Talapus Trail, east of North Bend, makes for a good half-day hike that's suitable for kids.
Location: East of North Bend.
Length: Almost 2 ½ miles (each way); continues further to Olallie Lake and the Pratt Lake trail.
Level of difficulty: Level-to-moderate, wide dirt trail is rocky in parts; top of hill in swamp has wooden trails/small bridges over mucky ground.
Setting: This popular trail is a good one if you just have time to do a half-day hike, or have children who like geographical rewards (a nice mucky swamp plus a lake) at the end of a long walk. Although it’s a well-used easy entry into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (with a gain in elevation of about 1,000 feet), a lot of trail-maintenance work keeps the path well-drained in this area of high precipitation (the North Bend area, where moisture-bearing clouds bump up against the west side of the Cascades and release their load, has about twice the annual rainfall of Seattle).
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Highlights: The trail begins on a wide old logging road, climbing through a forest of hemlock and cedars with an understory thick with salmonberry. At one point, the trail climbs up via a stepped boardwalk over a moist area. A pretty rushing stream comes into view several times on your right, cascading wildly over boulders. When you eventually emerge onto the top of the hill, you’ll encounter a very mucky area crossed by wooden slabs placed over trails and serving as short bridges over streams. Note the huge leaves (and the stinky smell) of skunk cabbage flourishing in this area. After about a quarter-mile, the trail splits around the lake (keep to the right), and the water is visible through the trees.
Facilities: Vault toilet at trailhead.
Restrictions: Pets on leash, no bikes or horses, and don’t cut through switchbacks on the trail.
Directions: From Interstate 90 east of Issaquah, take Exit 45, and turn north at the end of the exit ramp. Cross under the freeway (if you were heading east), and follow the road. Off to your left you’ll see a pullout with a payment box for buying a Northwest Forest Pass if you don’t have one already ($5/day pass, $30 annual pass; required to park at trailhead). Once the paved road changes to dirt, it’s 0.4 miles to the fork in the road. Take the right-hand branch (following the handy sign that points to Talapus Trail #1039), and head another 2.4 miles further to the trailhead. The road has some ruts and washboards, but it’s fine for cars if you don’t go too fast.
For more information: 425-888-1421 or www.fs.fed.us (North Bend Ranger Station, open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Sundays).
— Cathy McDonald, Special to The Seattle Times
Renton-based freelancer Cathy McDonald, a former geologist, has written about science and nature travel for 20 years. She’s currently a travel guidebook editor and researcher at Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.