Day Hike the Enchantments

Washington Lake Stuart Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Photography, Running, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    18 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    6000 Feet


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.


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.

Pack List

  • Water filter
  • Extra clothes, as conditions can change very quickly up there and there are few places to find cover
  • Plenty of food to get you through a 12 hour day
  • 10 Essentials
Read More


Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

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:

9 months ago
9 months ago

Long but enchanting

11 months ago
11 months ago

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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Just completed the day hike on August 1st and it was amazing! There were hardly any bugs and the 90 degree day didn't feel too hot with all of the lakes to jump into! What really made the end of the day great were our terrific friends who car camped with us the night before at Johnny Creek, but didn't feel like doing a long thru hike, moved our car from Stuart Lake TH to Snow Lakes TH. After a long day of hiking, reaching the end with your car in the parking lot, driving back to Johnny Creek (15 min), sitting down and opening a cooler filled with cold beer, AMAZING!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Mitch PittmanExplorer

I live in Seattle, but my life happens in the mountains. My hobbies include long walks in the woods, whiskey in hot springs, and carrying skis up long slogs for a few turns in late summer.

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