Enchantment Lakes Larch Thru-Hike

by Cathy Gaylord

One of the great things about living in this area is all the choices we have for outdoor recreation.  Among the many activities we could choose from on a recent October Saturday were running the Leavenworth marathon or biking the Wenatchee-Ellensburg Battle of the Bikes.  Being unable to run more than a few blocks or ride uphill more than a few miles, we opted for our own long distance event: the Enchantment Lakes Traverse.

As many in this area know, the Enchantments are a high granite plateau between Lake Colchuck and Snow Lakes southwest of Leavenworth.  While we have backpacked in the area and once hiked all the way across in a day, we had never visited in October when the larches, which are so plentiful, have gone golden in preparation for winter’s sleep.

We had waited several years for a clear day on the first Saturday in October, which is when the larches hit their peak color.  Go too early and the larches won’t have turned yet, visit too late and early snows will have knocked the needles from the trees. Being working stiffs, we also had to wait for a weekend.  We wondered if we would ever hit it just right.

This year on Saturday, October 2, perfectly clear weather was forecasted and we thought we had our chance.  Three of us, Drew and Cathy Gaylord and Lynn Wilcox, set off from the Colchuck Lake Trailhead (#1599) at 6:00 a.m.  We hiked for thirty minutes by head lamp due to the thick woods.  As the sun came up, we could see the yellow larches contrasting brilliantly against evergreens up high — we had hit the timing just right.

We rounded Lake Colchuck and climbed to the top of Aasgard Pass by 10:30 a.m. We spent the next 5 hours wandering leisurely through the lakes, tarns, whimsical rock forms, and stands of golden-orange larches with weather that was warmer than when I have visited in August.

We were not alone.  Many thru-hikers kept us company, as did one mountain goat with a fresh white coat.

At 3:00 p.m. we sadly left Lake Viviane, the lowest of the Enchantment Lakes, and hurried down to Snow and Nada lakes and then down the switchbacking path to Snow Creek Wall (trail #1553).  The first three miles down and around Snow Lake are the hardest. After that we could cruise on autopilot.  We arrived at the car at 7:00 p.m., just as it was getting dark.  The traverse could have been done faster, but up high we took our time and enjoyed those sweet elements that had come together so spectacularly for us.

Stats:  18 miles of hiking, 4400 feet of vertical gain to the top of Aasgard Pass, 6500 feet of vertical lost dropping to Snow Lakes parking lot.  A car was left at each end.  North2west Forest Passes are needed at both trailheads.

For more details and a topo map, see the WenatcheeOutdoors guidebook entry here.

This post was originally published on 10/8/2010.

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