Bottom line: Be at the Snow Lakes trailhead at 4:00 am to drop a car and start up the Colchuck Lake trail by 5:00.
The most popular season of year to day hike through the Enchantments is in July and August. That means you’ll have daylight by around 5:00 a.m. and the sunset will linger until almost 9:00 p.m. That gives you enough daylight for the typical time it takes to day hike the Enchantments.
The beginning and ending 4 miles of the trail are not particularly exciting or spectacular. Or difficult. Lots of parties intend to start hiking at 4:00 am by headlamp.
Whether they get feet on the trail by 4:00 depends largely on how well they anticipated the time needed for car shuttles and parking.
For low clearance vehicles, the drive from the Snow Lakes trailhead to the Stuart Lake trailhead takes about 30 minutes.
If you’re starting your trip at the Snow Lakes trailhead and dropping a car at the Stuart Lake trailhead, you’ll have an hour of driving back and forth just to stash the second vehicle before you start hiking.
If you’re staying overnight in the town of Leavenworth before your hike, it’s fairly easy to get an early start. On the other hand, if you or some of your friends are driving over from the Puget Sound region that morning, they need to also allow for at least two hours of driving over Stevens Pass to the Icicle Road turnoff in Leavenworth.
If you’re using one of the local hiker shuttle services, your start time may be restricted by their schedules. If you’re having a local friend drop you off at the trailhead, be sure they’re a reliable early riser!
Should you start early or end late? Many parties do both. If you have your choice, do the section between Colchuck Lake and the Stuart Lake trailhead by daylight. It’s the prettier of the two ends.
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