Backpacking into the alipne wilderness | Enchantments

Enchantments in washington
Enchantments area is a little wonder nestled in the mountains of Leavenworth waiting for being explored by the ones who dare. You need to get the coveted backpacking permit, conquer the mighty Assagard Pass, deal with the sporadic weather to enter the gates of this land of lakes. But its all these challenges that make the journey into the alpine wilderness more worth while.

Enchantments in washington
This hike might not be as daunting to an expert hiker as to ordinary people like us. But when ordinary people set out to conquer it, stories are made to be told. There are two ways to tackle this hike. As smart as we thought we were, we chose the longer route over the steeper. Clad with backpacks loaded with tents for the night, supplies for two days we set out. After hours hauling the backpack on a trail that only went in one direction, of course upwards the first major lake, lake Nada was still out of sight. With curiosity building up we asked the passerby’s how far away we were, about thirty minutes came the answer. Getting a little further we inquired another hiker coming from the opposite direction, an hour he said. “That challenges all the math I ever learnt” said Praveen. It was already dawning by the time we actually made it to the lake. It was a serene scene with no one else but us to admire. The legs demanded a longer break, but we pushed further to at least get to the next lake, the Snow lake before dark. The trail started getting snow covered, a precursor to what lay ahead. With legs withering, unsure how far away we were from the lake, we just decided to camp as we saw a flat ground. Actually a flat snow covered patch. We pitched the tent on snow in the dark, quickly filed our bellies and just retired to sleep.With the low night temperatures and sleeping bags barely keeping us warm sleep wasn’t easy to come. After multiple tossing and turnings I don’t recollect when I drifted to sleep.
Start of the trailhead for enchantments
A clear day to start the hike
Start of the trailhead for enchantments
A stream just before the snow lake trailhead
Lake Nada leavenworth

Snow lake from top
Snow lake on the way to enchantments

Morning brought us beautiful light. We set out on another day of adventure. As we continued  hiking with the trail covered in snow, at one point we saw foot prints going in multiple directions. Ah, what a trap! We took the route with more denser prints only to realize they disappeared further ahead. After some back and forth we were back on the trail and saw a huge waterfall further up. The treeline cleared up and we could see the surrounding sharp spired peaks. A cascading waterfall stretched up and away to the horizon, and we saw dots of people treading their way down. Continuing upward brought us to the mouth of the waterfall and the lake Viviane feeding it.  Whatever breath was left was taken away by the surreal scene of the cragged peaks, the lake and the glistening water. We were now in the core enchantment area. One Lake was followed by another, each fed from small streams or sometimes from  a multi foot waterfall. Everything looked so magical. It was fall and the golden larches were adding to the already unreal scene.

Lake Viviane in Enchantments area
Lake Viviane and the surrounding peaks

Stream in the core enchantment area
enchantments in leavenworth washington
Inspiration lake

enchantments in leavenworth washington
Contemplating the right way

enchantments in leavenworth washington
Enchantment lakes in fall, the larches changing color to shades of yellow
enchantments in leavenworth washington
Enchantment lakes
enchantments in leavenworth washington
larches in enchantments in leavenworth washington
The colorful larches in enchantments

We embarked on the last two lakes, Perfection lake and Isolation lake which were completely frozen by now. We had to now combat Aasgard pass and make it to the Colchuck lake below. A fellow hiker thoroughly analyzed our gear, rather lack of and predicted its gonna take a while for us to get down. Shunning it, I thought to myself it should be easy to go down the boulder field, insensitive to the difficulties the snow poses. Each step had to be carefully laid out. The snow cleverly deceiving the possible gaps between the rocks, which you sure don’t want to lay your feet in. It took twice more than the time we anticipated to go down the vertiginous scree slope . By the time we reached down to Colchuck lake it was almost  dark and the trail didn’t lend itself obvious. We decided to camp for the night and didn’t push through to get back to the trailhead. This time it was more difficult to go to sleep. The air mattress possibly had a tiny hole and would slowly deflate, leaving us flat on the snow. The night went between pumping air to inflate it and some small short cycles of sleep before it deflated again.

Aasgard pass in leavenworth washington
Aasgard pass from Colchuck Lake
Aasgard pass in leavenworth washington
Looking back at Aasgard pass the next morning
Morning brought a snow storm and we hurriedly made our way out avoiding getting trapped. Almost to the trailhead we were greeted by a cop, calling us out with our first names. We were thoroughly shocked at first and wondered how he knew our names. Apparently friends back home were worried we didn’t show up on the previous day as planned and decided to call 911. With the then ongoing federal shutdown, there were no forest rangers and thus a cop was sent out to rescue. We are so thankful that we are blessed with such wonderful and caring friends. We then grabbed a much earned hot meal in the nearby town, Leavenworth.

enchantments in leavenworth washington

Are you now inspired to set out on this adventure yourself? A very detailed information about obtaining the permit is available on the forest service site here. If you are heading to the state of Washington for this glorious backpacking trip why not also climb a volcano while you are in that area.


  1. So where are you guys based?

    Have you quit your jobs to travel? How do you manage to get so many vacation days?

    • Hi Preethi, We live in Berlin and work fulltime as engineers. We make the most of our vacation time to indulge in these travels 🙂

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