Colchuck Lake

Colchuck Lake

Where do I begin? Over Memorial Day weekend, we were over in Fish Lake, next to Lake Wenatchee in the Cascades. We thought we’d be enthusiastic and hike our first day camping, on Friday. However, arriving late Thursday put us in bed after midnight, so my wife and I hiked on Sunday instead.

First, it was great weather. Low-to-mid 70s in the afternoon. We got to the trailhead about 10:30am. There were a lot of people. If you’re unfamiliar with Colchuck Lake, it’s part of The Enchantments, an area full of lakes and trails in a very picturesque area. It’s so popular with overnight hikers, there is a lottery in February to limit the number of hikers. Day hikes are unregulated.

It’s a challenging hike. Really. It’s 4+ miles one-way, and 2300′ of elevation gain. That’s roughly 550′ per mile. By average. But in reality, it’s a pretty easy hike the first two miles. There are some steep sections, but not a long slog going up. Some stream crossings were pretty nice, great spot for a rest. If there weren’t so many people. Holiday weekend, I know. The second half of the trail is all uphill. Ugh. It’s a beast. Take your time. The end result is worth it.

The hike also gives you glimpses of where you’re going, which many of my hikes don’t. There are good vantage spots where you look up and say, “There’s a lake up there. Somewhere.”

The Trail

It’s a tick longer than 4 miles, according to FitBit. It’s dirt. It’s rocks. It’s roots. A ton of roots. It is one of the most unwieldy trails I’ve been on. Trekking poles would be a benefit. I didn’t use any, but I probably should have. As mentioned earlier, the first half of the trail is pretty easy. There’s a point in the trail where you take a bridge over a creek and into a huge talus slide (big, broken rocks in a huge area). Winding to the right, and following the creek a little, this is where it begins. By “it” I mean the hike uphill.

The hike up is a bear. I would despise it if I was carrying a 40-lb pack for staying the night. However, there are a handful of flat rocks that you can take a break on and enjoy the vistas.

Despite the struggle up, Colchuck Lake doesn’t disappoint. There are many vantage points to view the lake. The North end of the lake, which is the first part of the lake you arrive at. We did not see any clear trail, we kinda just made our way through some of the brush.

Following the trail leads past a pit toilet, and then to a nice, large rock platform that everyone tends to rest at. Venturing further can get you to the South end of the lake, at the base of Colchuck Peak and Dragontail Peak.

Be well rested when you begin your decent. I found it to be not as fast as I would have hoped. The steep incline makes it a steep decline over all the rocks and roots. Definitely a reason to be safe and slow.

Overall, it took us about 5.5 hours. My FitBit shows 5 hours, 15 minutes, but I don’t hold a lot of trust in that number. At least, that is the bare minimum, since often it does not record all truly “active” minutes.

Gear

Took my Osprey Talon 22 pack, 2L of water, some snacks, Marmot PreCip jacket and Sierra Designs rain pants (weather did look threatening at times). I wore my Asics Gel Venture 4 shoes. These are one of the most comfortable shoes I have worn on the trail. I was surprised at the shoe’s resiliency to the rocks and roots. I felt more sure-footed wearing these than I did my Salomon mid-hikers on other trails.

Also brought my Canon 60D with a zoom and wide angle lens. I carry it using a Peak Design CapturePRO strap mount. Basically, the camera has a tripod mount screwed to the base, and that attaches to a clamp on my backpack strap. It’s pretty slick. I got a shot of a mountain goat I would not have gotten otherwise. I just had the wrong lens (wide instead of zoom).

 

WTA: http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/colchuck-lake

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