Take exit 85 for State Hwy 970 N/State Hwy 903 N toward Wenatchee, go .3 miles.
Turn left at Sunset Hwy (signs for WA-970 E/WA-903 E/Cle Elum/Wenatchee), and go .4 miles.
Turn right at WA-970, go .2 miles.
Slight right to stay on WA-970, go another 9.7 miles
Slight right at WA-97, go 1.3 miles.
Continue on US-97, for 33.9 miles.
Turn left at US-2, go 5.6 miles. This will take you into, and through the town of Leavenworth.
Turn left at Icicle Rd, on the outskirts of town. Go another 4 miles.
Turn left into the parking lot. This is the trailhead for trail #1553, the Snow Creek Trail, which leads you up to Snow lakes, and beyond, into the Enchantments. And, if you are going to leave a shuttle car at either end of the trail, the other end of the trail comes out at the Stuart Lake Trailhead. Continue on the Icicle creek road another 4.3 miles, until you reach the turn off at Bridge Creek Camp. Turn left, and follow the road until the end, another 3.7 miles, at the Stuart Lake trailhead.
Maps: The Alpine Lakes Protection Society puts out a great waterproof map, of the entire Alpine Lakes Wilderness area. Check out their website at http://www.alpinelakes.org/. For higher resolution, try Topo maps, or print out a 1:24,000 scale map at one of the Kiosks at REI, or Joes, that will focus just on the areas that you want for mapping. Another good resource is offroute.com, and mytopo.com, where you can pick out the type of map you want, and they’ll print it and mail it.
Permits: Be sure to stop at the Ranger station in town, to pick up your permit, the day before, or the day of your hike. Overnight camping requires a permit, and it is a lottery process .The permitting process has now changed! For 2011, Lottery applications are now handled by www.recreation.gov,the same site that processes campground reservations and permits. Applications are now done online, & will be accepted from Feb 28 to March 20. Or, call the call the Wenatchee River Ranger District’s Leavenworth office at (509) 548-6977
Once again, we decide it’s a good idea to head back into the Enchantments, and the initial plan, one that we have planned for over a year now, included the same group of 4 that went previously. Unfortunately, Dan was unable to go this year, so we would be whittled down to 3.
This time instead of doing a Yo-Yo hike, we wanted to travel the length of the trail that ran through the Enchantments, so instead of relying on our thumbs to get us back to our car, we decided to take two, leaving one at the Snow creek trailhead, and the other at the Stuart Lake trailhead, which would be our starting point.
We meet in town for the first night, and stay at our usual haunt, the HJ’s in town…Then; into town for Prime Rib at the Katzenjammers restaurant…The Prime Rib is excellent, worthy of any 4 star establishment! (which, unfortunately, is now closed, as of this post 11-16-2015) After stuffing the larder to the point it’s almost painful, we wander around town, harassing the locals with statements of the obvious. We fail in our quest to find something at least remotely akin to Slurpees, before turning in for the night, leaving the evening slightly undone. No matter, for we came to town for more than eats…
Up and at em early, we drop off one car at the Snow Lake trailhead, and jam Greg and his gear on board and head for the Stuart Lake trailhead. There are several cars here, a good reminder of just how popular this place is. We gear up, and head out, and are pleasantly surprised at how nice a trail it is, winding through the forest and alongside chuckling Mountaineer Creek. 2.5 miles in, we reach the junction for Colchuck Lake, and start climbing…
Gradually at first, and then it starts to steepen, as we get into the granite slabs and jumbled boulders. From this point, up to Colchuck the trail becomes a little more demanding. Just a little over a mile to the north end of the lake, and we are happy to see it!
…By this time, we had traipsed the length of the lake, and had found nothing promising…
Very beautiful, with the jutted peaks of Dragontail and Colchuck towering ominously at the end of the lake. Keeping our eyes on the undulating trail, all the while trying to steal quick glances at the jagged mountain peaks surrounding the lake, we missed the first campgrounds, and continue hurriedly along the trail, looking desperately for a good spot, and were dismayed to find that the remainder of the sites were occupied! By this time, we had traipsed the length of the lake, and had found nothing promising…
We turned around, and headed back, and at the one site that we had already passed that might work, someone else was already setting up camp! Had we made a bad mistake, in not taking the first site we had seen?? After talking to the hiker, though, she told us that they were moving out of their site, in favor of this one, as it had a better view of the lake. Relieved that we had found a spot, we plopped our gear into the site that she was vacating.
…we find out who our neighbors would be, a rather rambunctious group of about 8.
Undaunted in our quest for an even better site, (this site would be a tight squeeze for our tent footprint), we left our gear, and headed back north, and found a much better spot with a larger footprint next to the lake! I stayed to claim our spot and Ed and Greg went back to get their gear, and once they returned, our site now secured, I went and retrieved my pack. It was after we had set up camp, and were looking around, did we find out who our neighbors would be, a rather rambunctious group of about 8.
I would have died of exposure long before they retired for the day…
We bathed in the lake, rather quickly, to avoid forming ice crystals, and then prepared a meal. I thought the water a little too cold to be in for long, but the group next to us??? They had brought inflatables, and played in the water for almost 2 hours!!! I would have died of exposure long before they retired for the day…Greg thought ahead, and brought a new tarp, which we had to rig out to protect ourselves from the showers that broke out during the evening.
It was nice to have shelter without having to hole up in the tent for hours…During the night, we could hear loud rock fall, the sounds echoing and crashing off of the surrounding granite walls, almost like peals of thunder from an approaching storm…