Climb to the Summit of Colchuck Peak

Rate this Adventure Washington Colchuck Lake Trail

Added by Chris Civarra

  • Views: Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Lake, the nearby mountains in the Stuart Range, Mt. Rainier, and mountain goats aplenty
  • Bulger List #33: With a summit at 8,705 ft, Colchuck Peak is the 33rd highest in Washington
  • Duration: 11-12 hours from the car and back for a strong team
  • Mountaineering Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Hiking Skill Level: Advanced/Expert
  • Required Skills: Ice Axe, Crampons, class 2/3 scrambling, and Navigation Skills

Getting There:
From US2 in Leavenworth, Washington, turn onto Icicle Creek Rd. Drive 8.2 miles and turn left on Forest Service Road 7601—you might be able to spot it more easily as the turnoff for the Bridge Creek Campground. In 3.7 miles, you'll arrive at the Stuart Lake Trailhead parking lot; while it might seem sizable, remember that it will fill up quickly on weekends. Restrooms are available at the trailhead. You'll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park here, so buy a daily parking pass at the parking area. Make sure to fill out a free day use permit for your group and attach it to your pack before leaving the trailhead.

The Trail:
The Stuart Lake trail is very well maintained and runs 4.1 miles through the forest from the trailhead (~3,400 ft) all the way to Colchuck Lake (~5,600 ft). At mile 2.5, you'll come to a junction between the Stuart Lake trail and the Colchuck Lake trail; take the Colchuck Lake trail and continue to climb an additional 1.6 miles up through the forest to Colchuck Lake.

At this point, you'll be getting some beautiful views of Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak, and Colchuck Peak. Follow the trail around the west side of the lake to the south end. Be careful not to take one of the many boot paths that intersect the trail; these will lead you away from the main trail to nearby campsites and ponds. (Note: There are strict camping permit rules in this area, and permits are tricky to come by.) Most will eventually get you back to the same spot, but they'll add on time and distance to your trip. The main trail is well marked and stays fairly close to the lakeshore.

The Climb:
At the South end of Colchuck Lake, you'll come out onto a steep boulder field or snow-covered slope, depending on the season. Take the opportunity to change out of trail runners into boots and pump water at the lake to refill your water.

Ascending the slope will bring you to the base of the Colchuck Glacier, which is the largest and easternmost snow chute between Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks. The glacier is fairly steep; an ice axe and crampons will come in handy. Most people choose not to rope up on this glacier, which has significantly decreased in size and spots few, if any, crevasses. Stay to the left side of the snow and you'll keep away from any potential crevasse danger. As always, use your best judgement, and if you feel unsure or uncomfortable do not continue.

At the top of the chute is Colchuck Col (~8,100 ft). From here, the ascent to the summit (8,705 ft) is either on snow or an easy Class 2 scramble with a few Class 3 moves at the summit block, depending on season.

You've hit the summit! Take in the beautiful views, snap lots of pictures (this is a great spot for hero shots!), and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

The Descent:
The descent off of Colchuck is same way that you came up; retrace your steps to get back to the parking lot.

Food / Drink:
Heading back into Leavenworth, stop to fuel up on good food and beer: Icicle Brewery—By far the best beer in town, you'll find their brews in every restaurant. Do yourself a favor and check out their brewery, where you'll find some of their seasonal and rotating on-tap beers that you can't find anywhere else.

Munchen Haus—Think German fare: brats and pretzels with all sorts of flavor-packed mustards to pair them with. Visconti's—Very good Italian food. It might look fancy, but no one will care if you're a bit sweaty just off the mountain. For dessert, head to the gelato shop downstairs. South—Fantastic Oaxacan-style Mexican food.

Pack List

  • The Ten Essentials
  • Climbing / Hiking Boots (mountaineering boots can be preferable on the glacier)
  • Ice Axe
  • Gloves
  • Water filter (You can refill your water bottles at Colchuck Lake)
  • Crampons
  • Camera
  • Light Hikers / Trail Runners
  • Snacks
  • Sunblock/ lip balm
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Activities:

Backpacking, Hiking

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Spring, Summer

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

12.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

5300 Feet

Features:

Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildlife

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