Since moving to Seattle and being in the hiking “scene,” I have heard many people talk about the Enchantments.
What are the Enchantments?
The Enchantments are a permitted hiking area (in the summer months) filled with alpine meadows and lakes, which is considered one of the most scenic hikes in Washington.
After checking the Leavenworth Ranger Station application permit dates, eight of us paid the application fee for our chance to win the lottery. Two out of the eight actually were successful for various dates picked.
Alpine Lakes Wilderness Map
After sleeping at the Stuart Lake trailhead, we woke up and were ready for the hike. We wove our way through a forest to get to the first alpine lake and climbed elevation before playing peek-a-boo with Colchuck Lake through the trees arriving at the tree line with a few overlooks of the stunning, aqua lake. Fortunately, the wind was light causing amazing reflections and views as we hiked around the lake to Aasgard Pass.
Aasgard Pass is a 2300 foot (~701 meters) climb in roughly 1 mile (1.6 km) while navigating cairns and rocky trail along the way. This part of the hike is grueling and made me happy I was going up and not down! I stopped to look back every so often for views of Colchuck Lake.
View of Colchuck Lake from Aasgard Pass
As a reward for making it to Aasgard Pass, we were welcomed by a mountain goat and its baby. We all rested here while taking pictures of the goats, not knowing how many we would end up seeing along the way.
After Aasgard Pass, we drop a few hundred feet of elevation and followed the trail through an alpine meadow with a contrast of light and dark rock walls and bright blue alpine lakes. Unfortunately, it was quite foggy while hiking through this area; at least it did not rain. On a bluebird day, I am sure the color contrasts are amazing.
I was taking my time hiking through the alpine meadows and lakes with my camera ready to capture nature’s beauty. Stopping short of Prusik Peak and in between Inspiration Lake and Perfection Lake, we decided to set up camp on “Goat Island” as Thaddée named it. After setting up the tent, I laid out my sleeping gear and rested while the others watched the goats wander around our camp. “Goat Island” was justly named with multiple goat families lingering around.
After eating dinner, we watched the sun poke out from the clouds to light up Prusik Peak while it was setting. Making it until 8 pm, we all headed to our tents to rest before completing the remaining 10 miles (~16 km) of the 18 mile (~29 km) hike.
Sunset lighting up Prusik Peak
After waking up around 7 am, breaking down camp, and cooking breakfast, we packed our backpacks. Stashing our bags near the bottom of Perfection Lake, we did a quick hike up Prusik Pass for views of Shield Lake and the surrounding area. We even were able to hear climbing commands from rock climbers on Prusik Peak.
Enchanting views from Prusik Pass
After picking up our packs again, we passed more alpine lakes before the trail started to lose elevation. A combination of following cairns down the rock slabs before getting to a rocky, dirt trail to follow switchbacks through a forest directed us to Upper Snow Lake. The hike consisted of many blooming wildflowers giving off a flowery perfume smell as we brushed into them along the trail.
Upper Snow Lake
The trail is mainly flat a little as you make your way around the lake. Walking between Upper and Lower Snow Lakes is a dam before the trail breaks away from Lower Snow Lake toward Nada Lake.
After Nada Lake, the trail switchbacks through trees and feels never ending. It started to rain pretty hard. I thought it would be nice to have a quick summer shower, but the rain made the air muggy for the remaining part of the hike. Without the alpine views, the end of the hike was relentless. Andy started singing:
“This is the hike that never ends.
It just goes on and on my friends. . . “
We finally made it to the Snow Lakes trailhead, where Julie and Thaddée’s car was parked. The boys went to pick up the other vehicles at Stuart Lake trailhead. I took off my hiking boots to inspect my feet for blisters as we waited.
Overall, the scenery of the hike made the elevation and length worth it. Since it is a permitted area, it was not congested, which allowed us to enjoy the Enchantments in its full beauty.
Summary of the route:
- Miles (km): 18 miles (29 km)
- Elevation gain: 6000 feet (~1829 meters)
- Length of time: ~ 15 hours
Do you think the Enchantments are worth the hype?
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