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Enchantment Lakes

The Enchantment Lakes is a high alpine basin full of lakes, larch, mountain goats, and fantastically stark granite that is considered by many to be the best hike in the state. Options abound - plenty of places to camp, side trails, summits, and more ensure that you will be wishing you had marked a few extra days on your backpacking permit!

The first thing you need to know about the Enchantments is that you will need a permit if you plan to camp overnight anywhere in the area (you do not need a permit for a day hike beyond the self-issue permit at the trailhead). Failure to have a permit will result in you being fined and asked to leave by the rangers. These permits are given out by lottery each year by the Leavenworth Ranger Station, and the success rate for Enchantment zone permits is around 50%. Check with the ranger station to see when the permit drawings start - if you want an Enchantment zone permit, you need to make sure you have your application in before the start of the drawings. If you like taking your chances, 25% of the permits are given out day-of in an on-site lottery at the Leavenworth Ranger station. Again, check with the ranger station for details.

Generally-speaking, there are two ways to approach this area. The traditional way is to approach from the Snow Lakes trailhead about 4 miles outside of Leavenworth on Icicle Creek road (trail 1553). From the trailhead, you have roughly 10 miles and 6000 feet of elevation gain before you reach the bottom of the Enchantments. This way in is often described as grueling and long, which is fairly apt. The other way that many people approach the basin is from the Stuart Lake trailhead another 9 or so miles beyond the Snow Lakes trailhead (trails 1599 and 1599.1). From this trailhead, you're looking at around 6 miles and about 4400 feet of gain to the top of the basin, but don't be fooled - 2300 of that 4400 feet is gained in a single mile up Aasgard Pass. This route is often described as a level above the Snow Creek route, but many people actually prefer this way in.

In planning your approach to the Enchantments, you need to make two key decisions. First, are you going to do a car shuttle? Many people take two cars, drop one off at one trailhead, and drive to the second trailhead. The hike then becomes a one-way. The second decision you need to make is which trailhead to start from (and finish at if you don't do a car shuttle). Which direction to go is largely dependent on the type of pain you want to endure. If you don't mind doing an insanely steep section in return for a shorter approach, choose Aasgard Pass via Colchuck Lake. If you don't mind a really long approach in return for a gentler gain, choose the Snow Creek approach.

Assuming a one-way (car shuttle) and starting from the Lake Stuart trailhead, park at the insanely busy trailhead and take trail 1599.1. This part of the trail passes through a nice stand of timber along Mountaineer Creek. About two miles in is a foot bridge that provides a great spot to take photos. At 2.5 miles, you'll reach a junction with trail 1599.1 to Colchuck Lake. Head left over the foot bridge and take an immediate right after the bridge to head towards the lake.

Follow the trail past the boulder field and enter the forest again. The way climbs steadily through the timber up to the lake basin, with nice views of the surrounding mountains and the drainage that holds Mountaineer Creek and Lake Stuart. After 1.6 miles, you'll reach the lake. Colchuck Lake is a great spot to camp for those backpacking. There is a great campsite across from the path to the toilet (about 1/4 mile from where you first see the lake), and a few more past that.

To reach Aasgard Pass, follow the trail around the lake for 1.1 miles. The way passes a small inlet as well as a small tarn to the right of the trail, works its way through a boggy area, and eventually deposits you at a rock slide at the base of Colchuck Peak. To continue, head left around the lake and through the boulder field. Cairns mark the way, but use caution as many of the boulders are exposed and falls will not be very pleasant. Midway through the boulder field is a patch of brush you must pass through (the trail is well-marked), followed by a smaller boulder field, and then another bit of brush, where you will quickly reach the base of Aasgard Pass.

From the bottom of Aasgard Pass, the route works its way up and to the left. Cairns mark the route, although in some places you may have difficulty spotting them. The route passes to the left of the rock formation you can see about halfway up, skirting the brush that will be on your left. Once you reach the rock formation, the route hugs the left wall and climbs ever further up. Clear of the formation, the way moves back towards center slightly and then up again, until you reach a waterfall, at which point the route passes underneath the falls. After refilling your water bottle and dunking your head under the falls, the route cuts side-hill to the right. Use caution in this section as the route is not well marked and there are few cairns. The way eventually works its way up and almost all the way to the right of the pass below Dragontail Peak, where you'll emerge into the upper Enchantment Basin. Routefinding in this section can be difficult at times; if you lose the cairns, just be sure to follow this general route description and you'll be fine.

