This is my third time blogging about this hike, so I obviously like it. It is a good hike to go to when it is raining in other areas as Leavenworth is on the other side of the mountains and can be sunny when it is rainy elsewhere. Today, we avoided the rain in the North Cascades and found the sun at Colchuck Lake. Apparently everyone else had the same idea. It was very crowded. So crowded, that I am not sure I would revisit this trail on the weekend again. We arrived around 9:45 am and parked about a half mile from the trailhead on the road. I guess everyone else was seeking the sunshine too.
Stats per WTA:
Distance: 8 miles round trip, Elevation gain 2280, high point 5580 ft.
Pass needed: NW Forest Pass
WTA Link for more info and driving directions: https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/colchuck-lake
Group size limit for this area is 8 people. Dogs are not allowed on this trail, so leave your furry friends at home. If you want to camp overnight, overnight stays are by permit only and is strictly enforced as this is part of the Enchantments core zone.
The hike begins on the Stuart Lake trailhead, climbing gently through the forest. Enjoy this shade if it is a hot day as this trail can get very warm. This trail is what encouraged me to buy a water filter. On my first hike up, I ran out of water due to the heat, elevation and dry air. After a mile and a half you will have your fist bridge crossing over mountaineer creek. Stop to enjoy the cool air here and take some photos.
After the crossing the trail becomes steeper and rockier, and will continue to get more rocky and steep on the second half of the trail. This portion reminds me a lot of hiking in the Sierras. You will also start seeing some mountain views in this section of the trail. When you stop to catch your breath, don’t forget to look up/stop to let others pass.
In three quarters of a mile, you will come to a junction, keep your head up, as the sign is a little high. At this junction you turn Left to continue to Colchuck Lake. If you want an easier hike, continue straight to Stuart Lake, which is also a very nice destination. Immediately after this turn is another bridge crossing over Mountaineer Creek. This one has some tricky footing, so watch your step. Also, stop to enjoy the view of a big rock slide section with great peak views. Shortly after this crossing there is a spot where you can easily access the creek to filter water, wet a hanky to cool down or take a break.
From here the trail climbs upward with rocky and rooty steps. As you climb, more mountain views will open up. Take the time to stop and appreciate the scenery. There is one spot along the way with a large granite slab with sweeping views. This is a great spot to stop and have a snack and drink some water before the final climb to the lake.
After your break, make the final climb to the lake. You will see a huge rock to your left that reminds me of a whale. When you see that rock, you are almost there. Don’t give up! Once you enter the basin, you will have amazing views of Colchuck Lake, Dragontail Peak, Aasgard Pass and Colchuck peak. As you round the lake to the right, you will come upon a large granite slab that is great for picture taking. From here, search for a lunch spot. We continued on the trail around the lake and over a peninsula, comin upon a nice tarn next to Colchuck. This tarn was less crowded, and was a great swimming place as it was warmer than its neighbor. I took the time to enjoy a dip in the lake while those with me enjoyed a rest and had lunch.
When you head back down the trail after lunching and relaxing take your time on the rocky section going down. You will be tired and “over the rocks” just be careful and get down safely. Once you are back past the second bridge you can relax a little and enjoy a smoother trail back to the lot.