Our main goal in vacationing in Leavenworth over the Thanksgiving holiday was to do some hiking in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. We both saw hundreds of photos of Colchuck Lake and its blue water this summer, so we hoped to hike up there. Through a little Instagram investigation, we discovered that the winter gates would be closing just days before our arrival in Leavenworth, meaning we would have to hike up a 4-mile hill to even get to the trailhead to begin the actual hike to Colchuck Lake. The hike along the trail is already between 8 and 9 miles (depending on your source for hiking inf0), so this closed gate literally doubled the length of the hike.
As you can see, we did it anyway.
And it was amazing. As two of the (self-proclaimed) world’s biggest snow lovers, we were thrilled to hike through this marvelous winter wonderland. We started at sunrise, having no idea how long it would take us to hike 16-17 miles in the snow.
Just the walk up Eightmile Creek road to the trailhead was amazingly beautiful and serene. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many icicles along a creek. Check out the bottom branch of the evergreen on the right.
Several portions of this hike involved navigating a frozen creek. I have no idea whether or not this is part of the trail in the summer (as I don’t see how you could just hike up what I imagine is a steadily flowing creek), but this was where the tracks in the snow lead, so we followed. It was a pretty slippery experience, as you can imagine.
I have to be honest with you and say we were a little disappointed to see Colchuck Lake completely frozen over. We really wanted to see that blue water with the perfect white snow, but, alas, we were a little too late. But I suppose a frozen alpine lake fit pretty well into our winter wonderland vacation.
In case you’re wondering, we’re both wearing 2 pairs of pants, wool socks, 3 upper layers, scarves, and hats. We took off our winter coats pretty early into the hike since 8+ uphill miles gets pretty warm, but after about 5 minutes of standing still at the lake, those coats went right back on! I ended up wearing mittens on top of gloves for the hike back down because my hands got so cold while eating lunch at the lake.
It was around 15 degrees when we started our hike that morning, so I have no idea what temperature it was by the time we reached the lake (at elevation 5,800 feet) a few hours later, but judging by how hard it was to move my fingers while eating lunch, I’m going to guess it couldn’t have been more than 10 degrees. And even colder down by the water, which was just a giant block of ice.
Also, a little hiking snack tip for you: If temperatures won’t rise above freezing on your 8-hour hike, your water bottles will freeze, your chocolate-covered nut bars will become rock hard, and your clementine slices will become tiny ice cubes.
We got our first glimpse of the sun once we headed back down the 4-mile road to the car. I wish we could have had skis with us for those last 4 miles. That road would have been perfect for a gentle ski (and so much easier than walking on our jelly legs).
You can read Part 1 of our trip to Leavenworth here. Part 3 coming soon!