Today’s post will feature quite the photo-dump, as I’ve neglected to recap our recent hikes. Also, let’s all be honest: it’s just a few days until Christmas and I am struggling to concentrate in eager anticipation for my favorite holiday and getting to see my whole family for the first time in months.
These hikes have been some of the best of the year, because the snow makes the mountains extraordinarily pretty and the cold air is invigorating. It’s simply an added bonus that the trails are significantly less crowded than during the summer months. All the more reason to opt outside this winter!
Plus, I love being able to hike and play in the snow but then return home where there’s not a single snowflake on the ground and temperatures rarely dip below freezing.
Charlie stayed at home for these hikes (and pooped all over the house after the first one to punish us for leaving him at home). Even though he has a cute little winter coat, he stayed behind as Ryan and I adapt to winter hiking (i.e. it’s not easy to hike in snow, and a puggle pulling on you the entire way makes any hike more difficult).
Talapus & Olallie Lakes
Talapus and Olallie Lakes rest on the western edge of Snoqualmie Pass and offer an easy, build-your-own adventure hike. You can hike just to Talapus, which is a 4 mile round trip; beyond Talapus to Olallie for a 6.5 mile hike; or beyond Olallie to reach Pratt Lake. We opted to just hike as far as Olallie, which totaled a gentle 1200 foot elevation gain.
What Talapus and Olallie didn’t offer in terms of physical challenge, they made up for with gorgeous scenery. Both of this alpine lakes were almost completely frozen over and the ice on them was dusted with snow.
This entire hike looked like a winter wonderland. We found where we want to build our mountain cabin, which is right at the shore of Olallie Lake. We can dream, right?
Mount Si is arguably one of the most popular hikes in Washington state. Even on a cold and snowy winter day, we saw dozens of hikers (many experienced, some out hiking in shorts and Nikes) during our six hour hike on Mount Si.
Mount Si is located in North Bend, just 45 minutes outside of Seattle proper, so this hike is popular amongst city dwellers and tourists during the summer due to its proximity and accessibility for hikers of all levels. Mount Si presents a decent challenge with its elevation gain for 3150 feet over a four mile climb, but the clearly-marked switchback trail requires very little technical hiking experience (unlike Gothic Basin, which has a similar elevation yet includes slightly daunting rock scrambles and boulder fields).
However, switchbacks become a four-letter word during the climb. 3150 feet over 4 miles roughly equates to an average incline of 15% (some areas were flatter, others were quite steeper), and the varying degrees of slush, snow, and deep snow only increase the level of difficultly.
Because of the change in weather and snow as we climbed, we had to stop four times to change gear: one to take off a layer, since it was humid; once to don our YakTraks as the trail gave way to slushy snow, once to add back on layers at the top, and a final time to remove our Yaktraks and put on raincoats to protect against falling snow. You pretty much have to pack an small wardrobe in your backpack for winter hiking.
When we reached the top, we were rewarded with a view on the Cascades in one direction and Seattle/Bellevue in another. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, but Seattle knows not clear days in December. From the first viewpoint, we climbed even further towards the Haystack rock to get an even more sublime view.
Layers are essential for winter hikes, especially for always-cold people such as myself. In this picture at Mount Si, I’m wearing a base layer, a down vest, a down jacket, leggings, hiking pants, thick wool socks, and gloves. It was in the low 40s at the trailhead and it felt as if it was in the low 20s, if not colder, and the top.
What adventures have you gone on lately?
Who else is excited for Christmas? What are your holiday plans?
Do your pets have fear of missing out?