The best way to look at the Enchantments as a whole is in 5 smaller sections that when completed will net you over 20 miles.
Elevation and distances are all approximate, multiple sources report different information.
Section 1: Stuart Lake trailhead to Colchuck Lake, up Aasgard
Stuart Lake Trailhead to Colchuck Lake: Distance – approx. 5 miles | Elevation gain: 2200ft
Aasgard (7,840 elevation): Distance – ¾ of a mile | Elevation gain – 2200ft
Stuart Lake trailhead to Colchuck Lake : The first mile and a half is a gradual hike but will get steeper and rockier as it progresses. The second half of this section will get your heart elevated and will definitely wake up your legs. Consider this a warm up for Aasgard. Once at Colchuck Lake, its glorious crystal blue water, breathtaking Dragontail Peak and Aasgard pass will come into view. The trail takes you around Colchuck and across your first of many (throughout the day) boulder fields to the base of Aasgard Pass.
BREAK TIME: At the base of Aasgard or along Colchuck Lake we will take a break to refuel before we begin our steep ascent.
It’s time to get your big boy/girl panties on because Aasgard is no joke. If the elevation gain doesn’t tax your lungs, it will most definitely challenge your legs and perhaps your balance. This section of the hike will take approximately 2-3 hours and will require strength, balance and your cardiovascular system to be at their best. You will be climbing up boulders and walking on goat trails with crumbly rock beneath. There will be places you will have to hoist yourself up to the next rock, finding your hand grip to help pull yourself up extra steep areas. The false summit can leave you questioning why you ever took on this beast but if you press on and dig deep you will soon discover your why, as you enter the Upper Enchantments.
Section 2: The Upper Enchantments – Lake Isolation, Tranquil Lake
Upper Enchantments: approx. 1+ miles
Elevation loss: to Lake Inspiration: 570ft. | to Snow Lakes Trailhead: 7,700ft
The Upper Enchantments are beautiful. Around every bend and corner there is something spectacular for your eyes and soul to experience. Throughout the upper core the trail will go back and forth between leveling off and declining to the various alpine lakes. Depending on the snow melt there will be multiple snow crossings so poles and hiking boots/shoes with good traction will be useful. Having your phone or camera in an easy to access location will prove to be handy as well. It is so so beautiful.
The first two lakes you will experience are Lake Isolation & Tranquil Lake. From there, the descent to Lake Inspiration & Lake Perfection becomes much steeper in areas and depending on snow melt additional snow crossings may be necessary.
Section 3: The Middle Enchantments – Lake Inspiration, Lake Perfection, Sprite Lake
Middle Enchantments: approx. 2+ miles
Elevation loss – to Lake Vivian: 365ft. | to Snow Lakes Trailhead: 7,130ft.
The Middle Enchantments allows some time to recover from the descending travel as it levels out around the lakes. Keep your camera handy because this area is simply jaw dropping. Around the corner of Lake Perfection, Sprite Lake emerges. Fed from the overflow of Perfection it is a sight to see. From here the descent begins again as you walk next to a fast moving creek that fills Leprechaun Lake.
LUNCH BREAK: Our lunch break will take place on Inspiration or Perfection Lake. This is a great time to quickly soak your feet (they will need it for what is upcoming) and do a sock change. It’s also a great place to refill your water. Remember our time here is limited and we have much distance ahead so you will want to be efficient with your time.
Section 4: Lower Enchantments – Leprechaun Lake, Lake Vivian
Lower Enchantments – 1-2 miles
Elevation loss – to Snow Lakes: 1345ft. | to Snow Lakes Trailhead: 6765ft.
Along Leprechaun Lake the trail levels out slightly and you travel over narrow rock ledges along Leprechaun’s shore and then a steep descent into Lake Vivian.
Fact: Lake Vivian is where God originally gave our hike director, Laura, the heart to “bring people to this beautiful place”.
The drop from Lake Vivian to Snow Lake is roughly 1.5 miles with 1,345 elevation loss. It’s going to feel like more. You will be walking on open rock slabs, broken rock, and narrow trail at times. It is steep and rugged and will test even the healthiest knee.
Section 5: Snow Lakes, Nada Lake and the finish line
Snow Lakes to Trailhead – approx, 8.3 miles | Elevation loss: 5420ft.
Nada Lake to Snow Lakes Trialhead – Distance – approx. 5.5 miles | Elevation loss: 3600ft
Fact: Arguably the hardest part of the hike as at this point your body and mind are done and you have over 8 miles left, with over 5,000 feet in elevation drop.
The trail levels out at Snow Lakes and your body will welcome another break!
BREAK TIME: Our break time will be dependent on our arrival time so in addition to a much needed soak, before we head to the finish line, make sure you invest time in refilling your water.
As we exit Upper and Lower Snow Lakes the trail is level and here we will maximize the momentary flat by pushing the pace. We will cross a dam that separates the Lakes, which does have the potential to be overflowing. From here we start our descent into Nada Lake, crossing many small boulder fields along with another large field established from a rock slide. Upon rounding the rock slide, get your camera ready for the explosive water drainage of the Snow Lakes out the canyon wall.
At Nada Lake the trail momentarily levels out again and then we begin the long arduous hike down, first on the left side of the canyon and then crossing a bridge to the right side of the canyon. The winding climb down the canyon wall will feel like it is never-ending. You will experience some moderate, steep and rugged switchbacks.
After what seems like FOREVER, you will start to see cars driving on Icicle Creek Road, the trailhead parking lot will come into view and will stay in view for many, many more switchbacks. This last part of the trail teases you with the finish line because you can see it for a very long time. Press on and remember your WHY, your steps are freedom producing!
Terrain Tips and Basics
Boulder Fields: For some people, jumping and scaling the boulder fields reminds them of being a kid and to others it rattles their confidence. On this hike, sometimes the boulders are close together, other times you can see gaping holes and rushing water in between them. Some are solid to step on, others may be unstable. The best way to get through boulder fields is to keep moving (momentum is key) and look ahead for your next step and hand placement while navigating your chosen path. Pause only when necessary.
Snow Crossings: Snow melts out from the ground up and softens as the day passes. Some of the snow crossings may be on steep slopes. Always use your trekking poles to keep your footing sure and kick your heels into the snow before moving your weight into the step.
Hiking with Goats: Remember that although they are accustomed to hikers, they are wild animals and a safe distance should be maintained at all times. The trail belongs to them so if they are on it and coming your way, find a safe detour. They are also extremely interested in humans for the salt content of our urine so when relieving yourself, make sure to do so on rocky areas, not on fragile tundra/meadows as the goats will tear up the soil in pursuit of the salt.
Food: Your body needs to take in at least 300 or 400 calories an hour while you’re hiking. If you don’t listen to your body you will be in danger of bonking. On this terrain, that’s bad, very very bad.
Water: Filter your water. You do not want to risk the trots on this hike.
What to expect in terrain:
- Very uneven trail
- Water crossings (including using rocks, branches and logs as stepping platforms)
- Large rocks/branches mid trail
- Large and borderline “are you kidding me” step up/downs
- Granite slabs and broken rock
- LARGE Boulder crossings (many throughout the day)
- STEEP STEEP STEEP shale rock trail
- Snow crossings
- Concrete dam crossing
- Narrow rock trail