The Enchantments Trail is a 35.9 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Leavenworth, WA that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from July until October.
This is THE backpacking destination in the state of Washington. Wander through soft tundra meadows, glacial-cirque lakes, crystal clear trickling streams, and impossible granite rock formations in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It will make you feel like you're in a completely different part of the world. Note that you MUST have a permit to camp in this area and they are distributed months in advance, so plan ahead and see below for more info. This area is thought to be discovered by A.H. Sylvester, who was originally a topographer for the USGS but went on to supervise Wenatchee National Forest starting in 1908. Climbers didn't start enjoying this area for recreation until the late 1940's. [100 Hikes in Washington's Alpine Lakes (1st ed.), Spring, Ira; Manning, Harvey, 1993] And the permit system, designed to protect the area from destructive humans, was not put in place until 1981. The big question is: which side to enter from? The Snow Lake entrance is longer, more gradual, and less scenic. The Colchuck Lake entrance is shorter and steeper (maybe even slippery and dangerous), but Colchuck Lake is beautiful. The traditional entrance would be Snow Lake because this side brings you through the Enchantments "in order," meaning you start in the Lower Enchantments and work your way up to the Upper Enchantments. It's your choice, but this guide is written assuming you're hiking in from Snow Lake, all the way through the Enchantments, and out the Colchuck Lake side. The permit lottery system might actually decide this for you based on what zones you're allowed to camp in! Some individuals more on the "hard" end of the spectrum that will do this entire through-hike in one day. If you have a light pack, it's possible, but bring a headlamp and enough food and gear to spend the night if you have to. No fires or dogs up here. But there will be enough scenery to keep you company.
Great job on this Guide. Very well done. I got to explore a little of the Enchantments last year backpacking into Stuart Lake. Such a beautiful place.
Absolutely worth the exhaustion! Just make sure to hike to the left on Aasgard Pass. Made the mistake of "short-cutting" and trying to slip through the right side, and it didn't end up very well. Got a little hurt with some falling boulders, so make sure to stay safe and enjoy the beauty!
Did a traverse from Stuart lake trailhead to Snow lakes trailhead. The beauty is hard to describe and seems enchantments is a total different place from its neighboring city. It snowed in the afternoon and the ground was covered with some snow, but may not last for long.
One of the most magical hikes you will ever get to do. Go early so you have the opportunity to enjoy all the mesmerizing views you will have along the way. I did the full 28 mile loop. Assgard pass is tough but not impossible if you take your time and enjoy the backdrops. The best advise I can give you is taking a water filter as there is no need to carry water and also a good battery charger for your phone as you'll be taking plenty of pictures!!
The most beautiful hike you'll ever do. Length varies from so many different reviews. Our hike yesterday was tracked at 27 miles. The first 20 miles are gorgeous, very scenic and entertaining. The last 7 miles, from snow lake, is like the never ending trail. It's hard to get through it mentally as you can't imagine it is so long back to the car. A must do hike, a bucket list check off.
Challenging and spectacular, easily one of the most stunning scenic trails in the world.
just wrote a post in my blog about my trip this last august!! loved every moment of it.
Glaciers, goats, and granite: if you're lucky enough to score a core pass, you'll see them all aplenty.
It’s true: people do parts of the Enchantments as day-hikes, but the only proper way to complete one of the most beautiful trails in the NW is doing the whole thing with your possessions on your back. Yes, you'll need a core pass (all zones) and some decent legs. You'll also need to continually wipe the stupid grin off of your face, as most of the area is so beautiful that your trail-hardened cheeks will continually crack into a wry and knowing smile.
If you're training for big peaks or a fast climber, you could probably do the entire 6000ft and 18mi (point-to-point) in a day, then shuttle back. And if you did that, you’d be a complete idiot. In the Enchantments, you hike in, set up camp, and explore: because it’s worth it. There are numerous peaks to climb, glaciers to play on, lakes to swim, and forests in which to nap. And they're almost all remarkably beautiful. In the fall, the sun through the golden larches is truly a sight to behold.
But it’s not all fun and games; I mean, Aasgard pass is steep (tough readily doable by most). Moreover, there are some mini-traverses between Snow Lakes and the Upper Enchantments that can be tricky with 50lbs on your back. These are granite mountain lakes (the type of which I'd only seen before in the High Sierra, and was pleasantly surprised to see in Washington). This means there's a lot of rock up here and not a lot of soil: there's often no trail and you're simply climbing around on steep and angular rocks and slabs. As a native Oregonian, this was my first experience where I felt that Washington might have something that we don’t (but take heart: I’m now back to regarding Washington with that calm and erudite derision that only true Portlanders can muster).
