The Core Zone of the Enchantments may be one of the most popular destinations in Washington state, but those who venture to Lake Stuart may just get the extra-enchanting reward of relative solitude in a high traffic area. Most hikers heading into the Enchantments use the Lake Stuart trailhead, but make for the Core zone via Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass. However, taking the right-hand trail 2.2 miles from the trailhead leads you into an adjacent valley, with a large, shallow lake at the base of the imposing massif of Mount Stuart.
Depart the Stuart Lake Trailhead and follow rolling trail along Mountaineer Creek for 2.2 miles. Along the way, you’ll pass through marshy land dotted with trillium well into summer, since the snow sticks around at this altitude for quite a while. One and a half miles in, a large, sturdy log bridge crosses Mountaineer Creek; an eight-day WTA backcountry response team worked here in 2014 to install the new bridge when the old one was beginning to show signs of decay.
Past the bridge, the trail begins to climb more steeply, through forest and large glacial erratics, boulders that are the last remnants of the ages when ice covered the landscape here. As you switchback through the forest, enjoy the sound of Mountaineer Creek crashing through the landscape, and see if you can spy Colchuck or Dragontail Peak through the trees.
Just over two miles from the trailhead, the trail flattens out as you arrive at a junction. Hikers occasionally make a wrong turn here, so be sure to take a look at the trees to your right. Signs indicate Colchuck Lake is reached via the trail to the left, and Lake Stuart lies down the trail to the right, rolling out ahead of you on an almost flat grade.
Lake Stuart lies 2 miles away, and includes some sections of moderate climbing, but for the most part, you’ll enjoy a relatively flat stroll back into the valley that holds Lake Stuart. While much of your hike is through second-growth forest, a large meadow about a half mile from Lake Stuart offers expansive views of the valley at the foot of Mount Stuart. It’s worth a short break for a photo, if nothing else.
Continue on to Lake Stuart, which may surprise you with its proximity to the trail when you finally do reach it. Several camping spots lie along the lakeshore, but because you’re still in the Enchantments, you’ll need a permit for overnight camping between May 15 and October 31.
If you’re camping, be mindful of signs indicating Fragile Areas in need of restoration – there’s no camping permitted here. And if you’re just here for the day, there are several day use areas with beachfront property for hot days. With its icy waters, the lake provides excellent relief from sweltering midsummer temperatures.
WTA Pro Tip: In autumn, the larches here are gorgeous, lining the hillsides with golden light in the evenings. Don't forget your camera.
- 9.0 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 1,665 feet
- Highest Point
- 5,065 feet
Hiking Lake Stuart
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 47.5277, -120.8210 Open in Google Maps