The Colchuck Lake hike was one of our favorite hikes in Washington. We did this hike beginning of June and by this time the snow has melted, and all the broken trees reported a week earlier were removed from the trail. The trail was mostly dry, with few wet muddy spots, but nothing like our hike in God’s Thumb which was a muddy mess.
The Colchuck Lake is in the Alpine Wilderness, East Washington State, and part of The Enchantments thru-hike or its own stand-alone hike. We only did out-and-back hike to Colchuck Lake and this is a step by step guide on all the details needed for successful hike.
Where Is the Trailhead to Colchuck LAke Hike
The Colchuck Lake trailhead is located southwest of Leavenworth.
From HWY 2, turn south on Icicle Road. At approximately 8.4 miles turn left on Forest Service Road 7601. Forest Service Road SR 7061 is unpaved, rough, and steep and the trail starts after driving 3.7 miles to the Stuart Lake trailhead (it takes ~30 minutes to drive 3.7 miles on this road).
The parking lot for Colchuck Lake is the very last parking lot at the end of the road which is limited and is best to get there early. Parking is now allowed on the road as well.
The restrooms are available at the trailhead (often without any toilet paper or hand sanitizer).
There are no water filling stations on this trail. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you.
Parking Permit: NW Forest Pass, America the Beautiful Pass, the Overnight Visitor Parking Pass, or Day Hike Pass must be displayed on your vehicle’s dashboard.
Restrictions on the Colchuck Lake Trail
- Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
- Campfires are prohibited.
- Camping is allowed only in designated area.
- Group size is limited to 8.
The Colchuck Lake Hike Trail
The Colchuck Lake Trail Out and Back: 8.33-miles
Elevation Gain: ~2400 ft.
This is a beautiful hike to the Alpine Lake and a beginning to The Enchantments thru-hike. The combination of dirt, rocks, and tree roots is what most of the trail is like. In mid-June, when we did this hike, all the snow had melted and most of the trail was dry with occasional muddy spots. The trail gradually climbs through the Alpine Forest along the Mountaineer creek.
The first trail sign you will see is at the intersection of Foot Log and Horse Ford. Stay on the Foot Log trail.
After crossing the first bridge over the creek, at about a 1.5-mile point, is when the forest opens up and you start seeing snow-capped peaks around you. This may be a good place to take your first break. We waited until we gained 1000 ft of elevation and took a break on one of the rocks facing the snow-capped peaks.
After this, you will walk back into the forest and come to the trail sign showing Stuart Lake and Colchuck Lake trail splitting up. Follow Colchuck Lake Trail and soon after there will be a second bridge over the creek and a pile of rocks on the other side.
When we saw the pile of rocks, we got way too excited about climbing over the rocks until we realized there is a hidden trail between the rocks you don’t even notice until you cross the log bridge.
Once over the bridge and through the rocks the creek stays behind you, for the most part, all you see and hear are snow-melting creeks and waterfalls. While hiking up make sure you look up and around you as the views are just amazing all around.
Most of the hike is a gradual and bearable climb. The last 1.5-miles of the hike gets rockier and during this time of the year while snow is still melting, a little wet and muddy but manageable on a sunny day.
When at the peak enjoy the stunning views of the lake and peaks around you. We found a rock close to the lake that we climbed on and took a break enjoying the view.
We did this hike on a Thursday afternoon and there were about five different groups of people around us, but at one point they all got quiet and it was a magical moment to enjoy this beauty in silence. On the weekends this is a much more popular hike.
Keep in mind that this is at elevation 5700 ft. and even though you may have gotten hot and sweaty hiking up, it is a good idea to bring something to cover and warm yourself up with while enjoying the views as the wind is ice cold.
This is the beginning trail for the thru-hikers to The Enchantments and some of them pick Colchuck Lake as the camping spot.
Wildlife on Colchuck Lake Hike
Our fascination with this hike wasn’t just the natural beauty of it, but also the wildlife we’ve encountered.
When you get to the top or close to it you will most likely see a few mountain goats. They are usually mellow and minding their own business. Be respectful and do not get too close.
PRO TIP: The goats that live in the Alpine Wilderness have become accustomed to finding salt in the urine of hikers. This causes them to follow their human guests. The Forest Service has put out this video for hiking safely with goats.
We also encountered a weasel dragging a bunny across the trail. We kind of surprised each other and the weasel definitely wasn’t happy with our presence and perceived threat of losing its dinner and started hissing at us. Make sure you keep your distance.
Birds, chipmunks, and butterflies will be your hiking companions as well.
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