Colchuck Lake Trail, Washington – A Complete Guide to the Lake

Colchuck Lake is a beautiful lake with deep blue, icy waters. It is steep and rough in parts as you make your way to Colchuck’s lake, but it offers spectacular scenery almost to anyone who can handle the height gain of 2,300 feet. Parking spaces at the trailhead as well as the nearby road are pretty much crowded in summer. Colchuck Lake is one of the two entrances to the Enchantments valley. Besides this, another attraction at the trailhead is Stuart Lake, an equally and more accessible destination.

The lake is probably one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the area. The gorgeous blue color of Colchuck Lake (from glacial till) makes it an ideal spot to spend the night. South of the lake is Dragontail and Colchuck peaks. It climbs steeply 2000+ feet up from the lake’s shores to Colchuck Glacier and Aasgard Pass. There is an easier option for little ones with you at Eightmile Lake.

Besides the beauty of its lake, Colchuck Lake Trail is much hyped for the beautiful views it offers. The hike is definitely worth all the hype though. It is often asked, “How long does it take to hike to Colchuck Lake?” Well, it takes you about 2 to 3 hours to reach the end of the trail. However, hiking back down would also take you about 2 hours. So, a total of 5 to 6 hours would be needed for a complete hike of the Colchuck Lake Trail.

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What to Wear for Hiking in Washington?

What to Wear for Hiking in Washington

Always dress up while keeping the weather in view. While hiking, it could be very sweaty while you’re going up on the trail. So, remember you wear what’s comfortable and easy. Wear non-restrictive clothes and avoid jeans, cotton shirts, open-toed shoes, and crocs. It’s important to wear thicker clothing if you’re hiking in rock-filled terrain. We recommend you to wear polyester, nylon, or merino wool, as well as comfortable but sturdy pants, sturdy shoes, and a brimmed hat.

The reason behind suggesting avoiding cotton shirts is that they aren’t moisture-wicking, so you could get sweaty while in the middle of the hike. This could result in you being uncomfortable for the rest of the hike. Hence, avoiding them is better. Also, make sure you wear hike shoes for a safe hike.

Best Time to Hike Colchuck Trail

September to October are pretty much pleasant days to hike the Colchuck trail. Snowfall usually starts from the beginning of November and that could be way too cold for a trip to Colchuck Lake. So, it would be great if you plan your trip before the extreme winters start. The Spring season also brings about spectacular beauty in the Colchuck lake trail. You’ll see fresh colors everywhere!

Other than Spring, Colchuck lake deserves to be seen in both the summer and fall seasons as well. Even in summers, the temperature remains pretty much moderate with cold winds at night because of the huge lake. But the fall and spring seasons win the game anyway. Furthermore, winters could be risky to visit the Colchuck trail. That’s because it snows heavily in the area, and you’ll see mountains covered with snow. It is nearly impossible to hike during these months.

Best Time to Hike Colchuck Trail

Colchuck Trail Hiking Tips

If you’re planning a trip to Colchuck Lake Trail, there are a few tips you must take. Let’s discuss these further.

  1. Check Weather
  2. Arrive Early
  3. Do follow Map for hiking
  4. Carry Along Water
  5. Do not forget Sunglasses and Sunscreen
  6. Wear Hiking Boots
  7. Go hiking between July and October
  8. Purchase Northwest Forest Pass
  9. Wilderness Permits would be required
  10. Camp at Colchuck Lake

1. Check Weather

Before you head over to the Colchuck Trail Hiking, make sure you check weather details and trail conditions. Pleasant weather would make your trip even more enjoyable and comfortable. Hence, ensure that you make the right choice depending upon the current weather of Colchuck Lake Trail.

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2. Arrive Early

Arrive early in the morning to capture the best sunrise views and get a slot for parking your vehicle. The parking lot gets filled up in no time and you’d then have to find some other place to park your car. Also, it would be a great idea if you start the hike early in the morning, explore the entire place and reach home safely by evening if you don’t plan a night stay.

Colchuck Trail Hiking Tips - Arrive Early

3. Do-Follow Map for Hiking

Although the route to Colchuck Lake isn’t complicated, it is still very important to follow a map to reach there and then further next to hike the trail. Trails could be tough and hard at times, and you may lose track. That is why do not forget to follow a map.

4. Carry Along Water

Make sure you carry along some bottles or cans of water when you’re planning a trip. You might not feel thirsty while you’re exploring the lake but hiking through the trail could be tiring and you would definitely need to drink water. So, do carry your water bottles in your backpack.

5. Do Not Forget Sunglasses and Sunscreen

While hiking on the Colchuck trail, it is necessary to wear sunscreen and sunglasses. In case you’re not in a habit of wearing sunglasses, make sure you wear sunscreen. Because of hiking on a heightened trail, your skin could get really tan at the end of the day. So take care of your skin and body!

Do Not Forget Sunglasses and Sunscreen

6. Wear Hiking Boots

DO NOT go hiking with open-toed shoes or slippers. Hiking would be most comfortable if you’re wearing easy clothes and shoes. So, make sure you wear hiking boots for a comfortable hike.

7. Go Hiking Between July and October

Months between July and October are most pleasant in Colchuck lake. Extreme winters could be risky and dangerous along with being extremely cold because of the snow. While extreme summers could be full of moisture and sweat. For these reasons, we recommend you to visit during July and October months.

