Night Photography at Colchuck Lake

Rate this Adventure Washington Colchuck Lake Trail

Added by Warren Behymer

  • Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 2,600 feet
  • Overnight in Enchantment Wilderness (certain seasons require fee permit)
  • Fewer crowd during the winter
  • Night photography opportunities of Asgard Pass and Dragontail Peak

This is an incredible backpacking trip that leads to amazing locations for night time photography. Most people focus on Colchuck Lake, but Asgard Pass and Dragontail Peak make for great photographs as well.

Start at the bottom of the access road to 8 Mile, Stuart and Colchuck Lake (gated off during the winter), near Icicle Road. After 3 miles along the road you will reach the 8 Mile Lake parking area, a good place to take a break and put on your microspikes. Another mile takes you to the Stuart Lake trailhead.

The first mile and a half climbs very gradually through dense forest, which becomes thinner and lighter along the way, and offers short glimpses of the audible Mountaineer Creek, and of the steep walls of the valley.

The trail then crosses to the right bank of the creek, via a sturdy log bridge. On a hot day, hikers can catch welcome relief at the midpoint of the bridge, where the breeze comes off the rushing whitewater of the creek. After the bridge, the trail becomes steeper and rockier, a small taste of what's to come in the second half of the hike.

Three quarters of a mile later, the trail flattens out and drops a little before reaching a trail junction. The Stuart Lake is straight ahead, while the Colchuck Lake Trail #1599.1 breaks off to the left. This leftward trail will lead to another log bridge, which takes you across a narrow, turbulent section of Mountaineer Creek. The trail becomes a bit jumbled as you hop boulders in a large talus slope along the creek’s bank. After a short distance you will near the creek again, but now the waters are glassy smooth, a nice meditative pause before starting the climb again.

At first, the trail switchbacks gently, but closer to the lake, it becomes increasingly steep and rocky. Views open up at several spots along the way – first of the valley you’ve just climbed out of, then of to the toothy ridge of Dragontail Peak.

After setting up camp for the night, try your hand at nighttime photography - the lake and surrounding mountains are excellent subjects.

NOTE: Between June 15th and October 15th, a fee permit from the Forest Service is required for overnight camping in the Enchantment Zone. These permits are very popular, so make sure to jump in early to the pre-season lottery.

Getting there: From US-2 W, take the Icicle Creek Road exist, and continue for 8.4 miles until you reach Forest Service Road 7601, which will take you to the gate, 4 miles down the road.

Pack List

  • Nikon D5300 Camera
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Portable battery charger
  • Tripod
  • Snow boots
  • Protein snacks
  • Camelpak for water
  • 2 pairs of gloves
  • Change of clothes
  • Garmin GPS
  • Microspikes
  • 3 Season REI Passenger 2 Tent
  • 6 rated sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography, Snowshoeing

Skill Level:



Year Round



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Added by Warren Behymer

Sharing my weekend adventures in the mountains from Washington State. 
 Hiking, mountain running, camping and backpacking.

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