Enchantment Area Wilderness Permits
The rugged and beautiful Enchantment Permit Area is contained within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Permits are required for day and overnight use in this area.
Click here to view general map of Enchantment Permit Area.
View detailed topo map of Enchantment Permit Area [PDF]
Overnight Users: Due to the overwhelming popularity of this unique area, all overnight visitors must obtain a limited entry FEE permit for trips planned between June 15th and October 15th. Demand for overnight permits far exceeds the number available, therefore advance reservations are highly recommended. A pre-season lottery is held in February of each year to allocate the majority of permits. Following the pre-season lottery, remaining permits are available on a first come, first served basis through the recreation.gov advance reservation system. A small number of permits are available on an unreserved daily walk-in basis.
Enchantment Lottery Updates: The 2013 Enchantment Permit Area pre-season Lottery period was open from February 15-March 2 (11:59 EST) through Recreation.gov. Several important changes to the permit process have been implemented for the 2013 season. See 2013 Process Changes. After the lottery period ends, you may still login to Recreation.gov and look for open dates. Not all dates and zones for the season are taken during the lottery.
Day Users: Day users must obtain a free self-issue wilderness permit available at any of the three trailheads accessing The Enchantment Permit Area.
Rules and Regulations: Make sure you know the Enchantment Permit Area Rules and Regulations before making your reservation. Information on this page addresses: permit rules, campfires, group size, toilets, water, wildlife and more.
Enchantment Conditions Report
How To Apply For An Enchantment Area Permit
There are three methods of obtaining an overnight permit during the permit season:
Apply during the annual permit lottery
Make a reservation online after the pre-season lottery
Obtain a daily “walk-in” permit during the permit season
1. Annual Permit Lottery:
75% of the total permits are issued by advance reservation through an online lottery at www.recreation.gov Applications for the lottery will be accepted on the website beginning February 15 2013 and ending at 11:59 p.m. March 2, 2013. Note: applying early during this period does not give you preference for a permit. All applications will be drawn at random around March 6th. In this way everyone has an equal chance at getting a permit regardless of what day they submitted their application.
Applicants will need to:
(A) Set up an account. This can be done at any time. Your account will also allow you to use www.recreation.gov to reserve other permits or campsites that are part of the National Recreation Reservation Service system.
(B) Fill out an application at www.recreation.gov. Do this by searching for “Enchantment Permit Area” in the website's search box, and going to the Enchantments page. On this page you will be able to view all rules and regulations, select your preferred zone and entry dates, and submit your application for the lottery. Be sure to select the correct zone and entry date as these cannot be changed later. When you submit your application you will be charged a $6.00 non-refundable application fee. This fee funds the reservation system. At this point, you will NOT have purchased a permit, but rather will have entered the lottery. On or around March 6th, you must return to recreation.gov and log in to your account to find out the results of your application.
(C) Determine if you were successful in the lottery. After March 2nd, all valid applications will be run through the lottery process and results will be posted to your recreation.gov account on or around March 6th. At this point you must return to your account to determine if you were a successful applicant. Do NOT wait for an email to tell you if you were successful.
(D) Confirm acceptance of permit. Successful applicants must confirm acceptance of their permit reservation, provide additional information about party size and length of stay, and pay for the permit. This is when you will be charged the $5.00/person/day fee. This use fee finances on-the-ground administration and management of the Enchantment Permit Area. Important: You must confirm and pay for your permit NO LATER than 11:59pm March 31st, 2013. Any unconfirmed reservations will be made publically available through the advance reservation system on recreation.gov on April 1, 2013.
(E) Print and sign permit. New in 2013 permit holders must print permits online through recreation.gov. You no longer need to pick up your permit at the Ranger Station. Permit holders will be able to print their permit online up to 14 days prior to their trip start date. The group leader must sign and carry their permit, along with a valid photo identification, for the duration of their trip. Permit holders must be prepared to present their permit/ID to a Forest Officer upon request. Important: Once you print your permit, you can no longer make any changes to your permit. Do not print your permit until you are certain you do not want to add people or days to your permit. See Enchantment Permit Area Changes and Cancellations Policy.
