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Hiking The Enchantments trail in Washington state in a Day

Updated: May 21

If you're an avid hiker and live in Washington state, then you probably already know about the Enchantments hike. It's definitely the most talked about hike in the region, and for a good reason. The hike is located near Leavenworth and is about 20-23 miles long and over 5,000ft of elevation gain. Part of the hike also consists of Colchuck lake which has a beautiful reflection.

a girl in workout cloths at colchuck lake in the morning

Those who are lucky enough can score a lottery permit to camp within different zones of the Enchantments. The zones made no sense to me before hiking this in its entirety, but you can preview the trail on AllTrails to see where each zone is located. The rest of us not-so-lucky hikers will be left to complete this in a day.

It's advised to use the shuttle service so you can park your car at the end of the trail, and then start at the other side of the trailhead (starting at Stuart Lake trailhead). This way you can go from point to point and head home immediately after - it is worth the money, trust me. You also get the difficult part over with while you're still high energy. The shuttles also help avoid having to deal with a full trailhead because they drop you off; the trailhead was almost full around 5am when we arrived. The shuttles we used only had 2 times it ran, both before 7am. You should not start the hike after 630am if you want to finish before sundown.

Where to Stay

We opted to stay at a cheap hotel in Wenatchee so that we could rise early and rest appropriately post-hike. This helped immensely because we could eat a large breakfast and get a full night of rest before starting super early. We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel.

The lottery for the permits happen once per year in February and is open for a few weeks. You can set a reminder on your phone and on the website, more information can be found here.

What to Pack in your Bag

  1. Freeze dried meals + portable stove + lightweight utensils

  2. Water filtration system, hydration pack

  3. Energy gels and energy chews these will help prevent lightheadedness and keep yourself energized as you begin to fatigue.

  4. Band-aids, first aid kit. The rocks are pretty steep to climb on your way down, and it's easy to get cuts or sores if you accidentally slip.

  5. Sunscreen, hat, etc.

  6. Layers - the weather changed drastically about 3-4 times throughout the hike. It was sunny and warm when we started, then it started pouring rain about 4 miles in, then it got incredibly windy and cold at the top, then the sun came out and it was hot for the rest of the hike.

  7. A change of socks... definitely worth it.

  8. We didn't see bugs when we went, so wouldn't recommend bug spray, you can spray yourself before the hike if you want.

  9. Headlamp or attachable lamp. I've heard stories from friends who had to hike in the dark due to not planning well

Gear Check!

  1. I wear the Merrell Moab 3 hike shoes which are waterproof and super sturdy! These are great for protecting your ankles from being sprained or rolled if you trip over rocks! It's so important that your hiking shoes are well broken into before you attempt this hike. These also have half-sizes which are so useful for some of us to ensure a comfortable fit. Pair these shoes with high ankle socks to avoid blisters.

  1. Extendable Hiking Poles: essential for the hike down; it's somewhere around 7,000 ft of elevation loss; these can help distribute that impact off your knees. I rarely use poles, but opted to bring them for this since the loss was so significant; protect your knees from getting hurt!

When to go

Summertime is ideal conditions, but lots of people like to go in the fall for the "larch march". We went in late August, so wildfire conditions weren't the best, but we got a clear day.

enchantments thru hike

Preparation & Endurance Training

I would say my partner and I were in pretty good shape, but not excessive. We are both long-distance runners and I also do pilates weekly for strength training. Taking up long-distance running has made my hiking experiences much more enjoyable and easier, so that could be a way to lessen the struggle. I think the endurance and mental strength that comes from running for a long time helps with these things.

Intense training isn't completely necessary, but I don't like to suffer through things, so I wanted to slowly build up my endurance so it could be a more pleasant experience overall. I would say we started training about 1.5-2 months before we did this hike. I will also add that i did not bring my dog for the majority of the training trails since it can be a lot for a dog.

Here are some of the ways we trained and continued to increase our mileage before:

  • Half Marathon run at Mt Rainier National Park - this got us in the mountains, so working with some minor altitude, long distances on a trail (13 miles), and increasing our mental strength.

  • Mailbox Peak: this one was to help us get comfortable with lots of elevation gain in a shortened period. We did the old trail up and new trail down. This was a great way to prepare for the ascent up Aasgards. We had no issues on mailbox and felt like it was pretty moderate and got to see some cute mountain goats at the top! If you're strictly training then you can do this hike a couple of times beforehand.

  • Ptarmigan ridge in Mt Baker [14 miles]: this one was our last hike before Enchantments, about 2 weeks before. This one we learned a few lessons on hydration - we ran out of water and due to the completely exposed hike we experience bad dehydration, we bought lifestraws after this which we brought for enchantments (and are totally necessary!)

Another close-by hike that can help is Mount Si (~8-9 miles and doing haystack rock scramble will give you some practice with traversing loose rocks and really anything in the North Cascades too (e.g., Vesper Peak, Maple Pass, etc.)

Now let's get to the actual hike...

