Talapus Lake and Olallie Lake

Trail Highlights:Lake views; creekside views
Round-trip Distance:4.20 miles / 6.80 km (Talapus Lake)
6.20 miles / 10.00 km (Talapus and Olallie lakes)
Location:Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest,
Snoqualmie Pass / Snoqualmie Valley, Washington Central Cascades

Ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie
  • From east- and westbound Interstate 90, take Exit 45
  • From Exit 45, turn left from eastbound/right from westbound onto Forest Road 9030 (road name may not be posted)
  • At 0.70 miles/1.10 km, turn right at the fork to remain on Forest Road 9030, as indicated by signage for Talapus Lake
  • Continue 2.30 miles/3.70 km to the parking lot at the end of the road

  • The pavement ends at 0.30 miles/0.50 km from the off-ramp and the remainder of the road is gravel and can be quite potholed
    Required Pass:Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent for U.S. Forest Service sites
    Additional Trail Info:Washington Trails Association
    U.S. Forest Service

    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 Talapus Lake, the trail flattens, crisscrossing the Talapus Creek among western redcedars (Thuja plicata) that lap its waters. Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 09, 2013.
    At just over 2.00 miles/3.22 km from the trailhead, Talapus Lake appears suddenly through the woodland fringe. Boot paths lead down to the heavily forested water’s edge. The lake’s source, Island Lake, pools just beyond the ridge above its far shore. Talapus Lake and Olallie Lakes Trail, May 30, 2016.
    Look for wildflowers scattered along the trails and lakesides, including, top row, left to right, pinesaps (Monotropa hypopitys syn. Hypopitys monotropa), cut-leaved foamflowers (Tiarella trifoliata), white marsh marigolds (Caltha leptosepala), and western bog laurel (Kalmia microphylla); queen’s cups (Clintonia uniflora) (left center edge); western bunchberries (Cornus unalaschkensis) (right center edge); and, bottom row, left to right, marsh violets (Viola palustris), skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus), Pacific trilliums (Trillium ovatum), Pacific coralroot orchids (Corallorhiza mertensiana), and two-leaved false Solomon’s seals (Maianthemum dilatatum).
    Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 09, 2013, June 22, 2014, May 30, 2016, and July 01, 2017.
    Similar to Talapus Lake, Olallie Lake is densely wooded to its water’s edge. Where the main trail meets the lake, side trails lead right to secluded campsites and left to a boggy meadow. The western slopes of Tusk O’Granite Mountain and Granite Mountain rise beyond the lake’s far shore. With some imaginative license in spelling, Tusk O’Granite is named for its position between the Tuscohatchie lakes and Granite Mountain.
    Talapus and Olallie Lakes Trail, June 22, 2014.
    The star of Olallie Lake’s boggy northern shoreline is the elephanthead lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica), which rears spikes of whimsically formed blooms like so many rows of rosy pachyderm-like faces. Elephantheads and their other lousewort kin are unfortunately named for the erroneous belief in former times that they caused lice infestations in livestock that grazed on them. Olallie Lake Trail, May 30, 2016 and July 01, 2017.
    Frogs, here likely a Cascades frog (Rana cascadae), abound in the bogs that line Olallie Lake.
    Talapus and Olallie Lakes 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.
    Talapus – Pratt Lakes Traverse, July 01, 2017.
    About 0.25 miles/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.

    © 2014-2024 Anthony Colburn. Images may not be used or reproduced in any form without express written consent.


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