Hike to Aasgard Pass
Washington › Colchuck Lake Trail
Added by Rose Freeman
Take in breathtaking views of Colchuck Lake as you hike, scramble, and conquer the infamous Aasgard Pass. This trek is for well-seasoned hikers prepared to gain 2,200’ in 3/4 of a mile on a grueling trail marked by cairns.
“These fleetingly rare sights offer a recipe for what I call ‘the Quest.’ The Quest is the force that motivates us to travel. It’s putting oneself in the perfect place at the perfect time. It’s the insatiable urge to find that quintessential moment.” - Washington AAA Journal
The arrival of “golden week” at Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass trail inspired my husband and me to set out on a “larch march” day hike on October 5, 2014. Nestled among the alpine wilderness, you would think the larch trees are just another pine tree. But, in the fall, their needled branches transform from green to a rich golden color making them the crown jewel of the fall landscape. Often times the delicate needles are only golden for about a week, depending on the first frost.
For a day hike, a Northwest Forest Pass is required at the trailhead. Pick one for $5 at your local REI before you hit the trail! If you forget, the 76 gas station on the corner of Icicle Creek Road and Highway 2 sells them. To stay overnight at any of the Enchantment Lakes a permit is required (to apply for a lottery application in February or the morning of your trip at the ranger station, click: here for details. Also, I recommend a high clearance vehicle for the 4 miles up Forest Road 7601 to get to the trailhead!
The first 2 miles of dirt trail wind through a pine forest along Mountaineer Creek. Cross the bridge and peak through the trees to see Colchuck & Dragontail Peaks! At the junction of Colchuck Lake and Lake Stuart, turn left and follow the sign to Colchuck Lake. Continue another 1.6 miles up the rugged switchbacks until you reach the pristine alpine water of Colchuck Lake. When you arrive at the lake, I recommend filtering 1-2 liters of water per hiker for the ascent up Aasgard.
Hop across boulders and follow the rock cairns around Colchuck Lake to reach the base of Aasgard Pass. The next 3/4 mile of trail is “difficult, hard to follow” according to Green Trails maps. It’s also completely worth the effort! The “trail” consists of loose rock, boulders, gnarly larch trees and snow fields that don’t melt until late summer.
When you reach the first grove of larch trees stay clear to the left of the rock, no matter what season you’re hiking. Don’t follow any side trails near the waterfall - several folks have died there. We witnessed a decent size rockfall one trip up Aasgard Pass - stay alert. The top section of the trail requires some big steps and scrambling. Continue “onward and upward!” When you reach the top at 7,800’, take in views of Dragontail Peak above you, Colchuck Lake behind you, and the gateway to the Core Enchantments ahead of you.
Most day hikers continue through the Enchantments on a through hike (~18 miles RT) to finish at the Snow Lake TH (See “Day Hike the Enchantments” adventure). Or, you can turn around and descend Aasgard Pass (~13 miles RT) like we did on our larch march in October. Happy hiking!
To see the full trip report and more pictures, visit my blog!
Pack ListPack essentials:
- REI day packs
- Sun protection
- Extra clothing (fleece & waterproof jacket),
- First aid
- Waterproof matches
- Extra food
- Hydration pack
- Water filter
- Lowa hiking boots
- Trekking poles - I would highly encourage trekking poles for any hike, but especially this one up and down Aasgard Pass!
- Dried fruit
- Homemade trail mix
- PB bagels
- And chocolate (of course)!
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Awesome views, but not for the faint of heart!
Its name and its views seem like something out of Tolkien novel, but we're lucky enough to have it right here in WA. Follow the trail directions for Colchuck Lake to start this adventure. Where most day hikers turn around at Colchuck is where you'll continue to rock hop your way around the lake to meet the base of Asgard. You will need familiarity with route finding for this section as there is no marked trail. Ascending Aasgard should not be attempted by novice hikers - you gain just shy of 2000ft in 3/4 of mile over rocky, loose, and often poorly marked terrain. As you get closer to the top there are sections that require some scrambling and, depending on how much weight you're carrying, you may need to take your pack off and launch it up ahead of you to maintain your balance as you climb. And as if all that wasn't enough, keep in mind that the pass you see from Colchuck is a false summit, so there will be even more to go once you get to what you've been thinking is the top. When you do come out on top, thighs burning, you'll be at 7,800 ft and the expansive views will simply knock you on your ass (probably even literally so that you can catch a breath!). It's stunning!
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