In contrast to the short, bustling summer trail, the winter Talapus Lake snowshoe route takes much more dedication and can offer plenty of solitude, a rare occurrence on the Interstate 90 corridor. If you can tolerate or ignore the traffic noise as you travel the 3 miles of forest road on the way to the trail, a true beauty of an alpine lake awaits.
In the midst of the winter season, the parking lot and trailhead sit directly off I-90 in a plowed exit where Forest Service Road 9030 begins. Embark westward up the road for almost a mile as it parallels the interstate, then switchback east at the signed junction for Forest Service Road 9031. The continuous coming and going of several gushing creeks adds variety to the slow climb toward the end of the road and the official Talapus Lake trailhead. This is a great place to break, with a clean privy and favorable views of Granite Mountain rising up to the east.
Go forth into the forest and follow the snow-covered trail as it snakes north up the hillside. Upon traversing over a slight ridge, you will meet the sudden sound of Talapus Creek hurrying down to meet the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. This new theme is audible for the remainder of the journey up to the creek's headwaters, where you enter the revered Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Here, the snow deepens significantly and turns the trail into somewhat of a lost cause. Safely cross and continue up the creek for another 0.1 mile, where you will undoubtedly see the luminous lake basin beckoning through the trees. Arrive on the southeast shore, and look for select views of Bandera and Pratt Mountains to the west, along with a shaded avalanche slope dropping into the other side of the lake.
Note: Always check weather and avalanche reports while traveling in the backcountry during winter. Use caution while traveling on the snow near creek beds.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.