With winter just around the corner, we’ve decided to shine a spotlight on several of Washington’s most popular autumn hiking destinations this month. Recently, we covered Lake Ingalls, an immensely beautiful location to get outdoors and experience the Enchantment mountains. For this week’s coverage, we’ve moved a few miles north and deeper into the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to talk about Lake Stuart. This scenic glacial lake provides stunning views of the north side of Mt. Stuart, opposite from Lake Ingalls, which we covered in great detail earlier this month.
Lake Stuart is situated in the heart of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area of central Washington State, a subsection of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This area is also home to the famous Colchuck Lake, a well-populated hiking destination year-round, just a few miles southwest of the German-themed town of Leavenworth. The trail to the lake runs up a glacial moraine, through thick forested patches and over rock-strewn boulder fields. Views of Mt. Stuart and the surrounding peaks open up with altitude, showcasing the stunning beauty of the region. By the time you’ve reached the elevation level of the lake, you’ll be surrounded by the rugged peaks of the enchantments on all sides.
As with Lake Ingalls, the trailhead to Lake Stuart is rather remote, requiring several miles of traversal over bumpy forest roads. Ensure that the vehicle you’re planning to take is suited for this type of overland travel. Most vehicles can make the journey without issue, though you don’t want to be the one forced to change a tire in the backcountry wilderness. To get to the trailhead, you’ll want to head west on Interstate 82 out of the Tri-Cities toward Yakima. Travel through the city, then merge westbound onto I-90 at Ellensburg. Shortly thereafter, take the exit for Highway 97, and follow that road through Blewett Pass. Turn west onto Highway 2, drive through Leavenworth, and turn south onto Icicle Road. Follow that road for a few miles and you will see a road on your left just passed the Bridge Creek Campsite. Make a turn there and follow the forest road for a few miles before arriving at the trailhead.
Unlike the previously covered Lake Ingalls, the hike to Lake Stuart is not considered overly challenging. Rated “moderate” by the community-based hiking network AllTrails, the hike to Lake Stuart is roughly the same length as Ingalls at approximately nine miles (~4.5 miles each direction) but covers only 1,800 feet of elevation gain (as opposed to nearly 3,000). As with any venture into the wilderness, we suggest packing plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated on the trail. Plan to take at least one liter of water per person. Additionally, a small first aid pouch, some snack foods, and extra layers go a long way toward ensuring that everyone stays comfortable. With all that in mind, the most important rule is to get out there and enjoy mother nature. Soak up the last few rays of sunshine before winter arrives and enjoy an unforgettable hike in the meantime.