Backpack to Snow Lakes

Rate this Adventure Washington Snow Lakes Trailhead

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Gateway to the Enchantments. Three beautiful mountain lakes.

Known primarily as one of the entrance routes to the Enchantments, the trek to Snow Lakes is a beautiful area to set up base camp or to simply enjoy on its own. The trail starts out at the Snow Lakes Trailhead off Icicle Creek Rd. - you'll immediately drop down from the parking lot to cross the river, and then you pretty much won't see downhill again until your way back.

The first set of switchbacks is mostly exposed - try to leave early in the morning during the summer to avoid the heat - and brings an elevation gain of 800 feet in the first mile. You'll get some reprieve the next mile and a half as the grade lessens on you way to the Snow Creek drainage. You'll soon enter the forest and begin climbing steadily again. The grade will keep getting steeper as you approach Nada Lake, but you can start to sense the incredible views up ahead.

Your legs will enjoy almost a mile of flat terrain around Nada Lake and there are some great spots to stop for a snack or to jump in and cool off. Once you pass the lake you'll start climbing again as you make the final stretch towards Snow Lakes. It's not uncommon to have mountain goats keep you company on this section. Depending on your timing, there may be a giant burst of water above Nada Lake as it shoots out from a tunnel bored directly to Snow Lake and controlled as part of the Icicle Irrigation District.

Keep on climbing over rocky slopes and switchbacks and soon enough you will reach Lower Snow Lake. Here you'll cross a masonry spillway between the two lakes, which, depending on the season (or even the week), may or may not be under water - some choose to remove their boots here if it's flowing ankle-high. From here you'll wind around Upper Snow Lake through the forest with spots to take in the incredible views of McClellan Peak just ahead.

There are a number of places to set up came along the lakes, just remember that you'll need an overnight permit from June 15 - October 15. From here you can happily enjoy your stay at Snow Lakes or, if you have the time, make the trek up to the Enchantments for the day and return to Snow at night.

When hiking out, keep in mind that the many miles of repetitive downhill and several thousand feet of elevation loss can take a toll on the feet and knees of even seasoned hikers. If you are hiking at the right time in summer there will be thimbleberries and huckleberries to forage and distract you on your way down.

When you get back to Leavenworth, stop at Muchen Haus for a delicious beer, bratwurst, and pretzel!

Pack List

  • Plenty of water and water filtration device
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Camera and tripod for night shots
  • Sunscreen and bug repellant (the mosquitoes can be awful midsummer)
  • Hiking poles and sturdy boots
  • Food, fuel, and stove
  • Rain gear
  • Layers
  • Toilet paper and a trash bag to pack out waste (TP not allowed in pit toilets)
  • Overnight permit June 15-Oct 15; Northwest Forest Pass always required
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How to Get There

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Activities:

Camping, Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

14 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4300 Feet

Features:

Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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