The Fat Hiker

The Fat Hiker

Gear. Trails. Food.

Category: Trails

Heavy Hiker Trails in the PNW: Talapus Lake

I recently visited this trail again and it’s one of my favorite novice hikes. It can be done relatively quickly and it features multiple ecosystems, some small stream crossings, and…

I recently visited this trail again and it’s one of my favorite novice hikes. It can be done relatively quickly and it features multiple ecosystems, some small stream crossings, and it’s got one killer view of Talapus Lake at the end.

This trail will also introduce new hikers to the “switchback” concept of trail design. To make the uphill trek of elevation gain easier, trails are cut in a zig-zag formation up the side of a mountain to make traversing upwards less laborious. Don’t get me wrong, uphill is still, well, uphill, but this approach makes the going easier. This trail also has a feature that Heavy Hikers will particularly enjoy, which I’ll describe later. Let’s get into it.

Talapus Lake Trail, in the Snoqualmie Region, WA

This hike is a well maintained out and back trek through the southern Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest that clocks in about 3.9 miles, with 720 feet of elevation gain. You begin from the trailhead on wide, well-manicured walking paths through covered forest. As you ascend to the taller sections of the hike, you’ll encounter Talapus Creek to your right. The trail gets a bit rockier through here, so be aware of where your feet fall.

Well Maintained Trails

 After the first set of switchbacks, there are several great spots to rest and take pictures. One particular spot is a collection of rocks on the left side of the trail where I like to take pictures of my adventurous wife, who can never turn down a chance to climb things (if you do this, please be careful).

Gets a bit rockier here…

After this point, the trail gets muddier, so you might want to rock some waterproof shoes or boots, though I wouldn’t consider them necessary. You’ll cross a few streams here. Nothing big, and as I visited here in October of 2017, the WTA was making progress on some bridges and turnpikes to level out the path and keep you out of the water.

A bridge makes crossing streams easier.

Finally, you come to Talapus Lake on the left hand side of the trail. It’s pure beauty. Have fun walking out on the timber on the south shoreline, snagging some pics. My dog, Bronko, likes to fetch sticks in the lake. This is a great spot to chill and have a snack. When you’re finished, just head back the way you came. Be aware of the downhill nature of the trek back. My steps become heavier and I tend to pick up speed as I plod down the path. This is also a good spot to mention proper trail etiquette, which states that you must always yield to the uphill hiker, so if you encounter someone on your way back, make sure you give them the right-of-way on their hike up the mountain.

Step carefully on the fallen trees.

Make sure you post your Northwest Forest Pass, or your America the Beautiful Interagency Pass in your window before you head out on the trail, and make sure you keep your furry friend on a leash.

So, you’ve made it to Talapus Lake. You’ve seen something beautiful. But wait. You’ve still got something left in the tank. And here now, we have come to why I love this hike for my overweight trail novices. If you’re up to it, continue just 1.2 miles further up the mountain and you’ll come to the absolutely fantastic Olallie Lake. Olallie Lake is a larger, more fantastic prize at the end of this trail. It’s more uphill aggressive, but it’s a great spot for overnight camping, which makes this hike a great gear-testing trip. If you go the whole way, this becomes a 6.2 mile hike with 1220 feet of elevation gain, which is quite the accomplishment for the new hiker.

When I first started hiking, I wanted to find a way to accomplish a goal, and then see if I could push myself… just a little further. That being said, on this trail, I don’t mind turning around at Talapus Lake, too. So, accomplish a goal and turn around, or challenge yourself to go higher. Either way, you’ll be proud of the progress you’ve made. For a more detailed description of this hike, plus current trail condition reports, check out the WTA website. Happy heavy hiking.

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Heavy Hiker Trails in the PNW: Franklin Falls

When I first started hiking, my biggest concern was being able to physically complete a trail. As an overweight hiker, these were my concerns: It can’t be too far It…

When I first started hiking, my biggest concern was being able to physically complete a trail. As an overweight hiker, these were my concerns:

  • It can’t be too far
  • It can’t be too difficult
  • If I get hurt, I want to be able to find help
  • I don’t want to be a burden on my hiking buddy, or I want to be able to go on my own

Even though I am able to go further and higher now, I still remember having two personal goals: I wanted to see wonderful things and, most importantly, I wanted to complete the entire hike. I wanted to accomplish something that everyone else took for granted.

So now, keeping all this in mind, these are the factors I consider when choosing a first-timer day hike for a fellow heavy hiker:

  • Length of the trail (1-2 miles)
  • Elevation gain (0-500 ft)
  • Other hiker traffic (moderate to heavy)
  • Something pretty to see at the end (waterfall, scenic view, etc.)

This last point is key. Having a fantastic reward at the end is what can turn a moderately interested “newb” into a trail junkie for life. Franklin Falls is just that kind of trail.

Franklin Falls Trail, in North Bend, WA

It is a well maintained, out and back, 2 mile hike with a beautiful waterfall at the end. The total elevation gain is only 360 ft and the grade is light and steady in, which makes the hike back to the car downhill and chill. The trail also makes contact with the road midway through, so you don’t have to worry about being out in the wilderness for too long. 

Well Groomed Trails & Paths

Summer Views

Hikers Enjoying the Falls

What I like most about this trail is that it keeps on giving. If you’re just starting out, this trail is best traveled from March to October, but if you’re prepared to strap on some MICROspikes or Yaktrax, visit this place in December. The Falls freeze, and an absolutely beautiful wall of ice forms on the cliffside. So visit this place in the Spring, then, after a few more hikes under you, come back in the Winter.

The Falls in Winter

Make sure you bring your Northwest Forest Parking Pass or your America the Beautiful Interagency Pass for parking, and keep your puppies on a leash. 

I hope to post more trail reviews soon, and if you have any favorites, I’d like to hear from you. They don’t have to be in the Pacific Northwest. Also, click here for a link to a more detailed description from the folks at Washington Trails Association. They can give you driving details and additional info. Happy heavy hiking!

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