2. Make a reservation online after the pre-season lottery.
After the pre-season lottery permits are awarded, any dates that are not filled will be available at www.recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit Area Page. Those who did not apply for the lottery, or those who applied for the lottery but did not get awarded a permit, will be able to search for available dates and claim any unreserved dates. This option is expected to become available at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on April 1, 2013 or soon thereafter. This is a first come first served basis. Only a limited number of slots will be available as the majority of the reservation slots are booked during the lottery.
Applicants will need to:
(A) Set up an Account. If you have not already done so. This can be done at any time, and your account will also allow you to use www.recreation.gov to reserve other permits or campsites that are part of the National Recreation Reservation Service system.
(B) Search for available dates. Go to the Enchantment permit page by searching for “Enchantment Permit Area” in the websites search box. On this page you will need to click on “Date Range Availability” and enter your desired permit zone as well as desired dates. Click search to find out if your date has any available spots. You will also be able to view a calendar which shows available dates.
(C)Complete your application. After you have selected your entrance date and zone, complete your application carefully following the instructions . Be sure to select the correct date and zone as these cannot be changed later. When you book your reservation you will be charged a non-refundable application fee of $6.00, and the standard rate of $5.00/person/day.
(D) Print and sign permit. New in 2013 permit holders must print permits online through recreation.gov. You no longer need to pick up your permit at the Ranger Station. Permit holders will be able to print their permit online up to 14 days prior to their trip start date. The group leader must sign and carry their permit, along with a valid photo identification, for the duration of their trip. Permit holders must be prepared to present their permit/ID to a Forest Officer upon request. Important: Once you print your permit, you can no longer make any changes to your permit. Do not print your permit until you are certain you do not want to add people or days to your permit. See Enchantment Permit Area Changes and Cancellations Policy.
3. Obtain a daily “walk-in” permit during the lottery season.
Only one permit for each of the 5 Enchantment zones will be issued in the walk up lottery. These are available daily (except Sundays) at the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office at 7:45 a.m. These permits are limited and demand usually exceeds availability. It is not unusual to have 50 people or more present to enter the lottery during the peak season from July - Sept. If more people are present than permits available (usually the case), a drawing is held to distribute the permits. Because a drawing is held, there is no need to camp out at the front door or arrive ahead of time. However, please arrive by 7:30 a.m. as the drawing takes place promptly at 7:45 a.m. Late arrivals will NOT be able to participate in the drawing. If any of the advance reservation permits have not been sold ahead of time (from recreation.gov) these permits will be given out at this time as well.
Our office is closed on Sundays. No drawing is held for walk-in permits on these days. Persons with advance reservations entering on those days should plan to print their permit online.
Questions about wanting to re-do an application, or any other questions about the Enchantment Permit lottery website should be directed to recreation.gov customer service:
Call Toll Free 1-877-444-6777
Customer Service Line:
Toll Free 1-888-448-1474
Planning Your Trip
First, thoroughly read The Enchantment Permit Area Rules and Regulations. Understanding the Permit Area Rules and Regulations is critical for planning your trip and having a positive experience in the Enchantment Permit Area.
The Enchantment Permit Area Zones
During the permit season, camping is restricted to the zone for which a permit is issued. The only exception to this is that those obtaining a Core Enchantment Permit are also allowed to camp in any of the other zones. All visitors are welcome to day hike beyond their zone- thus, those with a Snow or Colchuck Zone Permit may also visit the Core Enchantments, but on a day use only basis.
The overall Enchantment Permit Area is divided into five permit zones. The Permit Zones are:
Core Enchantment Zone
Snow Lake Zone
Colchuck Lake Zone
Stuart Lake Zone
Eightmile/Caroline Lake Zone
Click map for larger version.
