hikes

August 25, 2016

Colchuck Lake in the Enchantments

Three night backpacking trip in the Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness (near Leavenworth, Washington)

Total mileage: 11.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation gain

This area is extremely popular, and overnight camping in the Enchantments requires a limited overnight permit available each spring via a lottery. Day hikers do not need a permit, so the area can be quite crowded. The ranger that we met told us that there are up to 400 day hikers on weekend days.

Day 1

backpack in to campsite
4.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation gain

Starting at the Stuart Lake trailhead, we hiked in to our campsite at Colchuck Lake. The first two miles are an easy hike through the forest next to Mountaineer Creek. Cross the creek on a bridge and the next mile begins to ascend a little more steeply. The last mile to Colchuck is much steeper, with a lot of rock steps. Once at the lake, make your way around, up and down larger rock, following the trail around the lake to the campsite.

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

Stuart Lake trailhead

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

bridge over Mountaineer Creek

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

rocky trail

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

I went the wrong direction after the bridge, scrambling on the boulders until I realized it wasn’t the trail

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

pool of water below a bridge

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

typical section of trail

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

easy creek crossing on rocks

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

yes, this is the trail

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

almost there…

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

We made it! Colchuck Lake with Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak

Day 2

This was trip number five in a row of backpacking trips for me, and I’ve been having back, ankle and knee issues, so I hung out with another friend at the campsite all day while the rest of our friends went up Aasgard Pass to the Core Enchantments (2,000 ft. gain in one mile up a very steep slope with boulders and scree). We hiked around a bit to take photos, napped, and went wading and swimming at a small lake next to our campsite. At dusk, we ran around to take photos of the sunset, then we stayed up late to see the stars, laying on top of a large rock slab for a better view. The milky way was in full view, and we saw a big shooting star. At night in our tents, we could hear a rock avalanche that sounded like loud thunder on one of the peaks surrounding us.

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

mountain goats near our campsite

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

Colchuck Lake, our water supply

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

my tent

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

exploring the area

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

the small lake next to our campsite

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

Colchuck Lake at sunset

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

sunset colors reflected on the lake

Colchuck Lake, The Enchantments

rocky terrain all around the lake

Day 3

It was much cooler and windy on this day, so we hung around the campsite, spending a lot of time at the smaller lake where it was warmer and out of the wind.

Day 4

hike out to trailhead
4.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation loss

After breakfast, we hiked out, back to the Stuart Lake trailhead. We stopped in Leavenworth for lunch before the long drive home (5.5 hours) back to Portland.

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