Are you ready to take on one of the toughest and most spectacular hikes in the USA? The Enchantments day hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington climbs 5200 feet in 20 miles while passing countless glacial lakes, and rugged mountain crags. It’s truly a bucket list hike! ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I have had this hike on my list for years and I was finally able to take on this challenge recently. We have been training on tough hikes all year, but it still took us 13 hours to complete this epic trek. It was one of the hardest 😓 and most rewarding trails I’ve ever done.
I also can’t wait to do it all again one day!
Doing the Enchantments in one day is very hard on the body. So, you should only attempt this trail if you have prior experience and you take proper precautions.
But, if you’re ready to experience one of the most beautiful places in the US, then you can read my complete Enchantments trail guide below 📝. It includes how to hike the trail, what you need to pack, and everything you need to know before you go! I hope you enjoy!
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Table of Contents
Enchantments Day Hike Details
Quick Hike Info
Distance: 18.8-21 miles
Elevation: 5280 feet of gain, 7200 of Elevation Loss (starting at Stuart Lake) or 7200 gain and 5280 loss (starting at Snow Lakes)
Type: Point to Point, Thru Hike
Length: 10-16 hours total (depends on your pace, breaks, and weather)
Difficulty: Very Hard (The most challenging hike I’ve ever done)
The Enchantments region is located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountain region of Northern Washington 📌. They’re right outside of the adorable Bavarian town of Leavenworth and just a two hour drive from Seattle.
It is one of the most spectacular areas in the United States with tall rugged mountain peaks and over 7000 alpine lakes 🤯 in the area. This trail will take you past some of the most epic views you’ll ever see.
Enchantments Hiking Directions
Because the Enchantment is a point to point hike, it can be a little more complicated to plan than most hikes. You can choose to start at either the Stuart Lake trailhead 🪧 and end at the Snow Lakes trail or vice versa.
You must choose to start at the Snow Lakes or Stuart Lake Trailhead!
Starting at Stuart Lakes is the most popular way to do the hike and it’s what I recommend. Although you’ll have to go up a steep ascent of 2000 feet in .75 miles at Aasgard Pass 😲, you’ll have less elevation gain total. Also, you’ll get it over with quickly!
How to Get to the Enchantments
You’ll most likely drive from Leavenworth or Seattle to reach the trail. There is no public transportation 🚫 from Seattle to the Enchantments.
Once you get there, you’ll need to decide where you will begin and end your hike. Stuart Lake and Snow Lakes are 30 minutes apart, which means you will have to plan ahead. Note that the road to Stuart Lake is a bit rough ⚠️.
There are a couple options:
- You can use two cars, drop a car off at the end and then take the other one to the starting point. You’ll have to back track after the hike to get your other car back
- Drop one car off at the end and take a shuttle 🚌 ($25-30 a person) to the starting point.
We chose to take a shuttle to the starting point, because we didn’t want to drive half an hour after a very long day of hiking. So, we took the 5:15 shuttle time, these do book up so plan in advance. I think this was well worth the price!
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 There is no entrance fee, but you do need to fill out a free day use hiking permit for the Enchantments when you get to the trail. Drop off the tag and then drop off the second part when you complete the hike.
☀️ Weather changes quickly in the mountains, which means you should be prepared for inclement weather. When we hiked the day started cloudy, then it got extremely windy and cold at the top, then it warmed up, and then it rained.
🐻 This is grizzly and brown bear country! Make sure that you stay bear aware and carry bear spray with you on the trails.
🦮 Pets are not allowed in the Enchantments, so you’ll have to leave them at home.
⚠️ The Enchantments are open year round, however they can close due to road or weather closures. You can stay updated here on Enchantments trail conditions.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it. Make sure you’re following all the Alpine Lakes Wilderness regulations.
Best Time to Hike the Enchantments
The best time to hike the Enchantments it early July to late September 📆. This is when the snow has usually begun to melt and the weather is warmer, so you could even dip in the lakes.
However, there are some years when the snow melt is later. But through the end of August you’ll likely have to walk over areas of snow ❄️❄️ regardless. It lasts up there for a long time.
Then, in early September the larches will begin to change colors 💛 and you may be able to experience the stunning shades of gold all around! It’s one of the best Washington hikes to see the larches!
What to Pack for the Enchantments Day Hike
This is one of those hikes that is ESSENTIAL to plan ahead for. You do not want to be at the top of the mountain without enough water 💦 or food. It is highly recommended that you bring 3 liters of water (per person) or a water filtering system.
Then, like most other hikes it is very important to pack layers! While we were hiking the temperature changed vastly. At one moment we needed hats and gloves, another we needed a rain jacket 🌧, and at another we were sweating in just our base layers. Read my complete packing list below.
Oh and check out our new favorite toy: the Rapid Raft! We got to test out this bad boy on the hike, which was so fun.
Enchantments Day Hike Packing List
- Comfortable Hiking Boots
- Day Pack
- Hiking poles
- Water Reservoir
- 3-4 Liters of Water or a Lifestraw
- Snacks and Food – I brought two sandwiches, 3 bars, trail mix, a Capri Suns, Liquid IV, and dried mango.
- First Aid Kit
- Bug Spray
- Bear Spray
- Rain jacket
- Light winter jacket
- Base Layer
- Good Hiking Pants/Bottoms
- Winter Hat
- Satellite phone
- Inflatable Raft
- Bathing Suit
- Portable Charger
- Downloaded AllTrails Map
But Can’t You Camp??
