Making Trails

the travel blog of Lauren Nishizaki

Talapus and Olallie Lakes

Washington, USA

Trailhead Talapus Lake (#1039)
Roundtrip distance 6.2 miles
Total elevation gain 1220 ft

Josh recently moved to Seattle, and it would be remiss of me if I didn’t introduce him to hiking in the Cascades. Jake and I picked him up and after a slight detour on the wrong freeway, we headed to the mountains.

The road from the freeway to the trailhead switchbacks up the hill. The first 200ft are nicely paved, and at the end of that stretch, there’s a small sign that reads: “ROAD ENDS”. The sign’s easy to miss, but I’m so glad we didn’t! The sign marks the spot where the silky smooth asphalt turns into potholed gravel.

The trail was a bit muddy in sections, and we hiked through occasional sprinkles of rain. Luckily, the trail was almost entirely covered by large trees that protected us from the worst of the weather. A handful of times, the fog and clouds cleared enough for us to see some blue sky and feel the sun’s warmth, and then the clouds would return and chase the sun away.

Despite the damp, the hike was beautiful. Low-lying clouds looked like wisps of cotton that snagged on the trees. Water droplets made the moss and underbrush glisten. Mushrooms (some as big as a portobello and others as small and bright as an orange-capped sewing pin) grew everywhere.

I love hiking in the Seattle area. Amazing hikes are only a short drive away, there’s a huge variety of day and overnight trips, and there are so many dogs on the trail.

From Seattle, a short drive will take you deep into the Cascade mountain range, where there are several hundred hikes to choose from: whether you’re looking for mountains, snowy passes, alpine lakes, rivers, waterfalls, or some combination of the above, you’ll be able to find it. And the WTA (Washington Trail Association) keeps a searchable list of many of the hikes in the state (as of this writing, the WTA database includes 3553 hikes). A 2.5 hour drive will take you into the heart of the Cascades, but if you don’t want to drive that far, never fear! This hike, and many others, are only an hour away from the city.

Only a couple of freeways cross the Cascades (roads off of the freeway snake deeper into the mountains to trailheads). This means that you don’t have to hike for very long before you feel far-removed from civilization. This is possible with day hikes, but it’s even more true of overnight and multi-night backpacking trips.

Seattle loves dogs. Well, people in Seattle love dogs, and as a result, much of the city accommodates dogs as well (for example, when Jake and I moved to Seattle, every single one of the 20-something apartments that we looked at allowed pets). And since many people take their dogs hiking, all of us who don’t own pets get to “ooh” and “aww” at all the cute pups on the trail. On this hike, we passed some Australian shepherds, huskies, a golden retriever, and many others, but there were two dogs that I’ll remember.

As we climbed the switchbacks on our way to Talapus Lake, I paused to listen to what I thought was a chainsaw (not so unreasonable, since WTA crews were working on trail maintenance that day). It sounded a bit too high-pitched though, so we kept hiking, mystery unsolved. Soon, we saw 2 people and a chocolate-colored dog appear in front of us. The dog was tearing up and down the steep trail, then running in huge loops through the underbrush. A large bell and a long radio antennae were attached to its collar, and the bell’s persistent ringing was what I mistook for a chainsaw. Although the dog’s owners probably got in a 6.5 mile hike that day, the dog looked like it had the energy to run three times that distance.

Later on our way back to the trailhead, we passed a woman and her adorable small French bulldog, Ollie. Ollie was a gorgeous gray color, and calmly came to say hello to all of us. And when his owner tried to get him to follow her down the path, he sat down next to us as if to say, “I found some friends! And since they’re not moving on, why should I?” She scooped him up and carried him down the hill. I relate! Oliver had hiked all the way to Talapus Lake, and his short little legs were tired!

When comparing this hike to the Annette Lake hike of 2 weeks ago, I tried proposing that this hike was superior because you got three lakes for the price of one hike: Talapus Lake, then Olallie Lake, and then Talapus Lake again on the way back. We didn’t stop to admire Talapus on the way back though, so I guess it didn’t really count, and we only saw two lakes (can you sense the sarcasm?). All in all, it was a great hike with fantastic company!