Ellen Parker - Enchantments

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running the Enchantments Loop

 By Ellen Parker

If there is a place on this planet we call Earth that reminds me of what a different planet may look like or even better if there is a place where little elves and gnomes may exist, it could be here. If you’ve been somewhere that makes you tingle on the inside it’s probably here, The Enchantment Lakes in Wenatchee National Forest. I was tingling for a week after running around the Enchantment Lakes region outside of Leavenworth, Washington.  The Enchantments are part of National Forest Land and requires an overnight permit for camping.  This is a perfect example of why I run. You can see more in a shorter amount of time while carrying less weight and you don’t need an overnight permit!!

Krissy Moehl and I left Seattle on a dreary early August morning. It was forecasted to rain all day Sunday, as it had all day the day before. 

Driving Directions (3 hours driving time) from Seattle to Enchantment Lakes Loop outside of Leavenworth, WA:

From Seattle take Interstate 5 north to Everett. In Everett, take Highway 2 over Stevens Pass to the eastern side of the Cascades where it is generally drier than western Washington.

As soon as Krissy and I crossed the high point at Stevens Pass and were on our way down towards Leavenworth the sun came out for the first time in a few days.  This always helps the morale of the bunch.

Highway 2 drops directly into Leavenworth, WA.  Take a right onto Icicle Creek Road and drive for about 3.5 miles to the Snow Lake Trailhead.  From here there are options. You can park here and start your day or you can drive 4 more miles on Icicle Creek Road to Road 7601 which is part of the running loop.

The Run and Trail Description:

We bypassed the Snow Lake Trailhead parking lot and drove on to the Road 7601 on the left where we parked the car on the side of the road.  We ran back on Icicle Creek Road 4 miles to Snow Lake Trailhead predicting that later the pavement would hurt that much more.  I would suggest this to anyone running the entire loop!

From pavement to Snow Lake Trail!!  This is an amazing climb gaining 6500 feet over 10 miles that definitely gets the body, mind, spirit, legs and lungs pumping. The Snow Lake Trailhead has an elevation of 1300 feet. The first lake is called Nada Lake which is about 4 miles in and at about 5000 feet. Lower Snow Lake is about a mile further and lies at 5400 feet.  Check out the Horse’s Tail between the upper and lower Snow Lakes!!  After cruising past Upper Snow Lake you will know that you have reached the Enchantment Lakes region.  Suddenly you’re ascending huge granite slabs while encountering Lake Viviane and more than likely mountain goats! From here there are beautiful views of Prusik Peak to the north and McClellan Peak to the south. This is the beginning of a 5-mile stretch of trail that takes over the senses! The lakes are pristine. The granite slabs are monstrous. The large larch trees have an amazing presence turning golden in the fall.  The waterfalls are crystal clear and ever so peaceful. With the mountains of the Stuart Range looming overhead you can’t ask for a more beautiful moment than this!

Aasgard Pass lies at 7800 feet and is the high point of the run. From here the descent down from Aasgard Pass to Colchuck Lake is only a mile but descends about 2200 feet in that mile. The slope consists of very loose rock large and small.  One must proceed with caution down this slope.  From Colchuck Lake descend a 1.6 mile section of trail to the Mountaineers Creek Trail 1599.  Follow this trail for 2.5 miles to the Colchuck Lake Trailhead parking lot. Some people stash a bike or a second car here. Our car was at the bottom of the 2.5 mile dirt road.

We took 7.5 hours to finish the loop. We both took our time to absorb the beauty and rushed when the trails allowed for it. I would recommend bringing 12 hours worth of supplies for safety.

What to bring:

  • Map and Compass (recommend Green Trails Maps NO 209S)
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Hydration Pack with 12 hours of food.
  • Refillable water bladder (refill is possible right before Lake Viviane but recommend iodine - we didn’t use any and were fine)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Rain jacket
  • Whistle (safety first)
  • Trail Shoes (I used my La Sportiva Crosslites which worked great on the technical slope down from Aasgard Pass)

When to go:

The best months to run this loop are August and September. Since it reaches 7800 feet you will encounter snow and bits of glacial travel throughout the summer months.  September is best for the full effect of the golden Larch trees!










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