This short trail offers a pleasant woodland hike along a plunging creek to a pair of small lakes, each set deeply in individual mountain cirques. Climbing moderately through conifer-canopied forest, the trail tracks Talapus Creek to two of its headwater lakes, Talapus and Olallie. The trail is shady but sun-dappled throughout and begins its ascent through young forest that, although logged not long ago, already begins to exhibit the character of more mature forest. Near the lakes, a few old-growth cedars, remnants of the forest past, mingle with the succeeding generation. During the mountain spring, the boglands that fringe each lake nourish moisture-loving wildflowers not often seen in the surrounding woodland and alpine climes. Hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus) are common to the area — on spring and early summer evenings, listen for their flute-like calls mingling with the voice of chattering creek waters.
Given their relative ease of access, both lakes — and especially Talapus — are popular hiking destinations. To avoid the weekend throngs, try timing your hike for a less-congested week day. Near the lakes, snow drifts deeply and lingers late — sometimes, almost until summer. Be sure to check recent trip reports for current conditions before setting out.
From a junction along the trail between Talapus and Olallie lakes, a side trail eventually leads to several other alpine lakes, including Island Lake, which births Talapus Creek on a ridge high above Talapus Lake. To visit all three of Talapus Creek’s headwater lakes (Talapus, Olallie, and Island lakes) the round-trip distance is 10.80 miles/17.40 km (although, along the way to Island Lake, you will probably be tempted to follow signage further to the nearby Pratt and Rainbow lakes).
Shadowy, relatively young coniferous forest encloses the trail and both lakes. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, July 01, 2017.
The cheerful rush of Talapus Creek pattering down its stone-lined path is never far from the zigzagging trail. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, May 30, 2016.
Near the lake, the trail flattens, crisscrossing the creek among western redcedars (Thuja plicata) that lap its waters. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 09, 2013.
Likely the object of a lightning strike, a charred and completely hollowed, yet very much alive western redcedar (Thuja plicata) stands on the shore of Talapus Lake. Talapus Lake, June 09, 2013.
In the boggy woodland surrounding Talapus Lake, elegant – even if malodorous – blooms of skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) spring up at the snows’ receding edges. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 09, 2013.
In early spring, white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala) cheer the damp forest shadows about Talapus Lake. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 09, 2013.
Meltwaters pool quietly in Talapus Lake after descending the far ridge from their source, Island Lake. Soon, however, they resume their seaward journey down Talapus Creek, joined by neighboring Olallie Lake’s waters as they go. Talapus Lake and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 22, 2013.
Drowned logs repose beneath the surface at the lake’s outlet to Talapus Creek. Talapus Lake, June 09, 2013.
Near the lake, the trail branches into several braided paths down to the water’s edge. The trail to Olallie Lake continues back up the network of trails to the northeast (generally to the left when facing away from Talapus Lake) and uphill.
A pleasant wood of hemlock, fir, and cedar surrounds Olallie Lake. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 22, 2014.
The western slopes of Tusk O’Granite Mountain and Granite Mountain rise beyond Olallie Lake. With some imaginative license in spelling, Tusk O’Granite is named for its position between the Tuscohatchie Lakes and Granite Mountain. Side trails to secluded campsites edge Olallie Lake’s western shore. May 30, 2016.
Along Olallie Lake’s boggy shoreline, look for whimsical wildflowers, including white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala) (upper left), Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum) (lower left), elephantheads (Pedicularis groenlandica) (center), marsh violets (Viola palustris) (upper right), and western bog laurel (Kalmia microphylla) (lower right). Olallie Lake Trail, May 30, 2016 and June 22, 2014.
Frogs, here likely a Cascades frog (Rana cascadae), abound in the bogs that line Olallie Lake. Olallie Lake Trail, May 30, 2016.
Approximately halfway between Talapus and Olallie lakes, a short side trail leads east by steppingstones across a creek to the Pratt Lake Trail. The side trail provides and alternate and slightly shorter route to Pratt Lake. Old-growth western redcedars (Thuja plicata) stand along the side trail, most heavily damaged by lightning but persisting nonetheless. July 01, 2017.
About 0.25 mile/0.40 km left up the trail toward Pratt Lake and Island Lake, the forest opens to a view of Olallie Lake below and, on a clear day, to Mt. Rainier beyond. Pratt Lake Trail, July 04, 2013.