Lake Stuart and Colchuck lake trail is an absolutely must-hike trail in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Leavenworth area in Washington.
Lake Stuart trail is rated as moderate, and it is not very difficult compared to Lake Colchuck. If Colchuck gets a 5 for view and 4 for ease, Stuart gets a 5 for ease and a 4 for view.
Location: Central Cascades – Leavenworth area
Length: 9 mi., roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1665 ft. Highest Point: 5065ft.
Parking Pass/Entry Fee: Northwest Forest Pass
I hiked Lake Colchuck at the end of September of 2018 and finally did Lake Stuart last Sunday (June 21, 2020). We got to the trailhead by 8:45 am and got back to our car by 5:30 pm. Lake Stuart is way quieter, and we managed to find a waterfront rock and enjoyed our alone time. We took a long nap after having lunch, so that was nice!
- Lake Stuart, Lake Colchuck, and The Enchantments Core share the same trailhead, so it’s a VERY busy trail, especially on the weekends. The parking lot here is filled up quickly, and a parking permit is required to park your car overnight at the trailhead’s lot. So arrive early to avoid having to park your car so far away!
- At the fork where you’d have to pick Colchuck or Stuart route, I guess it’s easily mistaken, so lots of people had to make a U-turn. Just be sure to pay attention to road signs since going straight leads to Stuart, and making the left turn is to Colchuk.
- Always look for nice sunny weather before heading out! This area will not have wifi service, so download the map area ahead if you can.
- Read reviews HERE and watch out for things like BUGS, SNOW, TRAIL CONDITIONS, ROAD CLOSURE.
- Wear appropriate clothes (I didn’t this time and failed to notice the BUGS warning when reading reviews on WTA. You’ll see how pathetic and sad my back and arms look in some of the photos below! I went to war with the mosquitos, and apparently, I lost! Miserably!)
- Bring sunscreen, bug spray, snacks, and extra water
- Check HERE for passes vs. permits to better plan your hike
- June is the cherry season in Washington, so definitely look up a cherry farm in the Leavenworth area. I go every year!
- Stop by Leavenworth for beers and brats and browse some local shops there if you have some daylight left. It’s a tradition that I’ve been doing for the past 3 years every time I make a trip out here in the Leavenworth area.
FREE OVERNIGHT PARKING SPOT: If you’re looking for a spot to park your car (in case the trailhead is full and you don’t have time to apply for a permit), stay at Leavenworth. I found this public parking lot in Leavenworth on Reddit, so we decided to pack warm stuff to sleep in the car and opt for that route since it’s only 35 minutes to drive to the trailhead. There are public bathrooms, Safeway, Starbucks, and many gas stations, so that is not too bad with our camping experience. If you’ve never been to the area, I recommend booking your hotel room or Airbnb ahead of time in Leavenworth or Wenatchee since there might be limited capacity due to COVID.
The Enchantments is one magnificent place, easily the most beautiful place in Washington that I have yet to explore. Through hiking into the Enchantment in the fall for larches is my goal for 2021, so wish me luck! I know that camping in the Enchantment is by permit only from May 15th to October 31st. The permit is awarded by the Forrest Service through a lottery system that opens in February.
Lastly, if you’ve never hiked in The Alpine Lakes Wilderness area before, definitely hike Colchuck first!