Last Updated on January 7, 2020
3.6 miles roundtrip
630 feet elevation gain
This weekend, I hiked to Talapus Lake with my 3-year-old nephew Ben, my brother Jonathan and my sister-in-law Sarabeth.
Talapus is one of many stunning lakes that gives the Alpine Lakes Wilderness its name. The lake is accessible by a short and gently-sloped path – which makes it a very popular trail for hikers of all ages and abilities. The trail became increasingly crowded the longer we stayed but I found it to be more manageable than some of the other more popular Seattle-area trails (such as the Poo Poo Point Chirico Trail or Hurricane Ridge).
We arrived at the trailhead around 9:00 am on Saturday to find the parking lot full. The last 2.5 miles of the drive is along a road that’s filled with potholes; my brother’s Prius made it just fine but we had to take it slow. Cars lined the road and it would’ve been a 5-minute walk to the trailhead, but we lucked into a spot as another car was leaving.
Talapus Lake Trail is a well-maintained and gently sloped path though the forest that traverses some wetland areas just prior to approaching the lake. In the beginning, Ben was initially more interested in jumping from rock to rock than hiking. So we put him in the carrier until he was ready to hike on his own – and then we could barely keep up with him. He was fascinated by the switchbacks and was delighted each time we came to a new one.
Partway through the hike, we pointed out a large mossy rock on the side of the trail and took a moment to talk about the nature of moss. We glanced over to find Ben looking straight up at the trees towering overhead, not seeing the rock at all but completely transfixed by the forest canopy. It’s such a treat to experience nature from a child’s perspective.
As the trail nears Talapus Lake, it traverses some wetlands and gets a bit muddy. Thanks to the recent dry weather, we always found a way through without getting our feet too terribly muddy. We crossed several wooden pathways and bridges in this section to my nephew’s delight – some of which are in poor repair. It’s clear that maintenance is underway in this area to replace the rotting sections of wood.
We reached Talapus Lake around 11:00 am and elected to stop rather than continuing along to Olallie Lake. There are several day use areas at Talapus with lake access and we enjoyed watching some of our fellow four-legged hikers swimming around in the water.
There is an outdoor toilet and camping area just west of the trail at the lake. Several campers with young children were setting up tents here when we arrived – it’s a great spot for a beginning backpacking trip but don’t expect any solitude here!
We returned to the parking lot around 1:00 pm and noticed that cars lined the trail for almost a quarter of a mile as we drove away. Despite the crowds we still had a lovely time and would recommend this hike to other families with small children.