The Stuart Lake Trail #1599 begins by following Mountaineer Creek into a mixed forest of alder and pine. Within a quarter-mile the trail crosses gently into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and the canopy slowly opens as you pass through talus fields and across log bridges. The rushing sounds of the creek remain a fairly constant companion as you steadily gain elevation along the hard-packed trail increasingly lined with Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines. At about the two-mile mark find the junction with the Colchuck Lake Trail #1599.1 (sometimes referred to as #1599A) and head left to push up toward the lake.
From the junction, the once-friendly trail becomes steep, rocky, and difficult. Rocks and roots dominate the trailbed, and tight switchbacks become common. As you navigate tricky sections of trail, keep an eye out for reasons to stop and catch your breath. Youll cross Mountaineer Creek on a large log bridge, and soon after have a pocket-view of Colchuck Peak rising in the distance. Beyond, splashing waterfalls and broad vistas beg for a moments pause. As you near your destination, cross exposed granite faces and find yourself inexplicably descending dozens of feet of hard-earned elevation before beginning the final set of switchbacks up to the lakeshore.
Eventually, the trail spills out onto granite bluffs high above the north end of the lake, quickly showcasing the rocky spires that surround the blue-Green Lake
. Across the water Aasgard Pass beckons from the low saddle between Enchantment Peak and Dragontail Peak. Further on Colchuck Glacier clings to the side of Colchuck Peak, slowly feeding the lake below. Press onward along the lake shore to find access to the shore or a suitable campsite. A designated day use area can be found next to Little Colchuck Lake a half mile down the trail.
Still thirsty for adventure? The trail continues around the lake and snakes up Aasgard Pass and into the realm of the gods: the Upper Enchantment Lakes Basin. But a word of warning; this approach is not for the inexperienced. The route is steep and can be treacherous under certain conditions, as most of the trail is comprised of boulder and scree. Be sure you know what youre doing, and unless you have a lot of experience and training, avoid an ascent in the snow.
Its no surprise that this eye-popping alpine lake is incredibly popular. If the stunning lake color set against a dramatic backdrop of mountaintops were not enough, the quick backdoor approach the Enchantment Lakes Basin provides more than enough enticement to backpackers. The rough and rocky route can be difficult, and will challenge some hikers. At the same time, this trail makes for a great backpacking destination for those looking for a training hike. If you havent already, find time to tackle this classic hike.
Colchuck Lake is nestled in a rocky cirque beneath a trio of craggy mountains Enchantment, Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks and plays host to multitudes of hikers every year. While many know that colchuck means very cold water or ice water in Chinook Jargon, far fewer are aware that the glacier-filled lake acts as a irrigation reservoir for nearby farmers and residents. Back in 1926, a severe drought highlighted the need to supply water to Leavenworth and the surrounding areas during dry spells. Within a few years, the Icicle and Peshastin irrigation districts had come together with a plan to dam alpine lakes to act as reservoirs. Four lakes were ultimately chosen to supplement seasonal water flows: Colchuck, Eightmile, Klonaqua and Square lakes. By 1930, a dam was constructed at Colchuck Lake, and todays trail likely follows a route blazed for the construction of that dam. In 2005, the dam began to fail causing the lake level to fall dramatically. Repairs the following year returned the lake to its familiar reservoir levels. Today, Colcuck Lake is part of an irrigation system that includes 60 miles of canals supplying water to over 8000 acres of farmland and orchards.