The Enchantments (Washington)
Updated: Jan 3, 2019
The Enchantments in Washington state's Cascade region are a national treasure. Majestic mountains, azure lakes, and the quiet of the wild make this park the perfect getaway, and an easy one to get to.
If you’re driving from Seattle, it’ll be a three hour drive, which will take you through Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed town that’s worth a quick stop and a regional hub for bouldering and cragging.
Where to Stay
The shortest day-hike to one of the park's beautiful alpine lakes (Colchuk Lake) is approximately eight miles, so getting an overnight pass that allows you to reach more of the park is highly recommended. Between May 15 and October 31, a permit is required for overnight use (permit lotteries begin each February, or cross your fingers and toes that day-of-permits are still available). The permits allow campers to stay overnight in one of these five permit zones:
Core Enchantment Zone
Snow Lake Zone
Colchuck Lake Zone
Stuart Lake Zone
To find more information on the permit process visit their recreation site here.
When to Go
The best time to plan a trip is between late July and early October with long warm days that allow you to enjoy all the park has to offer.
Visitors to the Enchantments travel from all over the world to enjoy its world-class hiking, rock climbing, swimming and fishing. Summer crowds can make for lots of neighbors, but the further into the park you go the more solitude you'll be able to enjoy.
Moderate to difficult trails connect visitors to much of the park; some of the best hikes include:
Colchuck Lake Trail (7.7 miles)
The Enchantments Trail (20.3 miles)
Horseshoe Lake Trail (11.4 miles)*
Lake Stuart Trail (8.7 miles)
*As of July 2018, the Horseshoe Lake trail was badly damaged by a wildfire, so make sure you have GPS or honed navigation skills to find the lake.
The Stuart Range is used interchangeably with the Enchantments. The range includes two of the most popular peaks in the Cascades -- Mount Stuart and Prusik Peak, as well as Snow Creek Wall, Aasgard Sentinel, Dragontail Peak, and Colchuck Balanced Rock. From late May through mid October, you can find quality dry alpine rock to climb. Climbing in the Stuart range is only recommended for experienced climbers (5.9 and up) who have a range of technical experience and route-finding skills. A climb will likely entail long approaches, simul-climbing, soloing on fourth class terrain and strong route-finding skills. Expect to encounter snow, glaciers and alpine-ice that necessitate proper gear and thoughtful approach and descent planning. While some venture to climb a route in a day, many bivy along the mountain or depend on camping permits. And because of the long-approaches, you'll want to pack light with not much more than the necessary gear -- knowing the current conditions of the route will be essential to determining what gear you'll want to pack. Visit our blog on climbing Mount Stuart here for more information.
The azure alpine lakes throughout the park invite you to take a dive in some beautiful but chilly-chilly water that wakes up the body like nothing else.
This is the most popular lake to visit and doable in a day (an 8 mile loop from the parking lot, that can be done in 8 hours). While it's a very steep incline (gaining more than 2,300 feet in elevation) you can cool off with a swim in the gorgeous alpine lake while taking in an awe inspiring mountain range.
A little further into the park is Stuart Lake, which has campsites around its shore with banks big enough to host a comfortable stay for a large group of friends. With any of the campsites in the Enchantments it's very important to pack bug repellent and a bug net to ensure that you're able to enjoy the beauty without being covered in bites.
The trail to Horseshoe Lake was decimated by a wildfire, but if you can figure out how to get here along the old trail, you’ll find it’s well-worth the extra effort. Be prepared to get dirty and dust off with a cold dip in the lake.