Once in the upper basin, take a moment to rest and recharge, and be sure to turn around and look across Colchuck Lake to a view of Mt. Baker in the distance. When you're ready, head left around the tarn up a small ridge (cairns mark the way). The path will take you cruelly up a hundred or so feet and will eventually deposit you above Tranquil Lake. Tranquil Lake is a great spot to refill water, and there are excellent campsites on both the near and far end of the lake. Below you, Isolation Lake also has a few campsites nearby; some of the best overlook the lake next to the rocks at nearly the same elevation as Tranquil Lake.

From Tranquil Lake, descend along the left side of Isolation Lake and follow the cairns through the notch. The way then descends across a bit of slab granite and down to the lakes below. Snow is sometimes present in this section of the trail, so use caution. Once in this area, you'll be treated to a view of some of the well-known peaks in the basin - Prusik Peak, The Temple, McClellan Peak, and Little Annapurna are all visible. If you fancy a side-trip, the scramble up Little Annapurna is an excellent choice and can be done easily by following the bedrock on your right up to the summit. Stay left on the way up, but not too far left as it quickly turns into a cliff!

Moving down the basin, you'll encounter your first larch trees as well as views of Crystal Lake to your right and Inspiration Lake below to your left. From the overlook to Crystal Lake on the right side of the trail, the way goes left towards Inspiration Lake. There are a few spots on the descent to the lake that can be tricky, in particular when snow is present, so be careful. After reaching the lake basin, the main trail heads left around the small knoll, and will turn right down a small boulder field towards Perfection Lake. Inspiration Lake has several good campsites available in the basin, or you can continue to Perfection Lake below for other options.

After descending to the Perfection Lake basin, you'll encounter another trail junction, this time heading up to Prusik Pass. From this junction, you are approximately 10 miles from the Snow Creek trailhead. For the rest of the Enchantments, keep straight/right and head around Perfection Lake. About 1/4 mile past this junction you'll see the trail split; keep left to follow the main trail (the right fork dies in a few hundred feet but is a nice picnic spot). The trail goes for a few hundred feet, then turns left and will take you past Sprite Lake.

At Sprite Lake, continue your descent until you reach the slab granite. Cairns mark the way down this granite formation, and will lead you to the trail on the far side of the small basin. You'll pass Leprechaun Lake on your right. The trail crosses a creek and heads left across a small knob above Lake Viviane. This section of the trail offers classic views of Prusik Peak looming large above the lake.

As you follow the trail around the knob, you'll come to an exposed section of granite with a pretty steep drop off. The trail is marked by rebar steps hammered into the rock and roughly works itself right and then cuts back sharply to the left. Use extreme caution in this section, especially with heavy packs or in poor weather conditions. After descending the slabs, continue on the trail until you cross the creek and reach a few obvious campsites. This is the last of the Enchantment Lakes before your descent.

To descend, first make sure you've already crossed the creek and follow the path around the hill to the left. Pay careful attention to the cairns and rebar steps hammered into the rock. Again, use extreme caution with heavy packs and/or poor weather as several sections are very exposed. After about 1/4 mile, you'll arrive at a gulley with a cairn visible at the bottom. Don't go directly down the gulley; keep heading straight and up on the small hill in front of you you'll see the rest of the cairns. Follow the cairns down below the bottom of the gulley and you'll see the trail widen, which you can then follow all the way down to the bottom of the drainage. When you reach the bottom, you'll see a foot log that crosses the creek. Cross it to continue and turn left to head towards Upper Snow Lake.

The trail winds around Upper Snow Lake, passing many excellent campsites and several backcountry toilets. From the foot bridge, it's about 1.5 miles to the small dam that separates upper and lower Snow Lakes. Much of the time the dam is dry and exposed and you can simply walk across. However, if the water is high, the dam may be underwater, so exercise caution crossing especially if the downed trees are floating on the water!

From the dam, it is 6.5 miles to the Snow Creek trailhead. The trail ascends slightly and then turns to drop into the drainage below the lakes. Cross the boulder field and you'll arrive at Nada Lake in about 1.5 miles. Later in the summer and in the fall you'll see the water pouring out of Lower Snow Lake - this water flow is controlled by the folks at the salmon hatchery and is used to regulate the water level in Snow Creek. At Nada Lake, there are several good campsites, although in the summer Nada Lake is well known for being infested with bugs, so if you plan to camp there, bring bug spray.

The trail works its way left around Nada Lake and descends to the valley below. You'll pass through some beautiful timber and eventually reach a bridge over the creek. From here, follow the trail down through a series of switchbacks and work your way down the canyon. About two miles from the trailhead you'll see the Snow Creek Wall on your left, and if you're lucky, some climbers working its many routes.

