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Colchuck Lake via Stuart Lake Trail
Timestamp Free: 2020.07.11 - 13:16:17
Ranges: North America Ranges / Pacific Cordillera Range / Cascade Range / Washington Cascades
  (1 days)     Elevation Gain: 655m
Participants: Lucas Earl, Ethan Barrett, Kenny McDermith, Meredith Sampson, Ryan Davenport, Megha Arora
Difficulty: 1: Well maintained trail
Popular trail up to Colchuck Lake
Weather: Hot and sunny

Colchuck Lake is one of the more popular dayhikes in the Central Cascades, featuring a large alpine lake and views of the daunting Stuart Range. This, coupled with its location as the "back door" into the Enchantments, makes for a well visited destination. Being on the east side of the crest, it is also a great early summer hike, before the lakes and high alpine have melted out on the west side. So, despite the extremely hot forecast (mid 90s expected in nearby Leavenworth), 6 of us piled into my housemate's car and drove the 2.5 hrs from Seattle across the mountains to this trailhead. Driving from Leavenworth on the paved Icicle Creek Road was easy, and the road up to the Stuart Lake Trailhead was steep but passable for pretty much any vehicle.

After a slight delay at the Eightmile Creek Trailhead (which we erroneously thought was our correct trailhead) we made it up to the area of the Stuart Lake Trailhead at 11 am. Since this trailhead is both the starting point for Colchuck Lake and the popular loop through the Enchantments, it was not surprising we were parked a bit down the road, rather in the lot itself. This is very common on weekends.

After registering at the trailhead (all daytrips to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness require a free-issue permit), our group started up the trail, which almost immediately enters the wilderness area. Much of the first section of trail is in sound but not sight of Mountaineer Creek, through standard dry-side-of-the-Cascades forest. It was already hot, not a great sign for the more exposed sections of the trail farther along.

We reached the jct for the stock crossing, and soon after the hiker bridge over the creek. As warm as it was and considering the time of year, the water was raging by below,...

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