The name “Colchuck” comes from the Chinook, meaning “cold waters.” (The name is shared with a nearby peak.) The lake is a well-known destination within the Central Cascades for hikers seeking out the beauty of The Enchantments. It is often described as one of the most beautiful areas in the United States.
Facts about Colchuck Lake
- Location: The Enchantments, Chelan Country, Washington
- Maximum Depth: 190 ft
- Surface Area: 87.8 acres
- Elevation: 5,574 ft (1,699 m)
- Primary Outflow: Mountaineer Creek
The Enchantments is a region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Chelan County, Washington. It is part of the state’s Cascade Mountains. Over 700 individual alpine lakes within this area are well-known for their bright blue color and clarity. These lakes are formed from snow and ice runoff, meaning that the water is incredibly cold all year long. The region sits at an average elevation of 4,500 feet, but the tallest peak, Dragontail, stretches to 8,840 feet.
Credit: Jeffery Pang
Colchuck Lake Characteristics
- Within the famously beautiful The Enchantments.
- Surrounded by rocky mountains like Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak.
- The water is a clear, blue color.
- Located in an area that is quite busy at peak season.
- Contained by a masonry dam.
- Accessed by an eight-mile, out and back trail.
- Permits are required to camp in the area around Colchuck Lake from May 15th-October 31st.
Why is Colchuck Lake Special?
Colchuck Lake is a famous destination among hikers in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the first major alpine lakes that visitors to The Enchantments region of the Central Cascades get a look at as they travel the long, steep trail. Its bright blue waters are striking, as are the profiles of surrounding peaks like Dragontail Peak, which can be seen at the far end of the lake.
Credit: Laurel Fan
How to Get to Colchuck Lake
Colchuck Lake is located within a remote section of the Central Cascades in Washington State known as The Enchantments. The lake requires an eight-mile round trip with 2,280 feet of elevation gain. The lake is located around fifteen miles from the city of Leavenworth, Washington, and within the corner of the Icicle Creek Canyon.
Credit: Open Topo Map
The trail starts on Forest Service Road 7601, also known as Eightmile Road (this road is closed seasonally due to snow and ice conditions). The first part of the hike takes visitors through a fairly dense forest that is part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area of Washington State. The first part of the hike is easy and allows visitors glimpses of Mountaineer Creek, Colchuck Lake’s primary outflow. The main part of the hike begins after crossing the creek via a bridge and ascending a series of sometimes loose switchbacks. Eventually, visitors reach a junction for both Stuart Lake and Colchuck Lake. From there, hikers should stay left and cross another log bridge.
The climb continues to gain in elevation before finally reaching the blue-green waters of Colchuck lake. Hikers can continue up Asgard Pass into the Central Enchantments region.
Can you swim in Colchuck Lake?
Yes, it’s possible to swim in Colchuck Lake. In fact, it is a popular pastime, especially in the summer months when the alpine region of The Enchantments is in full sun all day.
Do you need a permit to hike Lake Colchuck?
No, if you are only hiking to Colchuck Lake or father into The Enchantments and back on the same day, you do not need a permit. Permits are only required between May 15 and October 15 if visitors spend the night.
How long of a hike is Colchuck Lake?
It is four miles to hike from Eight Mile Road to Colchuck Lake. But, visitors should keep in mind that it is a full four miles back to the trailhead as well.
How do I get to Colchuck Lake?
The best way to access Colchuck Lake is from Eight Mile Road, also known as US Forest Service Road 7601. A trail leading up to Colchuck Lake, and the broader Enchantments region, begins here.
Is Colchuck Lake a hard hike?
Depending on one’s fitness, the hike up to Colchuck Lake can be quite difficult. It is an eight-mile round-trip with an elevation gain of over 2,200 feet. But, the real difficulties begin after Colchuck Lake when visitors begin the arduous climb up Asgard Pass.
Can you swim in Snow Lake?
Yes, Snow Lakes, within the Enchantments region of the Central Cascades, is a popular swimming destination for hikers within The Enchantments during the summer. But, visitors should keep in mind that these lakes, and all of the alpine lakes in this area, are created due to snow and ice melt from the surrounding peaks. This means that the water can be incredibly cold all year long.
Can you drive to Colchuck Lake?
No, Colchuck Lake is only accessible via trail. Visitors have to make the eight-mile round trip up to Colchuck Lake if they want to see its pristine blue waters.