From here, you're about 1.5 miles from the trailhead or so, and you should be able to see it soon, which is pretty agonizing as you are still at least 30 minutes away! The trail works its way to the far right and then switchbacks down the ridge until you reach the bottom by the creek. When you reach the bottom, you'll cross a small bridge over an irrigation canal. Continue straight for a few hundred feet to reach the big bridge over Icicle Creek. Cross the bridge, turn left, and ascend about 50 feet to reach the parking lot and the end of your awesome hike!

Many people prefer visiting the Enchantments in the fall, when the larch trees turn yellow and create a very unique scene in the basin. Getting a permit can be tough for this or many other times of the year, so there is also the option to day hike the basin. No permit (other than the self-issue permits at the trailhead) is required for the day hike, known as the Enchantment Traverse or the Death March, but the day hike is extremely long and grueling. Still, it's one of the easiest ways to ensure you see the larch turn.

If you go, you should be aware of several things. First, practice good Leave No Trace principles - this area is very beautiful but also very fragile, and we need to exercise extra special care here so everyone can enjoy it. In particular, please urinate on the rocks or in a backcountry toilet. Mountain goats crave salt, and will paw up vegetation to get at the salt in your urine. Second, be aware of your abilities and don't attempt this if you aren't a strong hiker/backpacker. Not only will you not enjoy yourself, you could put yourself in danger. Finally, don't forget to enjoy yourself! If you haven't been before, a backpack trip is strongly recommended so you have some time to stop and take it all in!
Driving Directions:

From Seattle, take US2 east towards Wenatchee. Upon reaching Leavenworth, turn right onto Icicle Creek Road. At about 4 miles, the Snow Creek Trailhead is on your left. For the Stuart Lake Trailhead, continue another 4 miles or so and turn left on road 7601 (about a mile past the Eightmile Campground). After the turn, stay straight (left is the Bridge Creek Campground) and follow the road to the trailhead. The first trailhead you will encounter is the Eightmile Trailhead; this is NOT the one you want. Keep going over the bridge and another mile or so to the end of the road and the Lake Stuart Trailhead.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 181 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Enchantment Lakes — Jul 19, 2013 — Skifree141189
Overnight
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Bugs
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We unfortunately only had a 1 night permit to camp in the Core Zone so this was a quick in-and-out v...
We unfortunately only had a 1 night permit to camp in the Core Zone so this was a quick in-and-out via Asgard Pass. The conditions were wonderful and we hardly encountered any snow, just small patches that were easily crossed with hiking boots. Weather was amazing; hot during the day and not colder than mid forties in the upper basin at night. Many many goats at the top of Asgard Pass and throughout the lakes.

The upper basin was bug-free but descending into the middle and lower lakes provided a bounty of flies and mosquitoes. We did not descend all the way but heard reports that Snow Lake was the worst. Would highly recommend setting up camp at higher elevation. Don't forget bug spray and/or long layers.

The pictures speak for themselves. Do not pass up this trip if you have the opportunity.
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Aasgard Pass, Colchuck Lake, Enchantment Lakes — Jul 07, 2013 — glenbham
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Trip plan was to hike to Colchuck Lake on Day 1. Ascend Aasgard, hike the Enchantment Lakes and des...
Trip plan was to hike to Colchuck Lake on Day 1. Ascend Aasgard, hike the Enchantment Lakes and descend Aasgard on Day 2. Hike out from Colchuck on Day 3.

Leavenworth Ranger Station reported Aasgard as 99.9% snow free. Met a friend at the Snow Lake trailhead that told me the pass was clear of snow. He recommended I leave crampons and ice ax behind to save on weight as they would not be needed for Aasgard or Enchantment Lakes. Report at trailhead says that pass is 50% snow covered, must be weeks out of date.

As of July 8th, there was only one patch of snow to cross on the marked Aasgard route. It is about 60 feet across with maybe 20 feet of run out. Icy in the morning, slush in the afternoon. Nothing to warrant carrying an ice axe, in my opinion.

Enchantment Lakes are mostly still ice and snow although melting fast. Upper Lakes are 80-90% covered. Lower Lakes are better but still 50-75% covered. Water is running over the falls but mostly under the snow. All the snow was slush in afternoon. Would strongly recommend sun glasses and sun screen.
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Little Annapurna, Colchuck Lake, Enchantment Lakes — Jul 05, 2013 — ChiT
Multi-night backpack
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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Hiked up Colchuck lake Friday evening and camped near the boulder field just before Aasgard. Starga...
Hiked up Colchuck lake Friday evening and camped near the boulder field just before Aasgard. Stargazed that night until the sun started coming up (literally), so we had a late start Saturday morning. Made it up Aasgard in a few hours with one minor snow crossing and plenty of goats waiting for us on top. We decided to set up camp early at the base of Annapurna and hike to the summit Sunday morning.

