The most popular hike in the state of Washington is Colchuck Lake in Leavenworth. I had heard about it from other hikers, travel magazines, hiking forums, you name it. Aside from it being the first stop on the famous Enchantments hike, it really holds its own as one of the most beautiful places in Washington.
This hike is challenging because of the distance and elevation gain, but it can be accomplished by anyone willing to put in the time.
Hiking to Colchuck Lake
Miles: 8.21 ✦ Elevation Gain: 2,315 ✦ Trail Type: Out and Back ✦ Trail: Moderate
So let’s get started! There are some things to be aware of before you start your drive to this hike. You do need to do some research. Especially regarding parking. This hike starts at a large parking lot and even though it is large for a trailhead parking lot you need to get there very early during the most popular season or sleep overnight. Be aware that there are spots exclusively for overnight permits and they do check and give out tickets. We got there at 9pm at got one of the last spots in the first section of the parking near the toilets. I highly suggest not taking anything longer than 22′ back there as it will be a very tight squeeze when you are leaving. Mostly because there are always a few cars that don’t follow the signage of “Do Not Park Here.”
Once situated, pay the daily parking fee if you don’t have a pass and then fill out the free permit for yourself and your group. Both of these can be found if you walk past the bathrooms, right at the trailhead.
Start your watch and head out to the left of main signage. You will soon enter Alpine Lakes Wilderness and your hike follows the river for the first mile.
The trail is well marked, but you don’t really need it because the trail is very well maintained and most likely you will continuously see people the entire time.
If you are like me I wonder when the elevation comes and since the first mile was so casual, I keep thinking all the elevation comes in 3 miles then and in this case, it does. As soon as you hit two miles that is when the climb starts. Take your time, take water breaks and have a couple snacks. There are places where you can hangout with a beautiful view.
Enjoy the challenge and have some fun with the river crossings.
Your climb doesn’t end until 4 miles and with a couple switch backs it does sometimes feel like it won’t end, but get excited when your watch beeps at four miles because you are only .1 miles away and you will get your first glimpse of the amazing lake.
Once you get close enough you can either go left or right. There are plenty of spots around the lake. So take your pic and take in one of the most beautiful alpine lakes.
Tips and Tricks to Hiking to Colchuck Lake
There are NO dogs on this trail. I was pleasantly surprised that we saw zero. If you want this trail to stay open and/or not permitted then respect that. There are reasons for it and if you didn’t realize it before you started your journey to getting to the trailhead you are going to be confronted with multiple signs about it.
Things to Bring:
Good hiking shoes and hiking poles.
Water and snacks to get you through the hike.
Swimwear and a towel to jump into the lake.
Miscellaneous: Chapstick, bug spray, sun glasses, hat, first aid kit, etc.
Tips to the Trail
Parking: If you don’t get to the trail early, you could end up parking up to about 2 miles away along the road. Do not park on the side of the road that has no parking signs. Don’t be that guy. You could also end up with scrapes and dents along your car because you are blocking the roadway.
There are bathrooms at the trailhead and maps.
If you are thru hiking the Enchantments this is the suggested start and you end at Snow Lakes Trailhead, which you pass on your way to Colchuck Trailhead.
Sometimes this seems like it should be obvious, but it isn’t.
People hiking up have the right of way.
Single file when people are hiking both ways.
At a certain point whomever has the safest place to step aside, is who does it.
Pretty basic, but it makes the trail safer and more enjoyable.
Let us know if you have any questions. There is a lot of information out there and sometimes it gets a little confusing. We loved this trail and the experience even though it was really busy!
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