This lake was a beaut. But definitely an effort to get to!
We decided to make this a camping trip - heading out of Seattle early on Saturday morning, we made it to Leavenworth by 9:00am and made the incredibly bumpy ride up the road to the Stuart Lake Trailhead (Colchuck shares the same trailhead and the trail splits a little ways into the hike). We wedged the car into a spot right next to the trailhead, put on our boots, and grabbed our gear, making sure to snag an Alpine Lakes permit before getting started.
The first half of the hike isn’t bad. It’s a nice up and down trail that has some steep sections but isn’t technical or hard on the knees until you reach a bridge that leads to a boulder field. After chasing a snake off the path and taking some photos on the bridge, we made our way across and up and over some boulders for another stop (for pictures and water) before realizing the trail is unmarked and an evident path is non-existent.
Luckily, there were a group of hikers who had passed us and we caught a glimpse of them heading off in a direction so we followed them - if you plan on attempting this hike, stay to the right and follow the water upstream and you’ll eventually get around the boulder field and back onto the trail.
This is where the trail really starts to climb. And it climbs, and climbs, and climbs. There are some awesome rock slabs and stopping points with great views, but there were also quite a handful of downed trees that we were either removing our packs to roll under or using branches and some grip strength to climb over. Some were a hop and a skip - others required a bit more effort.
When you think you’re almost there, you’ll have another mile left. Just keep pushing. You’ll round a corner, take a couple switchbacks, and you’ll still be half a mile away from the lake. It’s relentless. WTA says 8 miles with 2,300ft of gain (I’d say most of that was in the second half of the climb), but my watch clocked it at 10 miles.
Once you REALLY make the final climb, it’s a little confusing navigating your way down to the actual water, but you’ll eventually find yourself in the presence of quite the view. Peaceful, even (despite the crowds).
After a lunch break and mini photo shoot, we made our way back the way we came and was never more excited to get back to the parking lot. What a day. Our hike took about 8 hours, so we didn’t check into the campground until around 6:30pm after we stopped in town for dinner on the way. We had enough daylight to set up our tents, take showers, and enjoy some wine before zipping into our sleeping bags for the night.