The sunrise Sunday morning was one of the best I've seen. The trek up Annapurna was not too difficult and we were able to avoid the snowfields until the very top. We didn't have ice axes but felt comfortable hiking the summit as the snow was soft and there were tracks to follow.

There was still plenty of snow in the upper core enchantments and the lakes still had quite of bit of ice, especially Isolation lake. We were hoping to summit Cannon mountain but were short on time so we might have to do another trip later this summer. There was a thunderstorm on our way down that passed within 15-20 minutes and then came the mosquitoes. They were everywhere, it seemed like bug spray didn't even help. Counted 14 bites.

All in all this was a great trip, we were able to see some beautiful lakes as well as Rainier and Glacier peak from the top of Annapurna. There were also plenty of goats and marmots running around. Be careful around the goats. They act harmless and most of the time they are, but are also very protective of there young ones.

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Aasgard Pass, Colchuck Lake, Enchantment Lakes — Jun 17, 2013 — MattThornton
Overnight
Issues: Snow on trail
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June is a wonderful time to do the Enchantments! My friend and I took the Colchuck Lake/Aasgard Pass...
June is a wonderful time to do the Enchantments! My friend and I took the Colchuck Lake/Aasgard Pass approach, and came away thinking that this approach is well worth the effort, as we were rewarded with flat or downhill hiking for 13 of the 18 miles. If you are attempting Aasgard this early in the summer I strongly advise crampons and an ice axe for the ascent, it makes a fairly dangerous trek into a very manageable one. Snow was also definitely an issue as it is covered much of Aasgard and the near entirety of Alpine Lakes, but with snowshoes, a great time is sure to be had. We were nearly alone and saw only three others from a distance the first day. In fact, our main company was a herd of mountain goats that ran us out from a spectacular perch overlooking The temple and other peaks. Temperatures were in the high 50's which may seem cold for June, but felt excellent until we stopped hiking for the day. We camped right by the Temple and enjoyed solace and great views. Day 2 we hiked out and encountered a little trouble. To get around Lake Vivianne we were forced to cross a snow bridge over a fast creek, but this was a probably a result of us not really following the trail. After Temple Lake the trail was well marked by cairns and we started the long descent. After miles of downhill trail hiking we came to the conclusion that we never want to enter through Snow Lake and encounter the same trail uphill. All in all a wonderful trip, some bouldering was necessary and the snow created a couple challenges that every one may not like, but for the most part it was very manageable and more importantly, beautiful!
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Aasgard Pass, Enchantment Lakes, Colchuck Lake — Nov 04, 2012 — firebeard
Overnight
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Went for an overnight trip in the enchantments. A through hike would have been preferred but was no...
Went for an overnight trip in the enchantments. A through hike would have been preferred but was not able to make it happen. Have not been up to the enchantments via colchuck lake or aasgard pass so we decided to venture up that way. No snow at the trail head and only spots of it here and there all the way up to the lake. Colchuck is snow free except for a few random spots. Decent day no precipitation but did have clouds lingering overhead. Temps at Colchuck were probably in 40's and down to the low 30's at the top of Aasgard pass. Aasgard was quite the thigh burner with not much snow until about 6500-7000 feet where we began to post hole. Longest mile of my life ha. Snowshoes would have been nice once in the enchantments, though we did ok without. Had some strong winds that night but not much in the way of snow fall if any. Our snowman began melting by morning so it had warmed up a bit maybe mid 30's. Morning brought fog and clouds, the place was socked in and did not allow for much visibility or picture taking, however it was all fun still. Hiked out Sunday morning and made our way back to Seattle. Saw 0 hikers saturday and 20 hikers sunday on our way out. Had the enchantments all to ourselves saturday as far as we know, rare feat.
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DSCN2367.JPG
Little Annapurna above Isolation Lake, Upper Enchantments Basin. (c) 2008 Jack Nichols, All Rights Reserved.
WTA worked here!
2011
Location
Enchantment Lakes (#1553)
Central Cascades -- Leavenworth Area
Wenatchee National Forest, Wenatchee River Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 18.0 miles
Elevation Gain 6000 ft
Highest Point 7800 ft
Features
Rivers
Lakes
Waterfalls
Old growth
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Wildlife
Ridges/passes
Established campsites
User info
Dogs not allowed
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
100 Hikes in Washington's Alpine Lakes. Ira Spring, Vicky Spring, and Harvey Manning. Mountaineers Books.
Green Trails 209S
Green Trails 209

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Red MarkerEnchantment Lakes
47.5464965 -120.7914283
  • BCRT 2011
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