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Trip Report    

Day Hike - Talapus, Ollalie, and Rainbow Lakes

Cold and blustery with blue skies and clear views of the distant mountains. Some snow on the ground at high elevation; microspikes helpful.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
As there a a couple of different routes to Rainbow Lake, I want to clarify that our route started at the Talapus Lake trailhead, traveled on the Talapus Lake trail #1039 past Talapus and Olallie Lakes, to the Talapus Lake Cutoff Trail #1039.1, to the Pratt Lake Trail #1007, to the Mt. Defiance Trail #1009 to Rainbow Lake. 
​​The 3 mile gravel road to the trailhead was in decent condition, with not too many potholes, And suitable for any vehicle. We arrived at the trailhead at 8:30am and it was only about half full. The vault toilet was closed, so plan to make a bathroom stop before you arrive or plan to pack out. 
​It was a beautiful clear sunny day. Parts of the trail were quite windy, wiping out the warmth from the sun. The trail was in good condition; just one easy to pass blow down. The​ ​initial part of the trail to Talapus Lake​ was wide and had few rock or root obstacles. ​As we approached Talapus lake, we skipped the trail to the “left” that goes to the lakefront and instead followed the main trail to the “right” of the lake. The trail approached to a couple hundred feet of the shore, and we settled for views through the trees and saved our formal visit for the return trip. We continued on to​wards Olallie Lake, but turned off at the intersection with the Pratt Lake trail​ 0.1 miles before reaching the lake. The trail climbed the bowl of mountains south of Olallie Lake, but never got close enough for actual views at the lake, until halfway around when we were far above the lake, the trees opened up for a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains all the way to Mount Rainier. It was a steady climb almost the entire way​ from the trailhead to ​Rainbow Lake, with some steeper areas and switchbacks on the portion climbing around Olallie Lake. Snow started on the trail at ~3​900 feet, 2 hours into the hike. Because of the very cold weather, the snow was hard packed, and the depth was not a problem, but there were occasional icy areas. Most of our party used microspikes for traction, but others did not and were fine. There was one particular stream crossing with icy banks that I was very happy to have microspikes on for. ​At first, snow on the trail was intermittent​ depending on how densely wooded it was. Above 4200 feet the snow was constant on the trail. I would guess the maximum depth was 6 to ​10 inches​, but hard to tell as we did not sink in​ (snowshoes definitely not needed). The trail crested at 4600 ft about a quarter mile from the Rainbow Lake/Island Lake split. We only went to Rainbow Lake, and will have to come back for Island Lake another time. Trees thinned out as we approached Rainbow Lake, and we found a nice sunny spot for lunch right at the lake’s edge. The lake looked completely frozen over and was a beautiful winter wonderland! ​Our group of Mountaineers was quite energetic; our pace to Rainbow Lake was 2.1 mph (2.4 mph moving). 
On our return, as we approached Talapus lake, we took ​one of the many side trail​s down to the lakefront for a quick look. There are many picnic spots and play areas, as this is a very popular place for families in the summer.