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5 Gorgeous Alpine Lakes In Washington That Aren’t The Enchantments

Chances are if you’re a hiker from Washington, you’ve heard of the Enchantments.

By: Addison Klinke + Save to a List

Chances also are that you haven’t won a permit in the lottery system. Sure, the Enchantments are beautiful. In fact, they’re drop-dead gorgeous. But for those of us who haven’t won it big in the lottery yet, here are some of my favorite alternatives. These five lesser-known Washington gems have views comparable to the Enchantments, but with one key difference...no permits! The hikes are listed in order of increasing difficulty (and as a result, increasing solitude) – from a fairly casual overnight to an all-out, off-trail, thigh burning trek to one of the most remote locations Washington has to offer.

1. Lake Ingalls

Distance: 9 miles round trip | Elevation gain: 2,500 ft

Views of Mount Stuart on the trail to Lake Ingalls. Photo: Jason Horstman

How can you still see the Enchantments without permits? Simply start at another trailhead just across the valley – specifically the Lake Ingalls trailhead. The highlight of this short trail is a beautiful lake basin with dramatic, up-close views of the south face of 9,400 foot Mount Stuart, the tallest peak in the range containing the Enchantments. Learn more.

2. Robin Lakes

Distance: 16 miles round trip | Elevation gain: 4,100 ft

View from the outflow of Lower Robin Lake: Cathedral Rock on the left and Mount Daniel on the right. Photo: Addison Klinke

Located further up the same road as Lake Ingalls, Robin Lakes are the perfect candidate for a weekend trip. After passing Hyas and Tuck Lakes, hikers reach Robin Lakes where they are treated with spectacular views of Cathedral Rock and Mount Daniel towering just across the valley. And the lakes themselves aren’t bad either – two sparkling blue gems with white granite backdrops. Sounding like the Enchantments yet? Learn more.

3. Tank Lakes

Distance: 20 miles round trip | Elevation gain: 4,400 ft

The snow covered, high alpine landscape of Tank Lakes in early summer. Photo: Mitch Pittman

For those seeking a bit more solitude, look no further than Tank Lakes. This pristine set of high alpine tarns is tucked deep in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, roughly halfway between I-90 and hwy 2 and far from the hiking crowds. Situated right at treeline, the views from Tanks Lakes showcase several nearby peaks including Bear’s Breast, Iron Cap, and Summit Chief. Given the small size of the lakes, you can capture some great reflection photos here at sunrise and sunset! Be ready to use your navigation skills as the last mile or so requires off-trail travel guided by cairns. Learn more.

4. Jade Lake

Distance: 21 miles round trip | Elevation gain: 4,000 ft

Turquoise blue waters await hikers approaching Jade Lake. Photo: Colin Ayers

If you’re a sucker for glacial blue lakes, this is the one for you. With an opaque, light blue color to rival that of the Enchantment’s own Colchuck Lake and a backdrop of glaciated granite spires, Jade Lake is truly a stunner. The trail also passes Marmot Lake whose beach-like shores make for a nice swimming break on hot summer days. Set aside a long weekend, because there will be plenty to explore on this 21 mile roundtrip route. Learn more.

5. Ice Lakes

Distance: 20 miles round trip | Elevation gain: 7,600 ft

Sunrise at Upper Ice Lake. Photo: Addison Klinke

Love having the trail all to yourself? Then Ice Lakes Basin in the Glacier Peak Wilderness is your kind of place. Seated below Mount Maude, one of the highest non-volcanic peaks in the state, the basin is home to two scenic lakes plus a waterfall! The challenge of off-trail navigation on the Carne High Route combined with its uniquely arid climate, make Ice Lakes a one-of-a- kind destination much like the Enchantments. Serious backpackers who enjoy using their navigation skills will not want to miss this one! Learn more.

Ice Lakes is within the Wolverine burn closure and should not be accessed at this time. Click here to find out more details. We hope it re-opens soon.

Cover photo: Jason Zabriskie

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