8. Purchase Northwest Forest Park

For parking at the trailhead of the Colchuck lake trail, it is necessary to purchase the Northwest Forest Pass. You can purchase it from visitor centers, local sporting goods stores, or even online.

Purchase Northwest Forest Park

9. Wilderness Permits are Required

A wilderness permit must be completed at the trailhead. It is mandatory as well as free of any cost. The purpose of this permit is to track usage trends of the area and assist search and rescue efforts if needed in any case of emergency or crime.

10. Camp at Colchuck Lake

Camping could be really fun at Colchuck Lake. If you’re planning camping at the lake, make sure you apply for the permit between May to October. There is a huge demand for camping at the lake every year. For this reason, a lottery is also held to decide who gets lucky enough to camp!

For a detailed guide on the hiking trails in Colchuck Lake, you may visit here. 

Colchuck Lake Trail Length

Colchuck Lake is a difficult 14.5-kilometer loop that features a lake and is heavily trafficked and located near Leavenworth, Washington. It is best used from May until October and offers a wide range of activities from May through October.

The trail winds its way through the trees until it finally reaches the bottom of the terminal moraine of the Colchuck Glacier after a series of bends and ups and downs. Eventually, the trail winds up Aasgard Pass, passing through subalpine firs, larches, and a rock-hopping route.

Colchuck Lake Trail Length

How Hard or Difficult is the Colchuck Lake Hike?

The Colchuck Lake Trail takes different turns and rounds at different points like any other hiking trail. The route entirely isn’t difficult though. It is a moderate to difficult hiking trail but most difficult. Moreover, the trail is heavily trafficked out and back for most of the months due to which it is overall rated as difficult.

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Colchuck Lake Camping Permit

Due to the extreme traffic in Colchuck Lake, a camping permit has to be obtained from May to October. If you’re somehow late for the process, chances are that you won’t get a chance to camp there. A permit for overnight reservations must be obtained between May 15 and October 31. Visiting the wilderness on a day-to-day basis requires a wilderness permit too. At trailheads, permits can be self-issued.

Colchuck Lake Camping Permit

Restrictions

Here are a few things restricted at Colchuck Lake. Whether you’re there for a day trip or camping overnight, you have to follow the rules.

  1. Wilderness permits are mandatory.
  2. Wilderness trail is non-motorized, and no bicycles or bikes are allowed.
  3. If you’re hiking in a group, the maximum group limit is 8 members.
  4. Campfires are strongly prohibited.
  5. The trails to Colchuck Lake, Stuart Lake, and Enchantment Permit Area are not allowed to be used by dogs. Pets are prohibited on the property.
  6. The Colchuck Lake hiker campsites are specifically designated.

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What to Bring at Colchuck Lake?

Here is a list of essentials you must carry along on your trip to Colchuck Lake.

  • Water and food
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat
  • Hiking shoes
  • Camera to capture moments and views
  • An extra pair of clothes which you may need in case of a sudden weather change
  • Swimsuit if you plan swimming at some nearby campground

Where to Stay to Access Colchuck Lake

There are different campgrounds and hotels near Colchuck lake. You can choose any of these depending upon the kind of stay you want. Here are a few camping options and hotels available for the stay which you may consider.

Where to Stay to Access Colchuck Lake

Camping Options

Eightmile Campground – There are tent and RV campsites available at this busy, out-of-town location located 8 miles from town, and reservations will be honored 60 percent of the time. Prices range from $21 to $110.

Bridge Creek – Only six camping sites are available at this site, all on a first-come-first-served basis. However, you can reserve a group site in advance.

Hotels Available

Loge Riverside – You’ll find luxury cabins (2-person capacity) along the river with communal fire pits, grassy lawns, and your very own Traeger grill. Prices vary dramatically depending on the time of year.

Loge Downtown – Rooms here accommodate 2–4 people and have access to the Riverside outdoor facilities as well as a beer garden and café. Prices may vary depending on the season.

Parking at Colchuck Lake

Park on the right side of FS Road 7601 (going up) instead of the left side. A Northwest Forest Pass, America the Beautiful Pass, or Overnight Visitor Parking Pass that comes with an Enchantments overnight permit must be displayed on your dashboard when parking on the road or in a parking area.

Those who wish to purchase a day pass can do so at trailheads, and they must display their pass on their dashboard if they are parking on the road.

The island of the parking area is recommended for day hikers. Permit holders are only allowed to park overnight in the specified areas.

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Driving Directions

Colchuck Lake Driving Directions

You will arrive at Icicle Road about 8.5 miles after leaving Leavenworth, Washington if you take US-2 West. Follow Forest Road 7600 to Forest Road 7601. Keep going straight on Forest Road 7601. Trailhead is approximately 4 miles up this forest road.

From November through May, a winter closure occurs on the road from icicle creek to the trailhead. So, if you’re planning your trip during winter, decide the route accordingly.

Our Verdict

Colchuck Lake Trail is definitely challenging at points. The route could be really steep and rocky, and you’d have to be careful there. Make sure you plan while keeping the weather details in mind. Also, do not forget to follow a map entirely. New places could be really confusing, and you obviously wouldn’t want to be lost somewhere. So be responsible for that.

At the end of the day, Colchuck lake is definitely one of the most beautiful alpine lakes ever and its visits are all worth the hype!

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