Backpacking the Enchantments was truly the experience of a lifetime. In the Enchantments, God has created a uniquely majestic world, “an alpine paradise of granite, worn smooth by glaciers, larches manicured by wind and cold, and crystal blue lakes strung together by a creek that tumbles between them” (Washington Trails Association). Overnight permits are required May 15th – November 1st and the demand is much higher than the number of permits available, so they are very difficult to obtain. If you have a chance to go, don’t pass up the opportunity, because it might only come around once in a lifetime! Visit the recreation.gov website for detailed information on obtaining a permit.
Although there are individuals who thru hike the 18 miles, even those who do a day trail run; however, this would be very a very challenging one day adventure! It was the most challenging hike that I have completed thus far, not to mention, trying to complete this in a day, wouldn’t leave a lot of time to appreciate the beauty surrounding you.
There are two ways to complete this trail. Starting at the Stuart Lake Trailhead requires you to hike/climb/boulder your way up 4,500 feet of elevation gain, 2,200 miles of which are in 3/4 mile, via the grueling Aasgard Pass. The other way is via the Snow Lake Trailhead, and although the elevation gain is around 6,000 feet, it is over 10 miles, instead of 6 miles via Stuart Lake. Neither way is easy. We chose to go via the Stuart Lake Trailhead; it took a lot of strength and mental toughness to conquer Aasgard Pass, that is for sure!
Stuart Lake Trailhead to Upper Enchantments (Perfection/Isolation Lakes)
After staging one of the vehicles at the Snow Lake Trailhead, we eagerly started our journey from the Stuart Lake Trailhead.
With my 54lb pack (which I do not recommend), I quickly grew tired from the physical exertion and elevation gain to Cohlchuck Lake. We stopped at Cohlchuck for a quick snack and to take in the breathtaking views that surrounded us. Cohlchuck Lake will still always be one of my favorite spots!
The sky quickly turned dark grey; for the first time in over a year, I heard thunder. My heart filled with joy as the memories of home flooded into my head. It started to sprinkle, yet we decided to continue, unless of course we saw lightening. I was actually thankful for the cooler temperatures and the rain drops that were cooling me off, with each kiss upon my skin. Aasgard Pass, ready or not, here we come!
Rangers in passing, said that it can take 2-4 hours to get up Aasgard Pass. At the time, I couldn’t imagine 3/4 of a mile ever taking that long. I soon realized why the climb took so long and how much mental strength is needed to complete it!
With each careful step, my legs, hips, shoulders and back, ached from the weight I had been carrying. Each step came along with me saying, “you can do this”, in my head. I am so thankful for such awesome friends that pushed me and encouraged me during the trek up Asgard Pass, and of course, the goat awaiting our arrival at the top.
Three hours later (yes, three hours), the sun started to fall below the horizon and a beautiful white goat was sitting on a rock, awaiting for us at the top. Looking in the distance, in the opposite direction of the Upper Enchantments, you could see mountain range, after mountain range, with a perfect sunset. Digital cameras sure have come a long way; however, our memories will only know the true beauty, in which our eyes can only see.
As we continued to make our way to through the Upper Enchantments, I immediately realized that each painful step up Aasgard, was worth the beauty that surrounded me. It was more beautiful than any picture could ever portray.
As the darkness was arriving quickly, we decided to set up camp around the first two lakes that we arrived at, Perfection and Isolation Lakes. I had quite the spectacular view from my tent; however, throughout the night, I was slightly irrationally worried, that the wind would take my tent and I over the cliff!
There were at least a half of a dozen goats that surrounded our camp site throughout the evening and night. The amusing and interesting fact about goats, that was often a little annoying, is that they like to drink human urine. The salt content in our urine appeals to the goat.
So, when you get out of your tent to pee, the goat will be 10 feet from you, waiting for you to pee. At times, you have to tell the goat to give you a little privacy, and he will back up a bit. The noise that a goat makes, was also quite different than I expected; they were crying throughout the night, often awakening me from my sleep. However, this soon became music to my ears.
It was so awesome to live amongst the goats for several days and wake up to this sunrise! Oh what it would be like, to be a goat, and to live in the Enchantments!
Perfection & Isolation Lakes to Leprechaun Lake & Core Enchantments
The following day, we packed up and headed to the Core Enchantments, to find the perfect camp site and enjoy the remainder of our time in the Core Zone. After a short hike, we did indeed find the perfect camp site for the 5 of us, right next to Leprechaun Lake, on a tiny peninsula.
We set up camp and enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather.
Frolicking and Swimming the Core Enchantments
Our last full day in the Enchantments was spent exploring, frolicking and swimming in the ice cold alpine lakes. The weather was gorgeous and warm, so jumping in, was rather refreshing!
We searched for the toilet, which is said to have one of the best views in Washington! Needless to say, it did not disappoint!
While my friends ever so gracefully did some yoga, I attempted, but decided I wasn’t quite as nimble as they! I don’t think taking up yoga is in my near future, but where else to try to be flexible, than the Enchantments?
Core Enchantments to the Snow Lake Trailhead
The hike back to the car was around 10 miles, and an elevation loss of 6800 feet. It seemed like the longest 10 miles I had ever done, constantly declining in elevation. Very hard on the good ol knees! At this time, I could appreciate going up Aasgard Pass, but decided that, whichever way one takes, it is a challenge. Like ‘they’ say though, nothing worth it in life is easy!
The views on the way out, did not disappoint.
The four days we spent in the Enchantments, was definitely one of my favorite trips. Each moment your eyes are open, you are looking at a fairy tale world that you could never have imagined existed. I highly recommend applying for a permit and not giving up until you win one!
I often dream of being back in this fairy tale, and of the day upon which I can return!