Hike description: The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Northwest for a couple of reasons: They’re easy to access, and the blue pools nestled between rocky slopes and green forest are downright stunning.
Few of the 700 lakes are easier to reach than family-friendly Talapus Lake, west of Snoqualmie Pass. The lake gets plenty of visitors, but the crowds shrink as summer gives way to autumn.
It’s less than 2 miles from the trailhead to the lake on a wide trail that follows Talapus Creek gradually upward. There are several natural resting spots along the way, including a photo-worthy spot next to the gurgling creek.
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Swimming is permitted for those willing to brave the cold water in the 17.4-acre lake. But be cautious walking on logs on the shoreline as some may shift under your feet. Fishing is also permitted. Talapus has been stocked with rainbow trout twice in the past decade by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, receiving 500 fish in 2013 and 450 in 2009, according to the WDFW website.
Deer and other wildlife — including pesky food-stealing critters — are common sights in this area. On clear days, Bandera and Pratt mountains can be seen rising above the lake.
While the lake can be an enjoyable place to play and relax for the day, more ambitious hikers will be pleased that the hike can be easily extended. It’s less than a mile farther uphill to Olallie Lake. More lakes, such as Pratt, can also be reached from here.
Directions: From Interstate 90, take Exit 45. Turn north and follow Forest Road 9030 for about 1 mile. Turn right to stay on the road at the sign pointing the way to Talapus Lake. The road ends at the trailhead.
Difficulty rating: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).
Miles round trip: 3.4.
Elevation gain: 700 feet.
Best time of the year: June-October.
Map: Green Trails 206: Bandera.
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass.
Also: The Washington Trails Association is currently working to reroute this heavily used trail. A completion date for the 0.5-mile reroute is not known, said association crew leader LeeAnne Jensen, but it could be ready by spring 2017. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness was designated in 1976 and includes nearly 400,000 acres. Dogs on leashes are permitted. Geocaches are hidden in the area. Visit geocaching.com for more information.