Enchantments Through Hike

18.8 mile point-to-point
5,000 gain, 7,000 loss
Very hard
Summer through fall
Northwest Forest Pass
Enchantments lake
Considered the crown jewel of Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness and one of the top rated hikes in the entire state, the Enchantments through hike is an epic 18.8 mile trek through a jaw-dropping mountain wilderness, complete with rugged granite peaks and an abundance of crystal clear alpine lakes.

The Enchantments is also a superb backpacking destination, but the highly competitive lottery system requires a fair bit of luck. For this reason, most visitors choose to day hike, whether it's an out-and-back to Colchuck Lake, or by trekking the entire trail system from Stuart Lake trailhead to Snow Lakes.
Trail Map

Getting There and Parking

The Enchantments hike is best started from the Stuart Lake trailhead, ending at the Snow Lakes trailhead. Hiking point-to-point requires a shuttle service or two cars, leaving one at the lower trailhead. I suggest using a shuttle service, due to the lack of parking at Stuart Lake trailhead - expect a full lot by 6AM on the weekend.
Shuttles can be booked ahead, typically at around $25/person. The shuttle services pick up at Snow Lakes, and drop off at Stuart Lake trailhead. We took the 6AM Loop Connector shuttle from Snow Lakes, and were on the trail by 6:30AM.
Larch season is often the busiest and most chaotic time to visit the Enchantments. When the Larches are peaking in early October, parking and shuttle availability may be very limited. Plan accordingly if you are considering a visit during this time!

Hike Details

The hike begins at Stuart Lake trailhead, starting with a gradual climb through the forest and ascending to Colchuck Lake. After 2 miles of hiking, you'll arrive at the Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake junction. Keep left to head towards Colchuck lake, another 1.6 miles from the junction. Most of the 1.6 miles are steep switchbacks, eventually giving way to lake views and towering mountains.
Lauren at Colchuck Lake
Soak in the views of Jabberwocky, Witches Tower, and Dragontail peaks from Colchuck Lake as you follow the trail skirting the right-hand shoreline. Colchuck Lake is an extremely popular destination, and many day hikers will turn around here for the day - expect slightly fewer hikers from here on out.
Looking down at Colchuck Lake from Asgard Pass
For those that are continuing on, the trail traverses a boulder field at the far end of the lake, beginning the precipitous climb up Asgard Pass. The path up the pass is the most difficult trail section you'll encounter: it's rough, rocky, and excruciatingly steep. On your way up, take plenty of breaks, and look back towards Colchuck Lake for a stunning view. You may also see mountain goats as you stop to catch your breath!
Mountain Goat at Asgard Pass
By cresting the you enter the "Core" Enchantments, known as the most scenic area in the wilderness. Packed with lakes, larches, and beautiful granite peaks, this is a breathtaking area to visit. I recommend taking your time here (if you can afford it), and exploring as much as you can. Taking a dip in one of the lakes can be extremely refreshing after the grueling climb up Asgard Pass.
Tranquility Lake
While it's impossible to go wrong in the core, my favorite place to stop was Perfection Lake, about 1.7 miles from Asgard Pass. However, all the other sites are worth stopping to take pictures.
Perfection lake
Once you get past Lake Viviane below Perfection Lake the trail begins to a sharp descent, rapidly dropping to Snow Lakes. This is a difficult section of trail, with sheer granite to scramble down.
Prusik Peak
The last 9-ish miles from Lake Viviane to the Snow Lakes trailhead feel like a never-ending slog - you're past the most scenic parts of the trail, and will spend more time in the forest or with lesser views. The trail is much smoother here than the Core Enchantments, with a constant downhill grade.
On the way down, you'll pass Upper/Lower Snow Lakes and Nada Lake, which are good spots to rest and refill water. Eventually the hike winds down and you'll pop out at the Snow Lakes parking lot at the end of the hike.
Core Enchantments

Need To Know

Hiking the Enchantments in a day is much more difficult than its milage may suggest: many of the 18.8 miles are over challenging, rocky terrain, which sections of steep boulder scrambling. The trail is almost always rocky or rooted out, and consistently steep, both up and down.

I only recommend attempting this trail if you're confident in your physical fitness - You'll need a good base fitness level, with the ability to lift yourself over large granite boulders. For reference we often hike or backpack trails of a similar distance, and it took us 12 hours (from 6:30AM to 6:30PM) to hike the Enchantments; including stops to take photos and swim in the lakes.
If you're up for it and capable, this is a bucket-list worthy hike in the Pacific Northwest. I can't recommend it highly enough, and would happily due it again - even with the suck-factor of hiking out through Snow Lakes when you're dead tired from a long day!
Colchuck Lake

What To Pack Hiking

This is the gear I personally use for every day hike, having tested it over thousands of miles and multiple years.

Hiking Essentials

For all but the shortest of day hikes, I bring my daypack, food & water, sturdy boots, and my cute bear socks.
Lauren at Blue Lake, wearing a purple backpack with in-season larches in the background

Trail Food

On any hike longer than 1-2 hours, I'm packing snacks, lunch, and extras - Being active and outdoors consumes a lot of calories. Most importantly what you like to eat, and enough of it to keep you fueled throughout the day. Always pack more food and water than you think you'll need.

My favorites for the trail:
  • Homemade Sandwiches
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Bars, muffins, baked goods
  • Nuts, crackers, chips, jerky, and other salty food
  • Plenty of chocolate and sweets

Water Filter System

For longer day hikes, it's a game changer to bring your water filtration system. Having a reliable water filter will let you stay out longer, and pack less water, reducing your pack weight.

On any day hike over 8 miles, I bring my filter system to refill throughout the day. While there are many ways to filter water, I prefer squeeze bottles with screw top filters for their ease-of-use and rapid filtering.

Insect Repellent and Relief

In areas with high bug populations, packing an effective repellent is absolutely critical. When using DEET, apply it thoroughly to your skin and clothing, avoiding your mouth and eyes.

Covering exposed skin is also an effective way to prevent bug bites. Thick long sleeve shirts, pants, and mesh netted hats with full head cover can be as effective or better at stopping bugs from bothering you.
Pack accordingly to the hike and current conditions. If you're tackling a rugged, steep trail, bring sturdy shoes with plenty of tread. If the weather forcast is cold, or there's potential for precipitation, throw in some extra layers and suitable raingear. Or, if its hot and sunny, make sure you have extra water, electrolytes, and sunscreen.

Still have questions? Send me a message over email to connect. Happy Trails!
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About Us

Heart Rock at Joshua Tree
Thanks for visiting our travel blog, Trails And Trekking! We're Lauren and Anders - an adventure loving couple currently stationed in the Pacific Northwest. We're avid hikers, backpackers, and travelers. We're both originally from Oregon, but we've spent the last two years traveling the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We created this blog to share our passion for exploring the outdoors, and to inspire you to get outside.