backpack: Enchantments – Colchuck Lake

On this three night backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, we hiked in via the Stuart Lake trailhead to Colchuck Lake.

Total mileage: 11.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation gain

This area is extremely popular, and overnight camping in the Enchantments requires a limited overnight permit available each spring via a lottery. Day hikers do not need a permit, so the area can be quite crowded. The ranger that we met told us that there are up to 400 day hikers on weekend days.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

Day 1

backpack in to campsite
4.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation gain

Starting at the Stuart Lake trailhead, we hiked in to our campsite at Colchuck Lake. The first two miles are an easy hike through the forest next to Mountaineer Creek.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

Cross the creek on a bridge and the next mile begins to ascend a little more steeply. The last mile to Colchuck is much steeper, with a lot of rock steps that can be challenging to navigate with a full pack on. At first, I went the wrong direction after the bridge, scrambling on the boulders until I realized it wasn’t the trail.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

We made it! We finally had views of Colchuck Lake with Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

Once at the lake, we made our way around, up and down larger rock, following the trail around the lake to the campsite.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

Day 2

This was week number five in a row of backpacking trips for me, and I almost didn’t go on this trip due to back issues, so I hung out with another friend at the campsite all day while the rest of our friends went up Aasgard Pass to the Core Enchantments.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking tripEnchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

We hiked around a bit to take photos, napped, and went wading and swimming at a small lake next to our campsite.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking tripEnchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

At dusk, we ran around to take photos of the sunset, then we stayed up late to see the stars, laying on top of a large rock slab for a better view. The milky way was in full view, and we saw a big shooting star. At night in our tents, we could hear a rock avalanche that sounded like loud thunder on one of the peaks surrounding us.

Day 3

It was much cooler and windy on this day, so we hung around the campsite, spending a lot of time at the smaller lake where it was warmer and out of the wind.

Enchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking tripEnchantments - Colchuck Lake backpacking trip

Day 4

hike out to trailhead
4.5 miles with 2,300 ft. elevation loss

After breakfast we hiked out, and stopped in Leavenworth for lunch before the long drive home (5.5 hours) back to Portland.

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