Unfortunately, winning a permit to camp in the Enchantments is incredibly difficult with only 2% of applicants getting them. I have had friends who have applied for years 😳 and still they haven’t managed to snag these coveted permits.
You must have an overnight permit from May 15th to October 31st.
However, if you’re one of the lucky few that wins, then you are in for the backpacking trip 🏕 of a lifetime! This is truly one of the most beautiful settings in the entire country!
You can read how to try and snag one of these permits below!
How to Apply for the Enchantments Lottery
You’ll have to apply for permits advance or try the walk up lottery in person.
How to Apply Online:
- The advanced lottery system opens on February 1st and closes on March 1st. The drawing takes place on March 8th usually.
- You can stay for up to 14 days in the wilderness area, so you’ll choose how many nights you want. Then, you will need to assign a group leader and you can apply for up to 8 people. But, you cannot add people later!
- There are 5 zones in the Enchantments, so you’ll need to select which zone you want in advance. The options are below:
- Core Enchantments Zone
- Stuart Lake Zone
- Colchuck Lake Zone
- Snow Lakes Zone
- Eightmile Zone
- Winners will need to confirm everything by mid-March.
The Walk Up Lottery
If you were unsuccessful in the advanced lottery, you can try your luck at the walk up lottery. However, only one permit per zone is given a day.
To enter this lottery, you’ll have to show up at the Leavenworth Ranger Station at 8:15 am for the 8:30 lottery ⏰. You’ll also need a designated group leader. Then, they will commence the drawing and a lucky few will get the chance to camp out in the Enchantments!
Detailed Enchantments Trail Guide
Below is the detailed description if you start at the Stuart Lake trailhead. If you start at Snow Lakes, then you’ll begin at the end.
Up to Colchuck Lake
Many people complete Colchuck Lake as a day hike 🥾, because it is one of the most stunning lakes in the area/country! It’s 8.6 miles if you decide to go there and back, which is still a considerable trek.
Once you get dropped off at the Stuart Lake Trailhead, you’ll need to fill out a free day use permit 🎫 and then you can begin your ascent.
Colchuck Lake is a great day hike!
This part of the hike goes up a series of switchbacks through the forest 🌳 until you come to the gorgeous clearing over Colchuck lake. But the switchbacks gain 2300 feet of elevation in 4.3 miles, so it’s not easy.
Colchuck is an amazing spot to sit for a while, take pictures 📸 , go for a swim, eat a snack, and mentally prepare for the challenge ahead. Aasgard Pass sits above Colchuck Lake and is incredibly imposing.
Ascend the Daunting Aasgard Pass
After a break at Colchuck Lake, you can walk around the side of the lake on a relatively flat trail. You’ll begin to walk over boulders behind the lake and then you’ll get to the beginning of the challenging climb.
Aasgard Pass gains 2000 feet in .75 miles and has many loose rocks. This area is very dangerous and where most people get injured 🤕! So, you should take take your time going up and honestly, it may be slow regardless.
A lot of people see mountain goats on the pass, but unfortunately we were not so lucky!
It took us two hours to get to the top and we are usually very fast hikers. Although we did take our friend who rarely hikes, so we went at his pace. We were definitely huffing and puffing 😮💨 and taking breaks every few feet.
It’s a tough climb, but you can take in the views behind as you go up, which just get better and better! Plus, when you get to the top then the rest of the hike is downhill from there ⬇️.
The Core Enchantments
Walking through the Core Enchantment Zone will simply blow your mind as you get to gorgeous lake after gorgeous lake 💙💙. You’ll start by passing Tranquil Lake, Inspiration Lake, and Perfection Lake. Each one is prettier than the last.
You’ll continue past Leprechaun Lake and Lake Viviane before finally getting to Snow Lakes. But as you walk through the core, just take moments to look up and take it all in. It’s crazy to marvel at the beauty 🤩 of the world!
There are various tall and rugged mountain peaks 🏔 above your head. We were also lucky to do this hike in early September when the larches were shining bright shades of yellow. It was honestly a magical day, that I’ll never forget!
Down the Trail
Once you pass Snow Lakes, then you’ll truly be going downhill for the rest of the time. To be honest, this part of the hike felt like it lasted forever and ever 😩. It’s just a constant steep descent and it’s hard on the knees.
There are many areas where you’ll need to walk over slick rocks, boulders, and even iron rungs. Go slowly and watch your step, because it can get slippery. I highly suggest hiking poles so that your knees remain intact.
It’s about 10 miles from the end of Snow Lakes to the parking lot. The most demoralizing part is when the parking lot appears 🅿️, but you still have a couple of miles to go down the switchbacks to the end. It just feels so close and yet so far.
But then, you’ll make back to your car and you will have completed one of the most challenging day hikes in the US! Give yourself a pat on the back and go grab a stein and a brat in Leavenworth to celebrate 🎉🎉.
Final Tips for Day Hiking the Enchantments
Whatever you do, do not take on the Enchantments day hike lightly. I have gone on over 100 hikes in a year and I still struggled. So, go slowly, bring plenty of fuel 🥪, and plan ahead of time. If you do that, then you will have a wonderful experience!
Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this trail guide!
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