Home Trip ReportsDayhike Lake Stuart

Lake Stuart

by Amanda Phillips
Lake Stuart

We have had good luck completing a dayhike in the past few weekends, with Green Lake last weekend and Otter Falls the weekend before that. However, when the sun turns to summer warmth, one day a weekend isn’t quite enough for me to spend outside. I yearned to only be in Seattle for the work week, escaping to the mountains as soon as we were off the clock, living like the weekend warriors we often find ourselves to be. 

We thought we would get a backpacking trip in this weekend, but when some friends were interested in bouldering in Leavenworth, we decided to make it a camping trip. Climbing on Saturday, camping in Leavenworth and then enjoying the amazing hiking found in that area. Once we learned the snow was mostly melted out from Lake Stuart, it was easy to choose a destination. We left early Saturday morning and returned late Sunday night, exactly the way I love my weekends. 

Lake Stuart (1)

Approach

Living the true weekend warrior life, we went bouldering in Leavenworth on Saturday, found a campsite on Icicle Creek Road and then made the short drive to the Stuart Lake Trailhead Sunday morning. Details on the bouldering are lower in the post, but thought I would present it out of chronological order, as the pictures for Lake Stuart are prettier.  

Despite sleeping only 7-ish miles from the trailhead, we still arrived around 9:30, about the same time as when we leave from Seattle. The primary difference being that we were able to sleep in, slowly eat breakfast, pack up camp then make our way to the hike. We arrived, I finished getting ready for the morning and we made a deer friend in the parking lot. Then we set out on the trail. 

The last time we visited this area was in the fall, to see the larches at Colchuck. On that day, cars lined the road by the time we arrived but today the parking lot stood half empty, despite it being the first weekend for permitted backpacking. The trail was much as we remembered from last fall, though it was considerably more wet. We made it to the bridge crossing and the water rushing below was intense. Luckily the bridge was steady and well protected so we made it across and continued along our way. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

At about 2 miles, we reached the junction for Colchuck Lake and Stuart Lake. This time, we took the route to the right and continued on. The last time I went to Lake Stuart was nearly 4 years ago for my first backpacking trip. I remember details as if it were in a fog, having added so many trips since then. This meadow with its spectacular views, and wildflowers in July stood out in my memories and I anticipated its arrival. 

Cliffs in the mist on the Lake Stuart trail

The dramatic peaks were covered in a misty fog, remnants of the previous night’s downpour. A wet path cut through green, spring growth and we could hear the rushing creek as we rounded the many switchbacks. The trail became more and more snowy as we continued on, consisting of patchy, wet, soft snow lasting 20 or so feet before returning to dirt. The sun began to peek through the clouds, but the warming snow patches caused the trail to be cloaked in a cold mist that we walked through. It was both eerie and beautiful.  It slowed our progress but not significantly and after a few uphill pushes we stepped out to Lake Stuart.

Man walking in valley near the Lake Stuart trail
Rushing river on the Lake Stuart trail
snow patch on the lake stuart trail
Peaks in the enchantments rising over a meadow

The Lake

Woman sitting next to Lake Stuart in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Phenomenal views of the icy lake with snow-covered craggy peaks met us as we rounded the corner. We scrambled to a small boulder to eat lunch and soak in the view. As we sat, the clouds covering the peaks began to burn off and things just got better. 

Peaks above Lake Stuart in the clouds
Woman standing next to Lake Stuart in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Reflection of peaks on Lake Stuart
Burned trees near Lake Stuart
Waterfall above Lake Stuart

We marveled at the view of the lake, spires of the enchantments, still reflections in the water. Then we swiveled, and gazed upon large, seasonal waterfalls and remnants of last year’s forest fire. Bright orange trees not unlike the larches from the fall dotted the rocky landscape, a stark contrast to the green growth found everywhere else. 

After relaxing for about an hour, we packed up our gear and head back down the trail. The views were even better coming down as the clouds burned away. We paused in the valley to enjoy a last view of the spires then rushed back to the trailhead with growling stomachs. 

Views of the Enchantments near Lake Stuart
Views of the Enchantments near Lake Stuart
buds on tree near Lake Stuart
Deer at Colchuck Lake Trailhead
buds on a tree near lake stuart
Views of the Enchantments near Lake Stuart

Before too long we made it back to the trailhead and saw our deer friend was still there. We were unable to eat another round of sausages so instead of stopping by Leavenworth we head back to Seattle for some cuban food at Bongos.

Bouldering

Out of order, but Saturday we enjoyed a day of bouldering on Icicle Ridge Road. A few friends were in town before heading out on an epic road trip, so we grabbed some crash pads and hit Machine Gun Wall and the Sword Boulders. I have not been keeping up my climbing game this winter so I nudged everyone to boulders with many v0’s and v1’s. I did make some progress on a V2 I often return to when in Leavenworth. 

Man and woman sitting on crash pads in Leavenworth
Woman bouldering in Leavenworth on Sword Boulders