With a name like “The Enchantments” the place must be outstanding. I wouldn’t expect to pull up to a parking lot with an outhouse and a mood ring hanging from the wall if the place is called The Enchantments. That would rate a little on my cool scale, mostly because of the ring, but it is not enchanting. It would be weirdly intriguing, not enchanting. The bar is set high for this destination since someone went and called it The Enchantments.
We scored an overnight permit in the Spring, but with the late snow, it was unpassable. We struggled up to Colchuck Lake and found very deep post hole paradise and Aasgard Pass was no way café. I decided to make a day hike in August.
The Enchantments are located in Washington State. It’s about five hours from my home in Central Oregon. Here are the directions to the Snow Lakes trailhead.
You will have to pay for a parking pass at the trailhead, it costs five dollars. If you have a forest pass, you park for free. The trail is a bit different. You start at one trailhead and end at another. I used the loop shuttle to take me from the Snow Lakes trailhead to the Colchuck Lake trailhead and then it was a matter of hiking back to the car. It only cost me $24 for the shuttle, I like that.
Stayed the night in a free parking lot in Leavenworth. I woke up very early to find a parking spot at the trailhead and catch the shuttle at 5 am. The ride to the upper trailhead is maybe thirty minutes. The shuttle was packed so thirty minutes was plenty. I ended up sitting next to a dude that was also solo hiking. He asked me if I wanted to team up for the hike. Awkward. I am a people person, and I do enjoy hiking with folks, but I had planned for this to be a “hike with myself” hike. Even then, I would have plenty of distractions rattling inside my head, had no desire to throw a stranger in the mix. I didn’t want to flat out deny the guy his opportunity to hike with a stuck-up jerk, but I was looking forward to trying to figure out how not to be a stuck up jerk. I figured that a trail called the Enchantments may have some magical power on me, really get into that DNA and mutate away. I was in a bit of a pickle. I have to say there is nothing enchanting about that. What’s up with being in a pickle anyway? If I’m going to get stuck in a vegetable, it sure isn’t going to be a vinegar-soaked cucumber. Unless it’s after a long hike, then I will suck every drop of that vinegar dream juice down and be left with a cucumber skin sleeping bag. The solution to this whole thing was simple. I told him that if we have a similar pace, that it would be ok. He asked me my goal for the trek, I told him I was shooting for ten hours. He said that might be too fast for him, but he would give it a go. It lasted a couple of miles; he had a slower pace than me. It was good to meet him, it was better when I made it up a couple switchbacks on the way to Colchuck Lake and found myself alone on the trail. It happened rather seamlessly. He stopped to put his trekking poles away and said to continue without him, I took his suggestion, and kept walking. There were no see you laters or nice to meet yous. I believe we both had come to the same conclusion, we would part ways. The relief I felt was as refreshing as the cool breeze blowing through the enchanted trees.
The trail is around twenty one miles long and gains altitude quickly for the first six miles to Colchuck Lake and then upward and onward to Aasgard Pass. The way to the lake is easy to follow. From Colchuck to the middle Enchantments you follow the cairns. It gives you freedom to choose your own way, to an extent.
I got my favorite photo during my hike at Colchuck Lake. At the far end, just before Aasgard, I found myself staring at it, but didn’t realize it until I was back home. I was focused on Aasgard and barely took the time to snap and go. I’d like to tell you that if I was to do it over again that I would sit in a zen state and soak up the moment. Truth is, I am very goal driven and had a day to get through the Enchantments and was still at the starting point. It was lock and load on the Altras and take the time to digest it later.
