Colchuck Lake Trail
Laying eyes on Colchuck Lake for the first time is a breathtaking moment. The 12.9 km round trip hike to the lake and back? Also breathtaking, but for different reasons. This is a steep, heavily trafficked hike, but it’s worth all the effort. You’ll be able to sit down on one of the most sublime spots in the Enchantments, where mountain peaks cradle an emerald lake adorned with an island of trees. It’s a fine reward for the brutal last couple of miles you’ll be tasked with. Poles and good boots are recommended.
We don’t recommend this trail for young kids, anyone with mobility challenges, or beginners, as there are some extended steep sections. We also recommend arriving early to beat some of the traffic. You can also arrange to camp on the shore of the lake, but make sure you’ve got your permit sorted ahead of time.
Join our newsletter
Get a weekly dose of discounts and inspiration for adventure lovers
Route Description for Colchuck Lake Trail
Oh, Colchuck Lake. What a sight! This sublime little slice of nature is worth the seemingly never-ending climb required to reach it- we promise. The lake is vibrant green in the sunlight and deep blue in the shade, making it worth sitting a while on the shore to watch the colors slowly change with the light. Dragontail and Colchuck summits frame the lake perfectly.
Come prepared to work for your views. The hike is steep in sections, especially near the end, where the final two miles resemble nature’s stair stepper. Take breaks, drink water, and take it step by step. While kids and beginners will likely be overwhelmed by this trail, it’s worth the effort by anyone capable of making it.
The hike follows Stuart Lake Trail (another great hike worth your time). The first mile and a half is gradual, passing through a forest that becomes less dense the further you get. You’ll cross over to the right bank of Mountaineer Creek. The bridge is solid and in good condition. From here, things pick up as the trail begins to steepen.
Where the trail splits, stay left onto Colchuck Lake Trail. You’ll cross another bridge and come up to a rocky stretch of the route. You’ll need to navigate over some boulders as you cross over a talus slope.
Out of the rocks, it’s time to climb. The switchbacks are gentle-ish initially, but the trail gets rockier and steeper the closer you get to the lake. Grind through, looking for peeks of Dragontail as portions of the view open up.
The trail curves to the right before dropping into a swale. Here, the lake unfolds before you. There’s a great granite slab in front of the lake that’s perfect to plop down on for a breather and a sandwich, or you can pick out the trail along the lakeshore. It goes less than a mile around and isn’t in great condition, but it’s a good way to change your view a little.
The trail around the lake turns at a tarn. Most people here are tempted to stay on a clear footpath on the right, but you’ll want to keep left on the rockier trail. It goes until the terminal moraine of the Colchuck Glacier before dying out.
Back in front of the lake, rest up and soak in the stellar natural beauty of this place. When you’re ready, you’ll make your way back down nature’s staircase, going easy on the knees until the trail evens out towards the end.
Hiking Route Highlights
Colchuck Lake is a freshwater lake tucked into the western side of the Enchantments. It’s 36 ha in size and sits at an elevation of 1,699 m. The lake’s name is derived from a Chinook jargon term “kol cak” which means “cold waters.” The lake provides water storage for irrigation on one hand, and massive satisfaction for hikers and campers on the other.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you swim in Colchuck Lake?
Yes, you can swim in the lake. Expect it to be very cold, even on hot summer days.
Can you sleep at the trailhead for Colchuck Lake?
The only camping allowed in the area is along the lakeshore by permit.
Does Colchuck Lake freeze?
The lake can freeze over in especially chilly conditions.
Insider Hints for Colchuck Lake Trail
- Remember your Northwest Forest Pass for this hike.
- Stuart Lake is another nice option that leaves from the same trailhead if you want to keep exploring.
- Bring bug spray in the summer months.
Getting to the Colchuck Lake Trail Trailhead
The trailhead for the Colchuck Lake Trail is at the Stuart Lake Trailhead on Forest Service Road 7601.
Colchuck Lake Trail Elevation Graph
Weather ForecastCheck Area Weather
Colchuck Lake Trail Reviews
Add a comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.