View detailed topo map of Enchantment Permit Area [PDF]
Hiking Distances and Elevations:
Snow Lake: Snow Creek Trailhead to the Upper Snow Lake Dam
6.5 miles / 3800 foot elevation gain (and another 1.5 miles to the far end of the lake).
Colchuck Lake: Stuart Lake Trailhead to first view of the lake
4.2 miles / 2200 foot elevation gain.
Stuart Lake: Stuart Lake Trailhead to first view of the lake
4.6 miles / 1600 foot elevation gain.
Eightmile Lake: Eightmile Trailhead to the lake outlet
3.3 miles / 1300 foot elevation gain.
Lake Caroline: Eightmile Trailhead to the lake
5.6 miles / 3100 foot elevation gain.
from Colchuck Lake to the top of Aasgard Pass:
2.5 miles / 2500 foot elevation gain
from the inlet of Upper Snow Lake to Lake Viviane:
1.5 miles / 1400 foot elevation gain
The Whole Core Enchantment Loop, Stuart Lake Trailhead to Snow Lake Trailhead:
approximately 19 miles / 6000 foot gain and 7800 foot loss
Frequently Asked Questions:
Enchantment Conditions Report
How Can I Improve My Chances of Getting A Permit?
Because of the lottery, whether or not you are successful in getting a permit is partly luck. Bear in mind that the most popular time to go is August, and the most popular days to start a trip are Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you really want to do a Friday-Sunday trip in mid-August, by all means apply for that trip, but remember that you’re odds of getting a permit will be less than if you tried for a Monday-Wednesday trip in July.
What Are The Trips Like?
A trip to the Core Enchantment Zone is recommended for experienced hikers. Plan at least 3 or 4 days for this trip. Steep and challenging terrain make travel with an overnight pack very strenuous. For most people, five days would be a leisurely visit, with time for side trips. In the other Zones, a quick overnight trip is reasonable for most people. A three day trip to Colchuck or Snow Lakes allows time for a day trip to the Core Enchantments, for fishing, or to explore. Likewise, while many find a two day (one night) trip to Eightmile or Stuart Lakes to be adequate, others take a few extra days to relax or fish.
What Is The Terrain Like?
The Enchantment Permit Area is typified by rugged glaciated peaks and a series of lakes ranging from 4400 feet to 7800 feet in elevation. The lower trails and lakes are forested, while the upper lakes are within a largely alpine environment. Trails are in places quite primitive, with steep, rocky sections. The trails to Eightmile and Stuart Lake are relatively flat and suited to beginners. The trails to Snow Lake, Colchuck Lake, and Windy Pass involve more difficult hiking, and traveling to the Core Enchantments involves scrambling over loose rock, bedrock slabs, and some snow even into late summer .
How Hard Is The Hiking?
This is a difficult question to answer, given the range of visitors and their abilities. For visitors to the Core Enchantments, stretches of steep snow are simply added fun for some visitors, while others find them terrifying. For an average backpacker it is not an easy hike, and fatalities have occurred from falls on both snow and rock.
Very fit people often pass all the way through the Colchuck, Core Enchantment, and Snow Lake Zones in a single 20 mile day hike. Trail runners sometimes do so in just four hours. However, others find that the climb from Snow Lake to Lake Viviane, or from Colchuck Lake to the top of Aasgard Pass, is simply too difficult for them to do. On average, people with overnight packs will take 3 or 4 hours just to go from Colchuck Lake to the top of Aasgard Pass.
Stuart and Eightmile Lakes are the more suitable destinations for beginners or groups with young children. It really depends on your own comfort level, skill, experience, and fitness. Visiting the Core Enchantments is not a good first backpacking trip for most people.
Which Route To The Core Enchantments Is Easier?
