Nada Lake - Enchantments

Backpacking the Enchantments: Day 1 to Snow Lakes

At 4 AM, the alarms sounded, and the restlessness I felt during the night turned to excitement as we went through the usual morning routine before heading out the door and towards the Enchantments. 

Ben, Adam, and I loaded our way too heavy packs and tried not to scrape up the walls while walking downstairs. Zach and Sophie pulled up at five, and the caravan to Leavenworth and Snow Lakes had begun! 

The squad (left to right: Amanda, Sean, Sophie, Zach, Ben, me, Adam)

About two hours east of Seattle, Leavenworth is this little Bavarian town in the Central Cascades and has a great Oktoberfest. But that’s for another time.

Backpacking the Enchantments – Snow Zone Permits

Snow Lakes Hike Facts

  • Snow Lakes Trailhead to the back of Snow Lakes: 8.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 4,200 feet
  • Estimated Time with backpacks: 6-8 hours

Packing List for the Enchantments

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Map of the Enchantments
Map of the Enchantments

Before heading into the wilderness, we stopped by a bakery, loaded up on breakfast, and snagged a breakfast burrito for the hike. (Reading my friend’s blog on his PCT travel, you can never have enough natural food in the backcountry.)

Once our bellies were full, the group, including Amanda and Sean, drove to Snow Lakes trailhead. Shortly after that, Ben, Zach, and Sean dropped two cars off at the Colchuck trailhead so we would have a way back after traversing the entire Enchantments on our last day.

Related: Prepare to backpack the enchantments

What to expect backpacking into the Enchantments

The way up was grueling; let’s be frank about that. My pack, ~ 55 pounds, did not feel too pristine when you’re going up switchback after switchback without much of a warm-up. 

It was a slow go, but we weren’t in any rush and wanted to enjoy the scenery around us. 

I didn’t take many photos initially, as all my energy was focused on hauling a small convenience store up the mountain. (My pack weight quickly became a running joke.) But, as I’ll always attest, I’d rather have more food than less when backpacking.

After five miles of gaining altitude through forests and exposed terrain, we first hit Nada Lake. To no one’s surprise, it was beautiful – which would become a theme in this area. It was fed by an artificial water pipe, creating an amazing-looking waterfall that rocketed horizontally.  

Nada Lake - Enchantments
Nada Lake – Enchantments
Ben at Nada Lake
Ben at Nada Lake
Nada Lake - Enchantments
Nada Lake
Zach is looking out over his kingdom
Ben and Adam
Nada Lake from above

We only had about another half mile of elevation gain from this point before it leveled out. Our legs, backs, and minds were quite thankful for this change of pace. 

Related: Download my free backpacking E-Book

Camping at Snow Lakes in the Enchantments

After seven miles, the group finally reached Snow Lakes. This, however, was not the stopping point. We still had another mile to a half to the back of the lake (closer to the Core Zone), where we hoped to set up camp. Luckily, this was all flat, and we moved quickly.  

Our set up
The gang is having dinner

Eventually, we found a fantastic spot on the lake with a perfect view. 

The view from our campsite
Post-hike swims are the best
The sun setting on Snow Lakes

That evening, we wolfed down our dinners, snacks, and more snacks and headed to bed relatively early after some friendly conversation. We were all exhausted, and all seven of us had only sleep on our minds. 

Night Photography

At 2 AM, Adam, Ben, and I got up to shoot the stars. Looking back, it was better in theory. The moon was very bright – nearly full – and we were sandwiched between light from Leavenworth and Seattle. Not ideal.  

The trio walked at least a mile towards the front of the lake (the way we walked in) and found a nice spot for us to post up with a view of the peaks surrounding us. 

While the shots might not have been what I hoped for, it was still a great time with the guys. 

We returned to camp just as the first light touched the eastern sky. 

The first full day was fantastic, and it lived up to everything I could have hoped for – and it would only get better.

If you want to learn more about the Enchantments and how to land a permit, click here.

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

You can follow along the journey on Facebook and Instagram or shoot me any questions and comments about places to go. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get notified when new posts come out!