Wenatchee National Forest: Enchantment Area Permits
Drive Highway 2 to Leavenworth and turn south onto Icicle Road. Follow the road approximately 4.5 miles to the Snow Lake Trailhead on your left. For the Colchuck Trailhead, continue on another 3 miles until you reach FR 7601. Turn left and head up 3.5 miles to the road’s end and the trailhead.
NW Forest Pass required
Once again, I found myself part of a group headed up to tackle the Enchantments. The plan was to hike in on Friday, set up camp in the upper basin, spend Saturday and Sunday exploring, and then hike out Monday via the Snow Creek trailhead. Of course, Mother Nature had different ideas and our plans changed accordingly.
We got a super late start after a delicious breakfast at Sandy’s Waffle House in Leavenworth. We dropped half the vehicles (including my Jeep, which will come into play later) at the Snow Creek trailhead and piled into the other half of the vehicles and headed to the Stuart Lake trailhead. The weather was overcast with sunbreaks – actually quite pleasant for the hike in.
The next morning dawned grey and wet – the rain had moved in late in the night and continued in a steady cadence. Aasgard Pass had a fresh coat of snow and the upper basin looked a bit socked in. The majority of the group decided to bag the rest of the weekend and head out via the Colchuck trail. Myself and Kim decided to brave the elements and go out the long way – after all, my Jeep was parked at the Snow Creek entrance!
We started up Aasgard at around 9 am and began the long, wet adventure out.
As we ascended the pass, the rain gave way to sleet and snow and made for an interesting climb. The path was quickly becoming covered in snow and there was a good 3-4 inches of accumulation near the top.
A little less than two hours after we began the climb, we reached the top of Aasgard. The upper basin was covered in snow and I was drenched – not because of the rain, but because I had sweat so much on the way up! We took shelter from the wind and snow under a large boulder and I changed my base layers. Very quickly.
Freshly bundled up, we continued our trek. We plowed through the upper basin, picking our way around boulders and lakes with limited visibility while the wind whipped the snow into a frenzy around us. Luckily my GPS clearly showed the trail since there weren’t a whole lot of landmarks to be seen.
Once through the upper basin, we began to see some larches. And yes,they were starting to turn. We followed the trail through the draw down to Inspiration Lake, using our posteriors more than our feet in a few sketchy sections. Once down the draw, I knew we were home free and that the rest of the trail would be pretty easy. Or so I thought.
After skirting Perfection Lake, we were entering territory that I had not been before. And what an amazing place it turns out to be! There was water everywhere! So many streams and waterfalls. I definitely need to get back up here in more favorable conditions to explore. Had I know about this hidden valley the first time I stayed up here (Read about that adventure here) I would have spent a lot more time in this area.
We made our way through the valley, around Leprechaun and Viviane Lakes, all the while battling the downpour. Thank God for wool socks, as my feet were completely soaked by this point.
Following the trail around Viviane, we got our first glimpse at the trek ahead – both Snow Lakes came into view and they were a long ways off and a great drop in elevation from our current position. Doubt began to creep into the corners of my mind as to whether we bit off more than we could chew in coming out the long way. Nevertheless, we pushed on as it really was our only recourse.
The descent to Snow Lakes went rather quickly, although the trail is pretty sketchy in some parts with quite a bit of exposure. Even with the rebar pounded into portions of the granite, the constant rain made for a bit of treachery.
We crossed the inlet stream (flowing pretty heavily due to all the falling moisture) and then hastily made the journey around Upper Snow Lake. The water level was very low and the lake wasn’t really all that impressive. Lots of campsites dotted the path and we marveled at the huge log jam butted up against the outlet dam.
After circumnavigating Snow Lakes, we headed even further down the trail to Nada. By this point we were pretty beat and waterlogged. We still had about 6 miles to the Jeep and it was getting late. We trudged on and as we descended the trail, a growing roar met our ears.
After marvelling at the sheer volume of water pouring out of the mountainside, we hurried on to complete our sojourn. The trail out from Nada were the longest miles I’ve ever put on my legs. It just kept going and going. We could see out of the valley we were in and the end didn’t seem any closer the more steps we took.
After snapping that last picture, we stumbled on. Light was failing, the rain was getting harder, my pack was completely waterlogged (I had lost my ill-fitting pack cover hours before) and my legs were on autopilot. We finally came into view of Icicle Creek Road but it was bittersweet as we were still a good 30 minutes away from the parking lot. That trail is a masochistic punchline at the end of a long, cruel joke.
11 ½ hours since we began our trek, we finally reached the parking lot in the dark. I won’t lie – I kissed my Jeep.
That was one of the harder treks I’ve made, compounded but the terrible weather. My pack gained at least 10 pounds of water weight on the way out – my down sleeping bag was a wet sponge all on its own. I will say, my Outdoor Research Foray jacket was awesome. 11 ½ hours in the rain and it kept me completely dry!
So, I’ve completed a through-hike of the Enchantments. 18 miles in two days. 5 miles the first day, 13 the next. Despite the miserable weather, I’d definitely do it again.