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Enchantment Lakes

Oct 07, 2010

by hikerdadof2 last modified Oct 13, 2010 10:18 PM
Type of Outing
Multi-night backpack
Read More in our Hiking Guide
Hike: Enchantment Lakes
Region: Central Cascades -- Leavenworth Area
Agency: Wenatchee National Forest, Wenatchee River Ranger District
Trails: Enchantment Lakes (#1553)
Avg Rating: 4.46
Why You Should Go Now
Fall foliage
Be Aware Of
Water on trail
Larches in full bloom.
If a friend offers you a spot on his four day Enchantment Lakes permit, you take it. And if the weather looks to be excellent, as the first week of October had been, you invite your wife. Little did we realize that the showers predicted for Leavenworth would be so overwhelming at altitude.

After getting the kids off to school on Thursday morning, four of us met at the Snow Creek trailhead, did the required car shuttle, and started down the Lake Stuart trail around 2:00.

A few hours of hiking got us to Colchuck Lake and a lovely camping spot looking across the lake at Dragontail Peak and the scree slope up Aasgard Pass. Although the sky stayed overcast, and the humidity was high, there was no precipitation. Clouds clung to the nearby peaks.

The next day, Friday, dawned overcast as well, but the cloud layer lifted higher. There is a treacherous boulder field at the south end of Colchuck Lake that requires concentration. Use trekking poles or your hands to navigate the granite.

Aasgard Pass holds a special place in the lore of Washington hiking history. In just under a mile, you gain approximately 2000 feet of elevation. But the scree was dry, and we made good time up the slope. By the time we got to the top, the sun had burned through the cloud cover and the moon-like landscape at the high end of the valley was bright with bare rock and blue water lakes.

After a quick lunch, we headed east (and slightly downhill) to find a good launching point for an afternoon ascent of Little Annapurna. The campsites east of Isolation Lake were full, so the team split up with two tackling the peak, and two of us headed to Inspiration Lake to find campsites out of the wind. Clouds continued to flow around the peaks, but the sun mostly shone.

A short search between Inspiration Lake and Perfection Lake revealed a couple of nice spots sheltered by the increasing wind. The two of us not on the successful trip to Little Annapurna dayhiked up the golden flanks of Prusik Pass. The larches were in full bloom, providing incredible photographic opportunities of alpine tarns, meadows, and trees.

Dinner, stargazing, and more wind. The whispers of storm clouds that had occasionally threatened on Friday afternoon finally culminated in a storm front moving in around midnight with rain and (estimated) 30 mph winds. Fortunately, our campsites were well-protected and everyone slept warm and dry.

Morning dawned foggy and wet. Peaks we had been able to see easily were now shrouded in dark, gray clouds. The ground was littered with the yellow needles of larch trees like miniature versions of Pick-Up-Sticks. We cooked under a tarp, packed our damp tents, and moved through the Enchantment Lakes to find another campsite. With the dull light, unfortunately, the photo opportunities were not as great, but we explored each lake in full, relishing in the relative absence of people. Rained fell on and off throughout the morning and early afternoon.

At 2:00, we settled for a less-than-perfect site on the shores of Lake Viviane. But after two hours of huddling under the tarp, trying to stay out of the (by now) constant rain, we bailed on the Enchantments a day early. The rain slashing down in large sheets of water, and we watched multiple teams descend out of the upper lakes and head to more sheltered areas.

Do not be mis-led. We did not jauntily skip down the trail back to the cars. No; it was a 10.5 mile, six-hour slog, compounded by rain, fog, (around Snow Lakes), wet granite (exposed trail sections), and darkness. Using headlamps, we arrived at the car around 10:00 pm.

An epic adventure, but we got down safely. We understand some other people did not – the storm pinned down some dayhikers into an unplanned, overnight bivouac.

FOLIAGE REPORT: Larches were in great shape for us. The storm blew a lot of needles off the trees but now that the weather is good again – go for it!

TRAIL REPORT: The trail is in pretty good shape with rock cairns marking the route where needed. There were mud puddles throughout the Snow Lake area, but given the amount of rain, that is to be expected. Be advised that the section between Lake Viviane and Upper Snow Lake does have some exposed areas that require extra attention.

ANIMAL REPORT: A couple of goats in the distance. A few chipmunks scurrying around campsites (reminder: please do not feed the wildlife).

WATER REPORT: All lakes are snow and ice free (and crystal clear).

ROAD REPORT: It is four miles from Icicle Creek Road to the Stuart Lake trailhead. The road has washboards but is in decent shape. Small cars (e.g., my Prius) can make it at appropriate speeds.
Colchuck Lake and Dragontail Peak.
Hiking the valley below Prusik Pass.
Navigating Leprechaun Lake under overcast skies.
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