Aasgard Pass was not as difficult as I thought it would be. It is steep and the climb is significant, but I had just hiked Mount Whitney a few weeks prior so it was enjoyable. Now, if you haven’t done anything in the weeks leading up to Aasgard Pass, it might pose a problem for you. Take it nice and slow and you’ll be fine. There isn’t a “trail” follow the cairns. From the bottom, make your way to the left of the grove of trees. Towards the top you will go right, across the little creek. Soon you will be at the top of Aasgard and the beginning of The Enchantments. I saw my first goat on the way up. The goats up there are cool. They look at you but don’t really acknowledge you. They kind of remind me of girls in school before I got the nerve to talk to them. They were mysterious friends eating a lot of green food, not salad, for the girls it was Mike and Ike's and the like. The real main difference between the two is the girls would shave their cool beards off.
The place has a very different feel, it’s unlike anything I have experienced it. I have found that each location I visit has a vibe. I’m not trying to go all hippy and cosmic over here, but whenever I am planning to hike a new location, I wonder what it will look like, but just as much, what it will feel like. Each place has its own personality, and it interacts with everyone differently. It doesn’t take long after to you top Aasgard to realize that this place is special. The little lakes that drain into other little lakes, the rugged terrain all around, the greenness of the foliage contrasting the rocks, the feeling of life all around. It is one of those places where you feel very fortunate to be at, and around every corner, another layer of intrigue. It lives up to its name. They could have called it the beguilments, but probably best to keep it as is since beguilments isn’t a word.
I liked the upper Enchantments the best, Inspiration Lake is really something. I plan on camping out there at some point. Spend the day still. I’m not a big water person, lakes and rivers are nice but seldom do they capture my attention. Inspiration Lake was an exception.
There is a bit of distance between the upper and lower Enchantments. At times the trail is rock, and steep and fun, follow the cairns. By the time I made it down to the Snow Lakes and Nada lake, I was zoned in on getting back to the Subaru. They were nice. If that sounds a little unenchanting, remember water isn’t my big hitter, “they were nice” is how I describe most rivers, lakes and waterfalls that others would say are amazing. Plus I was trying to make the trek in ten hours and time was marching on faster than I was.
It is over six miles from Nada lake back to the trailhead. Good thing it is downhill. The heat of the day and the mileage was making my body want to stop. I came upon other people going down and they had sickly looks on their faces. I have read other reviews of this trail and many make a big deal out of the walk from Nada lake to the trailhead, they liken it to medieval torture. Don’t let it get into your head. Know that you have a long walk in the forest ahead of you and enjoy it. There are some nice views to be taken in. Nothing like what you have seen earlier in the day, but nice. Make sure to stock up on water. It gets hotter and hotter as you drop back down to the parking lot.
I am very glad that I visited the Enchantments. It is worth it. As I mentioned earlier, we had an overnight pass in the Spring, but the snowfall last winter wasn’t going away and Colchuck Lake was as far as we would go that day. Now that I have seen them, I would not go back unless I had an overnight pass. At least two nights. There is so much to see up there, I was only able to scratch the surface as I rushed through. I would not make the trip in a day again. You have to enter the Enchantment’s lottery through recreation.gov to secure an overnight pass. It’s a very popular hike and your chances aren’t great, but enter it each year, your number will be called eventually. If you happen to win the lottery and have an extra spot open, don’t forget about me. I believe the Enchantments did give me a character lobotomy, whisked most of the jerk right out of there. I would make for some good company. I know you are probably shaking your head and thinking that doesn’t sound like much fun. Perfect. I wanted to let you know how I felt when random shuttle bus guy invited himself to hike with me.
If you haven’t been up there, a day hike is worth it, just to see it for a short time.
Here is the video of my trip to the Enchantments.
Making my way to Colchuck Lake. It's a nice warm up climb for Aasgard Pass
Colchuck Lake with Aasgard in the back right.
A good look at Aasgard. Make your way to the left of the upper section of trees.
Just below the upper grove of trees. Follow the Cairns.
I am above the little grove of trees. Traverse to the right and then on up to the Upper Enchantments.
The hike to the Lower Enchantments is enjoyable. It gets steep in places and there are sections where you have to follow the Cairns.
The parking lot is down there, start walking.