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Hiking to Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Hiking to Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Colchuck Lake Panorama

Colchuck Lake is truly a gem of a day hike. It is the bigger brother to the nearby Enchantment Lakes, much easier to reach (as a day hike, especially), and some have described it as a religious experience. The glacier-fed waters of Colchuck Lake are an ethereal aquamarine blue. The jagged peaks and passes surrounding the lake have mystical names like Dragontail and Aasgard Pass. It’s a magical hike and a great way to whet your appetite for further adventures in this area near Leavenworth.

Trail Details
Colchuck Lake: 5,570′
Distance: 8.8 miles
Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 2,392 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: June-October

Getting to the Trailhead

From the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, head west on Highway 2 for about two miles, then turn left onto Icicle Road. Follow Icicle Road for 8.5 miles, turning left onto NF-7600. You’ll follow this forest service road for 3.7 miles to the trailhead parking area. Get turn-by-turn driving directions via Google Maps.

There is room for about 30 cars here and it still fills up. We had plenty of parking when we arrived, but it was pretty full by the time we finished our hike, even on a mid-week day after Labor Day. The key here is to start early. There are pit toilets at the trailhead as well as a picnic table. A Northwest Forest Pass or Interagency Pass (like a National Parks Annual Pass) is required to park at the trailhead. Permits for day hikes are self-issued at the trailhead, but permits for overnight trips must be obtained in advance.

Note that the Forest Service road from Icicle Road to the trailhead closes in winter, typically November to May due to snow.

Hiking to Colchuck Lake

The trail begins with a gentle, forested climb that follows the beautiful cascades of Mountaineer Creek.

Mountaineer Creek

After about 1.25 miles, you reach a footbridge and the climb begins to get serious.

Beautiful clear waters of Mountaineer Creek

Another mile up the trail and you reach a junction with the trail to Lake Stuart. Take the left branch pointing to Colchuck Lake, and you will see an improvised log bridge at the base of a boulder field.

Once you’ve crossed this second bridge, the trail picks its way along the base of the boulder field for about 20 yards before resuming a more typical dirt and rock trail. From here, the trail leaves Mountaineer Creek and begins to climb up the canyon wall.

Crossing a creek en route to Colchuck Lake

This section of the trail has some steep parts, but it’s well engineered, well maintained and easy to follow. As you climb higher up the canyon wall, you begin to catch glimpses of the views that await you.

Stone steps on the climb to Colchuck Lake

As the trail nears Colchuck Lake, you’ll see a sign to a pit toilet. It’s the only one here, and there are no walls. It’s truly a throne with a view! But please, if you need to answer the call of nature, use this pit toilet. Because of the popularity of this hike, human waste can become a real problem. Don’t be part of that problem.

And then… like magic, the blue waters of Colchuck Lake appear through the trees! The trail continues around the west side of the lake. Hike on to find a good spot to sit and soak in the views of the glacier-blue water. Craggy Dragontail Peak lies directly across from you, with Aasgard Pass to the left of that. From this vantage point, it’s difficult to imagine that there’s actually a trail headed up there, leading to the Enchantment Lakes.

Colchuck Lake and Dragontail Peak

We had a blustery, cloudy day for our hike, but just a touch of sunlight makes colorful Colchuck Lake come alive.

Explore the area of Colchuck Lake, and then return via the same route you came. Some sites list the mileage as under 8 miles for the total hike, but we logged a total of 8.8 miles on GaiaGPS.

Colchuck Lake Trail Map & Elevation Profile

Download file: Hike to Colchuck Lake.gpx

Colchuck Lake Tips & Hiking Resources

Colchuck Lake Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”98826″]

Originally hiked on September 13, 2018 with Joan.

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