Hiking to the Core Enchantments is really about equally difficult by either approach, just different:
Colchuck/ Aasgard Pass Route: The route from Colchuck Lake to the Enchantments goes up Aasgard Pass, which is a very steep climb and involves boulder-hopping around Colchuck Lake, then scrambling on loose rock and gravel. This route is steeper, but a little shorter than going in via Snow Lake, and the Stuart Lake Trailhead is higher than the Snow Lake trailhead. On this route your overall elevation gain is less than going in via Snow Lake.
Snow Lakes / Lake Viviane Route: The route from Snow Lake to the Core Enchantments involves a more gradual climb than the route via Colchuck Lake, but is longer. It involves more total elevation gain than the Colchuck/Aasgard Pass Route . The first 7 miles are on a fairly good trail, but the next 2 miles from Snow Lake to Leprechaun Lake, travels steep, eroded trail sections. The route also traverses bedrock slabs where a slip could result in a serious fall. Most people find this route to be easier on the knees and the back, but it is longer. Beyond Snow Lake it is still a difficult hike.
Do I Need To Bring An Ice Axe, Crampons, or Snowshoes?
This really depends on weather, season, side trips you might be planning, and your own skill level. But in general, a good set of ski or trekking poles and sturdy boots is what we recommend for people traveling to the Core Enchantments. Know your own limits and be willing to turn around if conditions are too difficult or extreme. In addition to our trail reports on this website, the hiking websites of WTA.org and NWhikers.net are excellent resources for trip reports on current or recent conditions.
What Is The Weather Like?
Weather in the Cascades changes rapidly between extremes. Summer temperatures may reach above 100o F (38o C) and yet freezing temperatures are also possible in mid-summer. It can snow on any day of the year in the upper Enchantments, although snowfall in August is rare. Late September and October can be the nicest time for an Enchantment trip, with brilliant fall foliage and no bugs. During these months, however, freezing nights are common. In most years mixed snow and rain starts falling in mid-September. A June visit to the Core Enchantments will often result in seeing and travelling on a lot of snow, but not really seeing the lakes. The best source of current weather and forecast information for our area is found online HERE.
Can I Do Multiple Trips?
Due to the popularity of the Enchantment area, only one permit per person, family, or group per zone is allowed each year.
Why Aren’t Permits Required The Rest Of The Year?
Outside the permit season, most of the permit area would typically be under snow, and accessible only to experienced backcountry skiers/snowshoers with a high level of avalanche safety training and knowledge.
Are All The Trails Open To Horses, Llamas, Or Other Pack Animals?
No. The Snow Lake, Colchuck Lake, and Core Enchantment areas are closed to all pack and saddle stock at all times. The Eightmile/Caroline area is open to pack and saddle stock, but there are no campsites in that area where stock are allowed. Those wishing to camp in the area with stock must travel toward Windy Pass or use the designated stock campsite near Caroline Lake. Stock should be kept 200 feet from lakes, except while traveling.
Stock use is allowed on the Stuart Lake Trail only in the fall, after labor Day. For 2013, the season when groups with stock are allowed a permit will be September 10th –October 15th (Stock groups are then also allowed after the permit season ends, if snow permits, until the end of the year.).
Are There Bears?
Yes. Problems with bears have not occurred in recent years, but you can help keep it that way by hanging food, trash, and toiletries when in camp. As with all wildlife, help keep them wild and never feed them. Mice, squirrels, marmots, and marten are also present and are known to chew through food bags, packs, and tents when people are careless.
What About the Goats?
Wild mountain goats are native to the Cascade Mountains, and are often seen by visitors, especially in the Core Enchantments. In recent years, they have become habituated to people, in some cases acting aggressively. These are large, powerful animals, and need to be treated with caution. Enjoy them from a distance and don’t encourage them. They are also very attracted to human urine; please use the toilets where provided, or urinate into gaps between boulders or other places that will prevent them from pawing up plants and soils to get at the salts in your urine.
US Forest Service
Wenatchee River Ranger District
Leavenworth, WA 98826