The forecast wasn't great in the days leading up to our hike, but the day ended up being pretty much perfect. Wildfire smoke was really bad that week due to an ongoing forest fire, so we took a gamble with going, but it surprisingly cleared up when we were hiking and was a great day. We were tracking the wildfire smoke in the air since it's not advisable to do strenuous hiking if the air quality isn't great. You can check it here on AirNow and PurpleAir. It really can change quickly, it was extremely smokey on our drive to Wenatchee the night before, but the mornings are usually a bit clearer, also why it's good to start early!

We parked at the Snow Lakes trailhead, then used the shuttle service (you can book online in advance here) and they took us to the Stuart Lake trailhead to begin around 530am. The shuttle ride takes about 30 minutes; the road was pretty bumpy. We quickly removed layers about 15 minutes into the hike because it was mostly all uphill and we started to sweat already. We started in the dark, but there were lots of other people so we felt pretty safe. We arrived at Colchuck lake around ~7:15am and the sun was up.

We refilled our waters a bit and then headed for Aasgards; we started around 830am (pictures above). It was a little confusing finding the path to start going up, but we saw lots of cairns and were instructed by Alltrails reviews to follow them which really helped. As we started going up, it began to start pouring rain, it didn't last long, but one of the other hikers near us said this was actually ideal conditions for Aasgards as the rain packs in the dirt more, making it easier to hike (vs trying to go up on loose dirt). Aasgards was a great workout, I did not find it scary/intimidating like I had expected, but that's probably because i've done some sketchy 14er hikes in Colorado, so I thought there would be dangerous areas/drop-offs, but it was not bad. We pushed through and got to the top a little before 10am and took a break for a little bit. The top was super windy, so we put our layers back on that we had taken off.

We didn't take too long of a break because we needed to escape the crazy wind, but the sun eventually started to come out and we could find a spot to rest. I definitely recommend freeze dried meals as they are lightweight and very calorie-dense. We found a nice spot by the river where we could enjoy the view and meal. We had 2 for breakfast at 4am and then each had a meal at lunch. We also had a few energy bars and lots of gels and energy gummies. The sun started to come out too which was so nice! We also used this break to charge our apple watches with our solar-powered battery charger.

After lunch we started the majority of the 7000ft descent. There were lots of lakes and lots of rock to climb down. We didn't realize how slow you would have to go for the descent; there were several areas that were steep, giant rocks we had to crawl down. I can't imagine doing this in the dark. The views were wide and breathtaking; it's surreal being so remote, yet part of this collective experience with others seeking to achieve the same feat.

The hike seems like it will never end, especially after you've passed the top and all the scenic parts. There are still some nice areas towards the end, but it really just feels like you are mentally pushing towards the finish line and working against the clock.

We finished the hike around 8pm, just before sundown. When you see your car from the trail you still have about ~1 mile left to go. We were so dead during this last mile, it truly is a mental game. We felt so fatigued, but the only choice you have is to finish. Once we got into the car we felt so exhausted and immediately treated ourselves to a large meal at Burger King to celebrate accomplishing our longest day hike ever!

So here's the stats...

We took several breaks, but not for too long since we wanted to finish before sundown. The workout time was our hike and the elapsed time shows how long we took for lunch at the top.


Tips & Advice

outdoor hiking toilet at the enchantments
  • Try to go to the bathroom beforehand; I had to go during the hike and that was an... experience. I recommend preparing by bringing dog poop bags. I bring my Ruffwear Pack Out bag for when my dog poops on hikes, but of course you can use it for anything and it will prevent the smell from escaping. See the photo on the right of the "bathrooms" located along the trail. Most of them we're full.

  • I got AllTrails Pro for this hike because it's pretty helpful to have it downloaded and to read about the hike beforehand. It's a very very long hike and even with its popularity there were several instances where we didn't see other people for awhile and went off trail accidentally a few times when we weren't paying attention.

  • I opted not to bring my camera because it would add extra weight. In retrospect, I definitely could have, but there isn't a ton of time for photography and I would say this hike is more about the experience than the pictures. While it is a beautiful place, there are much more beautiful hikes out there to do photography on.

  • Our apple watches were not going to last the duration of this activity/day, so we charged them during our break/lunch at the top and we kept them in "lower power mode" for the activity. It was so cool to be able to log the entire hike since it was the longest we'd ever done.

map of photos on the enchantments hike
  • Choose your hiking partners wisely because you'll be stuck with them all day and a slower pace could be a nonnegotiable for you when it comes to wanting to finish this in a day. My boyfriend and I decided to go without friends for this reason, though if we were camping we definitely would have brought along more people.


Hi! I'm Jackie and my dog is Sora. I work remote as an engineer, but I love to spend my free time in nature and by traveling to new places. I take my camera wherever I go, and sometimes my drone.

Somewhere With Sora is a Seattle-based lifestyle and travel blog that provides helpful travel and adventure tips for all kinds of trips, with or without the dogs.

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