When I first saw a photograph of this lake, I just couldn’t stop looking at it. The aqua green water surrounded by rocky mountains. It just drew me in and was calling my name. I read a couple reviews on it and someone said when you first see the lake it is like a religious experience. I’m not religious, so I decided that must be what nirvana looks like. The hike is about 9 miles roundtrip and 2300 feet elevation. I figured I’ve drug myself up Mailbox Peak before and this is half the elevation so I would be good. I was finally able to link up with my buddy Todd who also loves hiking and we headed out on an adventure!
The trail is located just when you pull into Leavenworth, however you have to drive out a dusty non-maintained road for about 9 miles to the trailhead. Apparently several other people had the same idea as us and we had to park a good half mile from the trailhead. Discovered you have to fill out an Alpine Wilderness Day pass before you can head in! A group of WTA week long trail workers had just come out from working. Let’s all give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to WTA workers and volunteers for maintaining our fabulous trails here in Washington. I have a work party signup on my list! We all need to give back!!
The trail heads through the forest and along a creek, which I assume is Icicle Creek. At least the first mile is entirely in the shade. There was a nice cool breeze blowing so that was refreshing. I knew it would be fairly warm, about 88 degrees, and I had learned my lesson about packing enough water on Mailbox Peak so I had about 80 ounces of water with me. I drank every last bit!! All along the trail you have clearings which are simply spectacular! The hills and mountains we climbed through and truly breathtaking. We had several WOW moments. It just reminds you how amazing this state is and how lucky we are to be able to take in this kind of natural beauty.
Climbing Colchuck is like playing leapfrog with other hikers. Sometimes you get passed by several groups and other times you pass several groups but everyone is always so friendly and encouraging to each other. I love that about hikers!! The elevation gain on this hike is a bit deceptive as it isn’t gradual over the 4.5 miles to the top. It’s all located in about 3 sections of the trail and all these sections are in the last 1.5 miles to the top
! It is a steady, at times never ending climb over rock stairs and tree roots. Just when you see a clearing and think “it’s just right there” you turn the corner and see you were completely wrong! The final push to the top is kind of daunting but once you reach the clearing and see the lake all the fatigue just washes away. It is a moment of awe! Nirvana!
The lake is aquamarine and crystal clear. You can see the bottom out as far as you can see. It is so inviting, taunting you to jump in because you are tired, hot and sweaty and it just looks so damn refreshing! I watched several younger individuals jump in and swim around. They seemed to be okay. I decided to just take my shoes and socks off and put my feet in the lake. It felt so good, but they were pretty much numb in a few minutes. Todd decided to jump in. The party next to us asked how it was and all Todd could say was “c-c-c-c-cold” and he quickly swam to shore and got out! I brought along my hammocks because I just love relaxing in a hammock on a hike! I am hooked on them! Todd was a little apprehensive, until he relaxed in one. Pretty sure I’ve converted him! We had a nice relaxing lunch hanging by the lake. We were both starving so we ate everything! Hoping we wouldn’t get hungry on the way down.
It took 3 hours to hike up (stopping for some photos, snacks and breaks to bring my heart rate back down to a non-heart attack level!) and about 2 1/2 to hike back down.
We ventured into Leavenworth to stop by the Cheese Monger for some Applewood Cheddar and Euphoria, which is a delicious sheep cheese). Love that place! Then headed over to Gustavs for a burger, fries and a cold beer!
Awesome day for sure! If you have never been to Colchuck, put it on your list!! AMAZING!