The Enchantment Permit Area is contained within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. Due to the overwhelming popularity of this unique area, all overnight campers must obtain a permit if visiting from June 15 through October 15.
The area is typified by rugged glaciated peaks and a series of lakes ranging from 4,400 feet to 7,800 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.
Day users need only fill out a free day-use permit, available at any of the three trailheads accessing The Enchantment Permit Area.
Demand for overnight permits far exceeds the number available, therefore advance reservations are highly recommended. A small number of permits are available on an unreserved walk-in basis.
Through the remainder of the year, from October 16 through June 14, all visitors, both overnight and day use, only need to fill out free unlimited permits available at all three trailheads.
The overall Enchantment Permit Area is divided into five permit zones:
- Core Enchantment Zone
- Snow Lake Zone
- Colchuck Lake Zone
- Stuart Lake Zone
- Eightmile/Caroline Permit Zone
for a map of the permit zones.
Camping is restricted to the zone for which your permit is issued. The only exception 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, meaning those with a Snow or Colchuck Zone Permit may also visit the Core Enchantments, but on a day-use only basis.
There are three methods of obtaining an overnight permit during the permit season:
1. Apply during the annual permit lottery 2. Make a reservation online after the pre-season lottery 3. Obtain a daily walk-in permit during the permit seasonClick here
for detailed information and steps required to obtain a permit for the Enchantment Permit Area.
Trips into the Enchantment Wilderness Area can range from overnight to multiple days. It is imperative hikers and backpackers evaluate their comfort and ability in various environments when choosing their route, as many hikes are strenuous and somewhat primitive, while others offer easier climbs.
A trip to the Core Enchantment Zone is recommended for experienced hikers. Visitors typically plan at least three or four days for this trip. Steep and challenging terrain make travel with an overnight pack 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 exploration. Likewise, while many find a two day, one night trip to Eightmile or Stuart Lakes to be adequate, while others take a few extra days to relax or fish.