Snowshoe to Colchuck Lake
Washington › Colchuck Lake Trail
Added by Katie and Kevin
Enjoy a unique sense of solitude and see stunning Colchuck Lake and the imposing peaks around it under a heavy blanket of snow.
From Leavenworth, head south on Icicle Creek rd for 8.2 miles until you reach USFS rd 7601. This road isn't plowed and is blocked by a locked gate about one quarter mile from where it intersects with Icicle Creek Road (usually from November to May), so parking at the intersection is probably your best option. Hike up USFS road 7601 for 3.7 miles until you reach the Stuart Lake trailhead #1599 (there are bathrooms here complete with trashcans and TP). If there are no tracks to follow and you aren't comfortable with the area, navigation tools such as a GPS or map/compass might be helpful from this point on.
Meander through the woods and climb gradually for about a mile and a half, roughly following Mountaineer creek off to your right. At this point, cross a snow-covered bridge to the opposite side of the creek. Keep following the creek for about a mile until you reach another, more precarious log bridge that takes you back across. The trail climbs steeply up and away from the creek after crossing the first bridge before turning upriver again, and then drops back down towards the second bridge. Just before crossing the second bridge, you will reach a signed fork in the trail - going to the right will take you to Stuart lake, so take a left here. There was a pretty large number of friendly birds (Bank Swallows?) who started following us closely in this area, but we quickly figured out their intentions when we stopped for some granola bars. They weren't too aggressive, and it was pretty cool to watch them maneuver between the trees around us.
After crossing the second bridge, continue along the river for a bit before turning up and away towards Colchuck Lake - you should be able to catch glimpses of Dragontail peak from this area. There is a smaller creek which drains the lake and eventually flows into Mountaineer creek that can be roughly followed up to your destination - this also presents a great opportunity for some up-close viewing of frozen waterfalls. This half of the hike has some very steep and sometimes icy sections, and a mountaineering axe or trekking poles would be very helpful, if not necessary. Watch out for hollows in the snow under the many large boulders in this area. Decent routefinding skills would be helpful here if there aren't any tracks to follow.
After climbing straight up several steep hillsides (we found that switchbacks are usually skipped in the snow), you'll find yourself at snow-covered Colchuck lake, surrounded by the steep, rocky, and similarly snow and ice-covered faces of Dragontail and Colchuck peaks. Dig out a campsite, make something hot to eat or drink, and enjoy some truly majestic views!
This trip is definitely do-able in a weekend! We drove out to the trail and started hiking late Friday night and camped at the Stuart Lake trailhead. On Saturday we hiked to the lake and spent the night there. We got an early start Sunday morning and were back at the car by noon. Aasgard pass looked a bit more imposing than it did when we last saw it in the summertime, but a winter trek through the Enchantments is definitely a new goal at this point! (avalanche conditions and weather permitting)
- Snowshoes/Touring Skis,
- Ice Axe or Trekking Poles,
- Good waterproof boots,
- 10 Essentials - navigation tools would be especially important after a recent snowfall,
- Tent: Sturdy 3-season or 4-season (we used a 4 season with a large vestibule, which helped keep our gear dry),
- Warm Sleeping Bag (we used -15F),
- Snow Shovel
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Snowshoeing
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