular fishing destination. Enjoy the views of this beautiful alpine lake before heading back down to the trailhead.
An important note for hikers: Like many early summer hikes, this trail is a wet one, and it is more important than ever to stay on the trail and not go off to avoid mud or puddles. (Hot tip: this is why a good pair of waterproof hiking boots is essential—go right through the mud!). It’s also a reason to make sure that dogs are kept on leashes and no one in your party is cutting off switchbacks. On a popular trail like this one, feet or paws can destroy the fragile vegetation just off the trail; I’ve witnessed more than a few sliding hikers taking out plants while trying to avoid muddy sections or switchbacks.
This trail is also a great example of what you support with the fee you pay for your Northwest Forest Service Pass. The lakes would be inaccessible without wading through a swift moving creek if there wasn’t that convenient footbridge right before Talapus Lake. And the boardwalks over soggy earth make this trail much more pleasant. Remember that these trails are possible due to the hard work of the Forest Service and the many volunteers at the Washington Trails Association. So make sure to always have your Pass and think about supporting the WTA so we can keep enjoying our Northwest trails, and our beautiful alpine lakes!