Alternately known as the Enchantments or Enchantment Lakes, this eastern-slope high-elevation basin in Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness is home to some of the best hiking in the Pacific Northwest. The area's reputation is well deserved, and it is also well broadcast, so if you want to hike in this granite and alpine lake paradise, you'll either need to be organized enough to apply for an overnight permit, or you'll have to be fit enough to make a day trip of it.
To get into the Enchantment Lakes Core Zone, you can either depart via the Snow Lakes Trail, which is roughly 10 miles in one-way and 5,830 feet of elevation gain, or you can make this more direct trek via Colchuck Lake, which is roughly 3 miles shorter one-way with a trailhead located 1,500 feet higher. Regardless, to climb up the entire trail all the way to the top of Aasgard Pass in one day you'll have to complete a 4,320-foot climb, which will test your strength and endurance on the way up and your knees on the way down.
The rocky landscape at the top under the shadow of Dragontail Peak is free for open exploration. A defined route is well marked by cairns every 20 yards or so, and subtle side trails lead to most of the lakes. Be sure to mind your step, as the high-elevation area of the Enchanment's is a sparsely-vegetated, fragile, tundra-like landscape. From here you can also traverse the talus slopes of Little Annapurna (8,364'), where some of the best views can be found with relatively moderate effort.
Overall, you'll certainly be impressed with this alpine/subalpine wilderness, and find few other landscapes are so densely packed with incredible vistas and stunning wildlife.
Because of its popularity, the Enchantments are on everyone's to-do list, and access into this alpine wonderland is strictly controlled. Protected by the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the Forest Service has instituted a permit lottery for all overnight camping from May 15 through October 31 for the following five distinct camping zones (from east to west):
Application for the lottery takes place February 15 through March 2, and the Wenatchee River Ranger Station in Leavenworth reserves a limited quantity for day-of applications that are given out on a first-come, first-served basis. For this backpacking trip, a permit for either the Colchuck or Core Enchanment Zone will be necessary.
To mitigate detrimental human impact to the area there are Rules and Regulations that have been established and should be well understood, including no campfires above 5,000 feet. Do note that permits are not required for day use, and if you have the stamina, the Enchanments Thru Hike is a 17.6-mile day-long trek that is popular among aggressive hikers.
Whether you are hiking the Enchantments over several days or on a thru hike, be sure to come prepared. For more information you can contact the Wenatchee River Ranger Station at 509.548.2550.