Heading right up the nose of the ridge it’s named after, Polallie will give you a workout. It’s steep, it’s rocky, and there are very few views. Head all the way to Diamond Lake for an overnight, go further into the Alpine Lakes wilderness, or call it quits whenever your glutes have had enough.
From the trailhead it shares with Cooper River and Waptus River trails, head towards the river. Turn right, behind a kiosk, and begin paralleling the river as the trail heads gently uphill. Within a few hundred feet, the Cooper River trail splits off to the left, and soon afterwards the Waptus River Trail veers off to the right, leaving you to head straight on the Polallie Ridge Trail.
Almost immediately after the split with Waptus the trail begins climbing in earnest. In the first two miles, you’ll gain nearly 1500 feet of elevation, with a very few short flat sections on which to catch your breath. After about 2.2 miles, the trail flattens out on what you may think is the ridgetop. Don’t be fooled – you’ve got more climbing to do! Relish this flat section while it lasts.
Up ahead, through the trees you may spot a tree-covered knoll. You’re climbing up the right-hand side of that little knoll, and it’s steeper than it looks. Take a snack break before climbing. It’s 480 feet in less than a half-mile to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary, and there’s a short section of descent in there to contend with as well.
From the wilderness boundary, the trail moderates a bit as it descends and then traverses before beginning yet another climb. You can see through the trees the small saddle you’re heading to. Keep your energy up – the last pitch to the saddle is quite steep. Coming through the saddle, there are unfortunately no views, but the trail mercifully flattens out as you walk through a large open meadow to another saddle, through which lies your destination: Diamond Lake.
Pass through that second saddle and begin a moderate descent through the trees to the lake, invisible until you are nearly upon it.
Take a rest here and enjoy the quiet. You’re likely to be alone here, and the lake itself offers a lovely reflecting place to eat your lunch in peace before heading back down the knee-jarring descent.