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The Ultimate Planning Guide to Hiking the Enchantments in Washington

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Enchantments hike planning guide

EXPLORE OUR FULL ENCHANTMENTS PLANNING GUIDE TO LEARN EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THRU-HIKING OR BACKPACKING THIS WORLD-CLASS TRAIL IN WASHINGTON.

 



The Enchantments are an absolutely amazing alpine wonderland located in central Washington state. In fact, this stunning mountain landscape has been termed the “Crown Jewel of Washington Hiking” by the Washington Trails Association, the leading expert on hiking in Washington. And after doing the full thru-hike of the Enchantments ourselves, we couldn’t agree more: it is absolutely incredible.


Numerous crystal clear alpine lakes. Rugged and pointed granite mountains that look like they are out of some medieval adventure novel. Wildflowers and rushing rivers. Baby mountain goats and speckled alpine birds. The Enchantments really are a mountain paradise and one definitely worth exploring in person.


And if the only thing keeping you from exploring and adventuring in this wonderland yourself is the actual planning, then we are here to help.


Because if we are being honest, it can be a bit overwhelming to plan a trip into the Enchantments. This is mostly due to the fact that there are a lot of options available: from day hikes out to one of the many lakes, to thru-hiking it all in one day, to spending the night (or a couple). But also it can be tough to plan an adventure in the Enchantments because there is just a lot to know about the 20-mile long trail (including, just how tough is it actually?!).


After thru-hiking the Enchantments in one day (one veeery long day) we have got a lot of those answers for you. So, if you are considering hiking in the Enchantments - either via a day trip, a thru-hike or a backpacking adventure - we recommend you read our full Enchantments Planning Guide below.


Happy adventuring!









ENCHANTMENTS PLANNING GUIDE | STEP-BY-STEP INFORMATION



🥾 QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE HIKING TRAIL


📌 TRANSPORTATION (GETTING TO THE TRAILHEADS, PARKING, THE HIKING SHUTTLE)


🎫 PERMITS AND REGULATIONS (BACKPACKING VS THRU-HIKING)


☁ WEATHER AND SAFETY


🎒 PACKING GUIDE (FOOD, WATER AND GEAR)


🏕 CAMPING AND LODGING



(Keep scrolling for the full guide OR jump to each section above to save time)








THE ENCHANTMENTS TRAIL MAP

Clear map of Enchantments hiking trail and five zones.
Enchantments Zones & Hiking Trail. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Status.





\\ The Enchantments Hiking Trail | A Quick Overview


Even though this is one of the most popular trails in all of Washington state, the Enchantments trail should not be underestimated. It is a darn tough trail. Especially if you decide to do it all in one day (aka thru-hike it). While the beauty and the insane landscape makes it 100% worth it, still be prepared for a long and tough day on the trail.



TOTAL DISTANCE: ~20 miles (32 kilometers) one-way

TYPE OF HIKE: point-to-point (see more on this below)

TOTAL ELEVATION GAIN: around 5,000 feet

HIGHEST POINT: the infamous Aasgard Pass, which sits at 7,800 feet (2377 meters)

TIME NEEDED TO DO THE THRU-HIKE: 10-15 hours; depends on your fitness level and how often you stop (we did it in 12 hours and took our time by the many lakes)


➳ You can find more stats on the Enchantments hiking trail on Alltrails.




WHICH WAY SHOULD YOU GO?


Because the trail is point-to-point, you can technically go either direction - start or end at either the Stuart Lake or Snow Lake Trailheads. But for the most part, people usually begin at the Stuart Lake and Colchuk Lake Trailhead and then hike over Aasgard Pass and then back down to Snow Lake. By going this direction, you save yourself 2,600 feet of elevation gain. But you still have to climb up the infamous Aasgard Pass - where you climb 1,900 feet in less than a mile.


We decided to follow everyone else and hike over from Stuart Lake to Snow Lake. While climbing over Aasgard Pass was tough, if you take your time and drink plenty of water, you should be fine. Plus, from the top of the pass the rest of the trail is a nice gradual downhill hike.




View of Aasgard Pass in the Enchantments

Top down view of Colchuk Lake from Aasgard Pass.
Aasgard Pass (top) and the view of Colchuk Lake from the top of the pass (bottom).





\\ Transportation to the Enchantments


The Enchantments are located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in central Washington state. The closest urban center to the trail is the popular tourist town of Leavenworth, which will have all of the necessary supplies you will need before setting off into the Enchantments; including, a large chain grocery store, restaurants, lodging, and outdoor gear shops.


It takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach the Snow Lakes Trailhead (the closest one too Leavenworth) and nearly 3 hours to reach the Stuart and Colchuk Lakes Trailhead from Seattle.




HOW TO GET TO THE ENCHANTMENTS


If you are planning to drive from Seattle to the Enchantments then the directions are pretty straightforward. To start, head out towards the town of Monroe and Highway 2/Stevens Pass Highway. Once on Highway 2, keep driving up and over Stevens Pass and down into the town of Leavenworth (from Seattle, it is around 120 miles to Leavenworth).


Once in Leavenworth, you need to decide what trailhead you want to start your adventure from: Stuart and Colchuk Lake Trailhead or Snow Lake Trailhead. Most people choose to start from the first one since it cuts down on the overall elevation gain.


DIRECTIONS TO THE STUART LAKE/COLCHUK LAKE TRAILHEAD

Once in Leavenworth, head down Icicle Creek Road for about 9 miles until you see the turn for Stuart Lake/Colchuk Lake and Bridge Creek Campground (it will be on the LEFT). Head up this unpaved forest road (known as Eight Mile or Forest Service Road 7601) for roughly 4 miles until you get to the end of the road. There will be a large parking lot with a bathroom.


DIRECTIONS TO THE SNOW LAKE TRAILHEAD

The directions to the Snow Lake Trailhead are pretty similar to the one above. The only difference is that Snow Lake is a fair amount closer to town than the Stuart Lake/Colchuk Lake Trailhead. From downtown Leavenworth, drive along Icicle Creek Road for roughly 4 miles until you see the parking lot for Snow Lake Trailhead on your LEFT.


The drive from the Snow Lake Trailhead up to the Stuart Lake/Colchuk Lake Trailhead takes about 30 minutes.




READ MORE | HIKING THE NECKLACE VALLEY TRAIL IN THE ALPINE LAKES WILDERNESS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE






PARKING AT THE TRAILHEADS


Parking at both trailheads can be chaotic. Therefore it is always a good idea to arrive at the trailheads early, carpool when possible or find an alternative mode of transportation.


If you do find yourself parking at either trailhead, you will need to either pay $5 for a parking pass (which you can get in person or online ahead of time) or show that you have the right pass already. In the case of either Enchantment's trailheads, you can use an Annual National Park Pass (this costs $80), or the Northwest Forest Pass (this annual pass costs $30).


Learn more about the required parking passes for the two main trailheads here.


💬 INSIDER TIP: if you are looking to rent a second car to leave at one of the trailheads, then your best bet is to rent one in the nearby town of Wenatchee (which is located about 30 minutes east of Leavenworth). You can find availability and the best prices for car rentals at rentalcars.com.




THE TRAILHEAD SHUTTLE


If you don’t have two cars and if you really don’t feel like hitch-hiking, then your only other option is to book a seat on the shuttle bus that runs from Snow Lake Trailhead to Stuart Lake/Colchuk Lake Trailhead. This shuttle service is run by the Loop Connector, a private shuttle company out of Leavenworth.


DETAILS

| COST: $24 per passenger