Leave the kids and the dogs at home for this one, as well as Mee-Maw and Pop-Pops--this isn’t a tourist trail. Granted, getting to Colchuck from the western trailhead isn’t that bad, and hiking to Snow Lakes from the east isn’t that difficult: gain's relatively easy when there's a smooth and level trail. Still, once you get to Colchuck and want to ascend Aasgard, or want to experience the (vastly superior) beauty of the Middle and Upper Enchantments from Snow Lakes, there's not a lot of trail. This is a path where you follow cairns, but there’s good news: the rangers seem very good at destroying ill-placed instances while simultaneously augmenting those of worth. In several days, I made no navigational errors (a small miracle for yours truly). Still, it would be foolish to complete this trip without a map, a compass, and the ability to use both.
So should you do it? Unless you're a misguided trail-runner who'll jog through and miss everything, well, yes: of course you should! You should do it from one end to the other, and try your very hardest not to smile widely at least once an hour (you’ll fail, albeit happily).
•Don't carry tons of water; just bring a filter. There are lakes and streams everywhere (I never carried more than a litre, even when ascending Aasgard, and I'm a large and thirsty hiker).
•Do the whole thing: start out in the west at the Stuart Lake trailhead and leave early. Hike in to Colchuck Lake and set up camp on the lake's beach below the Colchuck glacier (and don’t be intimidated by Aasgard above you; it looks much steeper than it actually is). Ascend Aasgard in the morning, then play in the upper Enchantments all day. Climb Little Annapurna, then camp in the middle Enchantments (Inspiration and Perfection lakes have some great spots around them). You can hike out 10mi and be done after two nights, but if you’ve another, set camp around the Snow Lakes and relax. (Note: the larger of the Snow Lakes is actually a reservoir and is sometimes painfully low and ugly. If it’s low, consider going a bit off-trail and camping around the east Snow Lake or, alternatively, setting up camp along one of Nada Lake’s great sites.)
•Don’t carry a (6lb) bottle of top-shelf bourbon in your pack, even if your friends say “C’mon: it won’t be *that* heavy.” It will be *that* heavy, and when you’re done with it there’ll still be 3lbs of bottle to pack out.
•Get ready to make friends with goats: it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be within 10 feet or less. They’re quite friendly and passive: if you don’t try to ride them, you’ll be fine (but send pics if you do).
•If you have a chance, try to enjoy the faux-Bavarian splendor in nearby Leavenworth, WA. While dodging “Bavarian” Plaid Pantrys, you can enjoy some truly great dunkleweizens and tripels. Beers this good serve a purpose; that is, mitigating the feeling that you’ve somehow fallen into a truly unfortunate version of The Sound of Music.
•Passes: there is a lottery for Enchantments passes held in Feb/March of every year in which the majority of overnight permits are issued. Also there are a tiny number of overnight passes h
Amazing trip! Lots of scrambling but well worth the effort.
08/20/15 - We stayed at Colchuck Lake and took a day hike up Aasgard Pass to the Core Enchantments the following day to avoid climbing that beast with our full pack weight. While intimidating at first, the hike up the pass was a blast. We all really enjoyed it more than we thought we would. It took us just over 2 hours to make the climb from the south end of Colchuck Lake. Coming down took a bit longer because we were pretty spent at that time, and you have to be very careful. The proper trail is clearly marked with large cairns and you won't get lost if you always keep the next marker in sight. Once at the top I headed up to saddle pass just west of Little Annapurna. If you still have some legs after Aasgard, I highly recommend it for stunning views to the south. If you've ever driven on I-90 east of the pass and look to the north you will see the peaks surrounding The Enchantments. From the top of those peaks looking back you get a clear view of Mt Adams, Mt Rainier, and everything in between. It's a stunning vantage point. Looking north you get a view of the entire Core area. I'll post photos to lure you upward. I took a different route down thinking I would save time and had to skirt around several glaciers. DO NOT cross over them thinking they are solid ice. At this point in the season they merely form a thin bridge over rivers flowing underneath and will easily break with your weight. Eventually I made my way back to the lakes and back down the pass to camp. Put this hike on your list if it isn't already there.
More on my hiking blog at cairnguru.com
One of the best experiences of my life, if you enjoy nature whatsoever you will enjoy this hike. It is a decently difficult hike, however climbing Aasgard was amazing and more motivating than any other part of the hike. The scenery, wildlife, and exhaustion are all incredibly worthwhile experiences. My hike was from Stuart Trailhead, into the core enchantments and back to Stuart. This IS doable in one day, but you must start early and have a good pace. However, enjoy some goat company along the way!