Hiking the Enchantments 2010

The Enchantments are series of alpine lakes near Leavenworth, WA. The beauty of the area draws many hikers. I returned with my friend Rex for a third visit.

Rex and the rest of the group started at the trailhead at 7AM on a Sunday morning.

trail with trail sign on tree

I had to start much later at 3:30PM. Because of the lateness in the year I hiked into the darkness with a headlamp. The trail was easy to follow, and I had all I needed with me, so I wasn't worried. I was surprised, however, to meet two other groups hiking down in the dark.

As soon as I got to camp, we turned in.

Next morning was cold. In fact, it was cold on this hike any time you were not in direct sunshine.

sitting around stoves bundled up

We had camped by the Snow Lakes. The trail in goes across a stone dam that separates them.

stone wall separating between Snow Lakes

However, the Upper Snow Lake had been drawn down to support the steady water needs of the Leavenworth fish hatchery. It was down maybe 50 feet! We hiked along the left side of the lake and up the distant valley.

lake with low water and reflections of mountains

This is me, part-way up. One of the Snow Lakes is visible between the trees.

Larry on rock outcropping with entrance valley behind

We took a break at the first of the Enchantment lakes, Lake Viviane.

guys hanging out beside lake

Then continued on up to Inspiration Lake and set up camp. The rocks shielded us from some of the wind.

a camp in amongst boulders

We had fishermen in our group, and the fishing was good, so we ate fantastic fresh fish that night. In fact we had fresh fish for the next 2 nights as well.

fishermen and their catch

Next day, our goal was the top of Little Annapurna - so named for its similarity to a peak in the Himalayas. (It's the rounded one with the snow on it.)

hikers uptrail and peak behind

The way up was not a difficult climb, except that you are at 8000 feet and the air is thinner. Near the top, the slope becomes quite gentle.

trail up grassed slope and rocks

At the very top are some fantastic rock formations that appear like as if a giant had stacked some flat rocks into rows to use later for flagstones.

gap between stacked flat rocks

How did they get arranged here like this?

a side view of stacked flat rocks

Mt. Rainier was far to the south.

mountain seen through a gap in rocks

I continued on down the other side of Little Annapurna

slope of peak with snow

to a lesser peak which also had very unusual stacks of rocks on it.

clump of flat stacked rocks

My friends continued farther on to Dragontail Peak. Notice that double peak group right in the middle?

ridge of peaks in distance

They climbed to its top. Some of the rocks there would move under them, so they had to be careful.

guys on distant peak

I decided to spend my time exploring the lakes starting from the top.

There are two entrances to the Enchantments. This looks out of the area back to Colchuck Lake. You climb Aasgard Pass to this point. That is the way we came in during my last trip.

a view back on Colchuck Lake from the top of Aasgard Pass

Looking into the Enchantments, Isolation Lake is this first big one.

high lake and bare gray rocky area

I climbed down and found the trail. Along the way I encountered a mountain goat and her baby.

goats browsing around

Then later I saw this little guy.

rodent sitting up on rock

The water from Isolation flowed on down to lower lakes

lake surrounded by gray rock, Prusik Peak in distance

via a series of mostly unnamed small lakes and ponds.

valley with sequence of lakes and streams

Rock cairns indicate the trail. Since the trail is often across granite they are important markers.

stack of rocks with lakes behind

At this elevation, the terrain is stark. The vegetation is very short in this valley because there is very little weather protection.

However, if you get down on your knees you can see some interesting things,

small woody plant with flowers, rocks and snow behind

and tiny flowers.

Inspiration Lake, where we camped, was sparkling in the sunshine.

sunlight on lake water, snowy hills in back

At this altitude, the most glorious plant of all is the larch tree, a deciduous conifer. In the fall, it "blooms" a golden yellow,

Larch needles in glorious gold with some residual greens

and then looses it's soft furry needles. A strong storm the previous week had carpeted the ground with gold.

stone in trail by lake with fallen gold around them

We met a hiker from San Diego who had come to photograph these trees.

a view up to the sky with golden larch in front

From here to just beyond the lower Enchantment Lakes, they frame everything. In the back is distinctive Prusik Peak.

a slope of golden trees

They contrast with the silver of weathered dead wood, and iridescent green of tree lichen.

tree, moss and lake behind

Some were still in color transition. Twisted dead snags made you realize just how hard it is to grow up here.

Larch colors and dead tree trunk

After the night, we packed camp and moved to lower elevation to avoid a predicted snow storm.

Without a mirror, I didn't realize the extent of my "bed-beard"!

me along trail with swept beard

Perfection Lake was below us. The outlet is at the left, where there is a small island.

looking down on a lake and environment

From Perfection's outlet looking over the island is the classic view of Little Annapurna.

view across lake and small island to Annapurna

The waterfall of this outlet is one of my favorite places. (Little Annapurna is still in the background.) I could have stayed here a long time.

waterfall at lake outlet

The waterfall (which you can just see on the right) feeds into small Sprite Lake.

lake with rock mountain wall in back

Sprite's outlet goes down a level

stream with jagged peaks beyond

into another spectacular waterfall

looking up at waterfall along rock

to another bowl of smaller successive

valley with stream and ponds

crystal clear ponds.

clear pond with rocks on bottom

And after a final drop,

water coming through rocks to drop off edge

it arrives at Leprechaun Lake which has lots of little inlets.

lake with larches

It then drops to the last Enchantment lake:

water dropping out with lake beyond

Lake Viviane. Prusik Peak is above it, looking different from the side.

lake with Prusik's ridge wall beyond

The water of Viviane may be calm at its outlet,

wood piled up at lake outlet

but it immediately drops violently away.

steep waterfall from top

The trail is steep too.

looking down on rocks and dirt trail

From there comes the Snow Lakes.

looking across Upper Snow Lake

Then the two parts of Nada Lake. The far part is blue from reflection off the sky.

looking down on lake in green valley

The near one is green from tree reflections.

down by lake with trees behind

We camped the last night here at the far end,

rock camp area looking out to lake

and our fishermen went back to relaxing.

fishing by lake

The final trail was again a mix of rocks,

trail through rocky area

and dirt track.

trail along dirt track

At the end, we re-grouped in Leavenworth for a celebratory lunch.

sitting around outside restaurant table in sunshine

The Enchantments may be a challenge, but they are a valuable jewel that is worth it!