Colchuck Lake Trail
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, WA
With an elevation gain of over 2000 feet, the hike to Colchuck lake is challenging. The reward at the top is a picturesque lake with dazzling blue green water and views over Dragontail and Colchuck Peak mountains.
The first part of this trail follows the Stuart Lake Trail before branching off to the left. The Stuart Lake trailhead is located about 40 mins drive from the Bavarian town of Leavenworth in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This is a very popular hike, so the parking lot fills up fast. On the weekends in the summer, you will likely have to arrive by 7 am to have a chance of getting a spot in the lot. If you don’t have a recreation pass (such as the Northwest Forest Pass or interagency America the Beautiful Annual Pass), day parking is $5 per vehicle. This is paid in cash using the envelopes provided at the trailhead, so make sure you have exact change. Permits for overnight parking must be obtained in advance.
Also at the trailhead you are required to fill out an Alpine Lake Wilderness permit. This is just a form for you to specify how many people are hiking in your group. Half the form is dropped into a box and the other half should be attached to the pack of someone in your group. Full instructions are posted on the boards at the trailhead.
It’s not clear exactly how many miles this hike is. On other websites you will see it listed as 8 miles roundtrip and if you were to plot this trail on Google Earth, it would also show 8 miles. Based on my own experience and talking to people who do this trail on a regular basis, the reality is probably closer to 10 miles. I assume the discrepancy comes from the fact that the actual trail twists and turns a lot more than you can capture by measuring the trail on a digital map.
The trail starts alongside Mountaineer Creek with a relatively gentle elevation gain. About a mile in you will cross a footbridge over the river and this is where the climb starts. After about 2.5 miles you will reach a junction. The path straight ahead goes to Lake Stuart and the path to the left goes up to Colchuck Lake. On the way up there are several spots with fantastic views over the valley and mountains. When you make it to the lake there are various pathways that people have made down to the water. This is not a lake with a beach shoreline, it will take some climbing downhill over rocks to find a good spot to jump in.
Click on the camera icons on the map below to see pictures along the route.