The Many Wonders of Hiking Lake Colchuck

This past weekend Washington experienced unusually high temperatures in the low 100’s! My friend Carrie and I had a trip to Leavenworth scheduled and we were bound and determined to hike to both Lake Stuart and Lake Colchuck. Since both lakes’ trailheads start at the same parking spot, we headed to the left at the Y to Lake Colchuck first for our 12 mile hike.

Getting up at 3:30 am to hit the trail early would be our goal as we left our cozy hotel room a bit after 4:00 am. There was nothing too unusual about the drive except the moon over the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a deer in headlights and man who literally was sleeping face up on the side of the Icicle Creek Road, as we traveled along.

We applied plenty of DEET, unfortunately the only thing I know of that truly combats the reported mosquitos and ticks here. Trust me, I’ve tried many products in my 50 years of outdoor activity and every time someone comes up with a new line of environmentally friendly insect repellent, I am willing to give it a go but I end up spraying the DEET on top after a few minutes.

We headed up the rocky trail, already in the toasty 70’s along Mountaineer Creek with its flowing winds cooling us. Upon seeing the trail junction for Lake Stuart and Lake Colchuck, we luckily took Colchuck, and I’ll get to that later as to why we did.

Getting passed by backpackers, I realize I am getting old and slowing in my 63 years of age. Luckily I have such wonderful hiking companions like Carrie that are a part of my tribe. I suppose they realize my experience is an asset and in return I appreciate their enthusiasm and energy.

Arriving at Colchuck

Lake Colchuck, Dragontail Peak

We arrive at Lake Colchuck just before sunrise. As we watched in amazement, it was everything I had dreamed it would be. The deep navy blue of the lake and surrounding mountain turned a jewel toned turquoise. Dragontail Mountain with snow still tucked on Aasgard Pass reminded me of of a little slice of heaven. The sun then peaked over the mountain to the east and in it’s golden light began to cast shadows and contrast to the trees.

Carrie and I just sat in wonder and amazement at the spectacle of the alpine wilderness.

We like a good charcuterie
Sunrise at Lake Colchuck
Colchuck at Sunrise

Arrive at Sunrise

Lucky us! For the hot temperatures got us up and moving that morning after a fun day in Leavenworth, as we made our way back down the mountain.

We passed quite a number of people that day on the trail and stopped and chatted with “Dave” a firefighter from Cape Cod. Then an entire family at the junction to Lake Stuart.

Lake Stuart

A nursing mom and two families were stopped at the junction to Lake Stuart. As we chatted, they shared yesterday another group had been run out of camp by swarming mosquitoes but they did not heed their warning to turn around.

One of the women shared her horrid evening in a tent in triple digit temperatures with the rest of her family. What should have been a magical backpacking trip ended with they too leaving early completely covered in bug bites.

I asked what they used and it was pretty much every thing but DEET. I just filed it away in my mind figuring there really was nothing left to say that hadn’t been already been said in their experience the evening before.

Although I felt we could have added this extended trip to Lake Stuart, with the heat and getting up early, I felt completely spent at this moment in time, perhaps it was all the wine the day before and just didn’t want to fight bugs like they had.

Until I return again, hopefully soon, it will be an experience of a lifetime at Lake Colchuck in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

You must go there and you can find more pictures here.

Carrie and Lisa at Lake Colchuck Photo Credit “Dave the Firefighter”

The Enchantments

Lisa, Eightmile Lake, The Enchantments

Known as one of the most pristine areas in Washington State, The Enchantments are conveniently tucked in the cascade range near the touristy Bavarian town of Leavenworth. I was lucky enough to be invited with a friend who has applied and was drawn through the lottery system through the USFS with applications beginning in February for the coming season.

The Enchantments have five zones when you apply. It is written, last year 2019, over 18,000 people applied for The Core permit with only 350 or so permits approved. My friend had applied for Eightmile / Caroline Lake, set on the far west side with only 300 permits applied for with most all approved.

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3 Days of Enchantments

     Day 1

Destination: Eightmile Lake 3.3 miles/1,300 elevation gain

Our first day was carrying our packs and trekking to set-up camp. We parked at the trailhead and set off around 11 am. It was already in the 80’s and mostly exposed. The water from the last of spring run off was plentiful along the way.

Candace, Chey, and Ryan

Arriving around 3 pm we had enough daylight to set up our tents, hang our cache away from the critters and have a swim in Eightmile. Dangling on the line, the wind was cool and comforting and dried our dusty clothes from the day.

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Lisa, Chey, Candace and Ryan

That evening, I quickly learned my appetite was 1/2 of a Mountain House so for my next trip I will need to divide the package into two servings so there isn’t so much trash carried out.


My cozy little tent rippled in the wind during the evening as well as a few little pitter patters of raindrops fell at night.


Day 2

Destination: Caroline Lake 4.18 miles/ 2,000 elevation gain (8.5 miles round trip)

My friend Candace and me got up early to a beautiful blue sky. We decided quickly to pack our bags for the day and headed out to Caroline Lake, an additional 2,000 ft elevation gain to 6,200 ft.

Caroline Lake involves backtracking to Little Eightmile and taking a trail with signage that says Trout Cr. Following Trout Creek, you start uphill.


The Enchantment mountains of the Stuart range appeared to grow into the background as we continued to climb. It was hard not to just stop and stare at the beauty as we took our time to catch our breath.


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Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 6.57.27 AMThe wildflowers were beautiful against the burn-out of pine trees as their little heads waved in the strong wind. Due to a recent fire, the soils were rich and fertile and the amount of wildflowers was more than I have ever seen in my lifetime and all at once up a 2,000 foot hillside. I took a lot of video with my GoPro this day because of the wide-angle lens, it was the right choice to take along. VIDEO LINK

We returned around 3 pm so the hike to Caroline Lake was a full day for us. Candace’s daughter was starting to get a bit concerned so make sure you let your party know it is so breathtaking you will want to take your time getting there.

We both felt so complete that this trip and portion of the zones that is most often overlooked, could just very well be just a well hidden secret as we had the hill almost completely to ourselves this day.


This night was still and calm, as we battened down the hatches, donned our repellent and bug nets and started in for the fight of our lives against hoards of mosquitos eager to get their fair share of any bit of bare skin their could find.

We finally retreated to our own tents and just hunkered down for an early evening.

Day 3

Morning at Eightmile Lake

This was an amazing morning. We got up before anyone else at camp. I had my coffee and little bit to eat and we headed to the lakeshore for some reflection photos. I also shot some video of the lake which is nestled between two steep mountains.

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If you are thinking about going to Eightmile Lake and The Enchantments, don’t miss this lovely section. You can view my full video here: FULL VIDEO LINK

Authors Note:  Upon returning to my car, I discovered it had been broken into. LEAVE NOTHING OF VALUE in your car. Thieves know of every hiding place in your vehicle. They even knew about the secret hiding spot under my tailgate of my Jeep and the place where the carpet can easily be lifted to hide valuables. If you can leave your vehicle unlocked that is my suggestion. Luckily, the only valuable I had left was a few lug nuts and my registration and garage door opener. I made it out quick enough to call the neighbors and my husband also quickly changed our codes. Trailhead thefts are very common so remember, leave no trace and plan to leave valuables home.