On a sunny summer day, finding a hike along the I-90 corridor that isn’t overcrowded is near impossible, but before turning heal consider the less well known Talapus and Olallie lakes.
While this trail can get busy, hikers won’t face the same rush of Tiger Mountain and Big and Little Si, whose trails are better described as highways.
The clear alpine lakes are small enough that by mid-August they heat up enough for a swim that won’t give you frostbite.
For mothers not interested in carrying wet kids off the mountain, there is plenty to explore at the lakes.
From the parking lot, head into the towering old-growth forest. The trail steadily winds upward, meandering through the forest.
Most of the elevation gain is gradual, and switchbacks are often broken up by long stretches of flat trail softened by rich dirt.
Don’t be disheartened if at one point the noise of I-90 breaks through the forest, it’s quickly replaced by a stream that cascades down mossy boulders.
At first mud puddles seem easy enough to navigate, but don’t bother trying. The mud only grows deeper and more impossible to avoid.
Walking around the puddles is hard on the forest, because it widens the trails
A cold spring and summer has made for a shorter hiking season, because snow has melted away much slower. There are still a few patches of snow at Olallie Lake, which saturate the trail in water.
I don’t recommend hikers sport their favorite new white sneakers. If the brown stuff bothers you, try the hike at the end of August, when the trail has time to dry out.
Once I accepted that my boots would turn a new shade of brown, I began to enjoy the trail’s character and unrolling baby ferns.
The worst of the elevation finishes at a small footbridge.
At Talapus Lake, a log jam holds back water at the mouth of the stream. Follow the main trail to find small paths that lead down to the water.
Talapus is also stocked with trout for fisherman, but it’s heavily fished.
Olallie Lake is about 0.7 miles from Talapus. Continue up the trail, which only goes up another couple hundred feet. Half way up, stay left at a small trail junction.
At the top, snow covers parts of the trail, so be careful not to fall too far off the path. It’s easiest to follow muddy boot tracks across the ice. There isn’t snow at the lake itself.
Olallie Lake is bigger, has fewer people and several large campsites. The first site has the best spot to rest along the lake.
From the West, take I-90 east to Exit number 45. Turn left onto road #9030 for about a mile. After the road turns gravel, take right at the junction. Follow the windy road, which ends at the trailhead.
National recreation passes are required for parking. The $5 day passes are sold at sporting good stores, and the annual Northwest Forest and National Parks passes are good for this trail.
Take a Hike
Roundtrip to Talapus Lake: 5 miles
From Talapus to Olallie: 0.7 miles
Total elevation gain: about 1,200 feet
A stream runs alongside of most of the trail on the way up to Talapus and Olallie lakes. Make sure to stop to take in the sound of the water cascading down the big mossy rocks. BY CELESTE GRACEY
Olallie Lake is about a mile past Talapus Lake. A larger lake, it has fewer people. BY CELESTE GRACEY