hiking the Enchantments, WA

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

Day 1 – Permit lottery and getting to Snow Lakes

The Enchantments Traverse is one of our best hikes in the world.

Many call it the best hike in Washington State. High praise!

A.H. Sylvester
who explored the area for the forest service in the early part of the 20th century, was so impressed with the chain of high alpine tarns and lakes that he named them the ‘Enchantments‘.

Super popular, you need a Permit to camp anywhere near the Enchantments.

Applications are accepted online from February 28 through March 20 for the following summer. A lottery decides the lucky few. (The website also provides a way to decide permits later in the year as cancellations occur.)

As I had none, I tried for the “Walk-in” Permit available 7:45am each morning, excluding Sundays, at the Ranger Station in Leavenworth. Hiking solo, I felt my odds were pretty good.

Unfortunately, my name was not drawn.

Other hikers explained that I could get a Permit for Snow Zone (still available) and day hike the adjacent Enchantments. That’s what I did.

It’s cheap: $5 per person per day (per day, not per night) which funds the on the ground management of the permit area, plus a $6 per permit fee, which funds the reservation system.

From the Snow Creek trailhead to my campsite was less than 6mi, less than 4000ft elevation gain, so I didn’t start until late afternoon.

Snow Lakes Trail #1553

I found it quite a mellow trail to get up to elevation. Certainly easier than the dread Aasgard Pass alternative.

I hung my bear bag almost over the water, lifting it up there with a long branch.

Fishers should bring a rod. The trout were jumping. Washington State license required.

Everything was set for a BIG day on the Enchantments Traverse next morning. …

See all my photos from this adventure.


Many avoid the Permit hassle doing the Enchantments as a long day hike. I’d say starting at the Snow Lakes trailhead, hiking down and out Aasgard Pass to the Colchuck trailhead, is easier than the other way around.

The two trailheads are miles apart so you’ll have to hitchhike unless you stash a mountain bike at the far end. Or have two vehicles.

… read on – Enchantments (double) Traverse, WA

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