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Day Hike the Enchantments

Leavenworth, Washington

5.0/5
based on 6 reviews

Details

Distance

18 miles

Elevation Gain

6000 ft

Route Type

Point-to-Point

Description

Added by Mitch Pittman

The Enchantments is a classic Washington hike. More than a dozen high alpine lakes carved in granite. A hard-to-acquire permit is required to camp in any of the area's five zones, with the Enchantment Core permit being the most desirable. Ambitious day hikers will be richly rewarded for tackling all 20 miles in a day.

Start at the Stuart Lake trailhead, which at 3400' is a full 2000' higher than the Snow Lake trailhead you'll finish at. Put 2.5 easy miles under your feet along Mountaineer Creek before turning left on the trail up to Colchuck Lake. The trail steepens for the next 1.5 miles before popping you out at the rim of the spectacular blue-green lake.

Rest your legs while you take in the views of your next task across the lake: Aasgard Pass. Some more easy trail and about 15 minutes of careful boulder-hopping following the cairns will lead you to the bottom of Aasgard Pass.

Gaining more than 2000' in only a mile, Aasgard will test your mettle. Fill up on water in the stream at the base and get to it. Stay left of the island of trees in the middle and hug the cliff walls before crossing back to the right as you near the top. The trail can be very difficult to follow and watch out for rockfall from others hiking above you.

All your hard work will be rewarded when cross into another world at the top of the pass and are greeted with 13 miles of downhill ahead of you. Wander through a magical flowing landscape for the next four miles as you go down a staircase plateau of turquoise lakes, larches, and families of goats.

Photo ops abound in every direction as you discover new waterfalls and cliffs around every corner. Don't be surprised to feel overwhelmed by so much beauty coming at you at once as you walk past aptly-named lakes such as Tranquil, Perfection, Inspiration, and Leprechaun.

Take a look back as you drop down from Lake Vivian, the last of the 'Core' lakes, and start the long slog out past Snow and Nada lakes. Don't underestimate how long this will take, as many groups finish by headlamp.

Reach your car with throbbing feet, aching legs, and skeptical memory - wondering if what you just experienced was real.

Planning:

At around 20 miles point-to-point, some logistics are involved in hiking through. If you and a friend drive two cars, you can park one at each trail head. Though I've always found luck parking my car at the end and catching a ride to the start with friendly hikers.

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Reviews

Our cousins took my son and I on our first backpacking experience. We were spoiled to say the least. Hiked to Stewart and camped and then day hiked to Colchuck the next day. The little inter-tubes were a must. We caught fish at both lakes but we had the most success at Stewart. Once in a lifetime experience.

If you can dodge rain forecasts, I highly recommend this hike. It was a challenge to do in one day, but if you’re a regular hiker, it’s a great one to do at the end of the season when you’re in your best shape. Even though it was overcast, the views were some of the most incredible I’ve seen. I recommend starting at Stuart and getting the worst of the hike over with early. However, be prepared for the ~15 miles you have left after Aasgard. Even though it’s not uphill, it will mess with your head to keep pushing yourself for that long after the “hard” part is over. Final stats: 13 hours, 23 miles, 4400 feet gain, 6700 feet loss.

Seriously one of the best hikes in the whole world! The name is fitting, this hike is enchanting. Inspiration Lake was my personal favorite. Day hiking it isn't that hard, the only bummer is that you don't have much time to stop and take it in. The descent is the hardest part, it was painful and felt like it would never end! Still, 100% worth it!

The Enchantments are one of my favorite wilderness areas in the entire country, and I can't wait to go back to do this challenge - only running instead of hiking. The Enchantments Traverse (same trail + route as described here) is one of Washington's most famous and popular trail runs, and sounds like an awesome way to pack in all of the beauty of this area into one challenging day. The Trail Run Project has a ton of great info on this run, too: https://www.trailrunproject.com/trail/7005246

Long but enchanting

Hard to imagine a better place. I personally would not recommend this as a day hike unless you're in crazy good marathon shape. You'll want some time at the lakes too.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Hike to Lake Stuart

Scramble to the Summit of Dragontail Peak

Hike to the Enchantments' Horseshoe Lake

Snowshoe to Colchuck Lake

Aasgard Pass via Stuart Lake Trail

Colchuck Lake via Stuart Lake Trail