Bottom line: There are ways to avoid an eight-mile road hike between the Snow Lakes and Stuart Lake trailheads after a long day on the trail. Bum a ride, hire a ride, take your own car(s) or even a bike. Here are the details.
You need to manage an incomplete loop trail when through hiking the Enchantments.
The absolute best option is to have a friend or family member drop you off in the wee hours and pick you up that night with a cooler full of ice-cold refreshments and salty snacks. That’s love!
Having a ride means you don’t need to hassle with parking a second car, or even a first car. You can just hop out and hop on the trail. And you don’t have to worry about trailhead break-ins or vandalism, which, sadly, happens sometimes.
Don’t have a willing friend or relative in the valley? Hire a ride! When you’re done with your hike, the price will seem small. Here are some options. (I gain nothing by linking to these vendors.)
Leavenworth Shuttle & Taxi LLC operates regular runs between trailheads in the morning. Phone (509) 548-7433. Book online. They pick you up at the Snow Lakes trailhead and drop you at the Stuart Lake trailhead. As of this writing, they have a 2-person minimum and a $30 per hiker fee.
Loop Connector Shuttle operates on a schedule between trailheads in the mornings on weekends. As of this writing the cost is $24 per hiker. They also run on weekdays if your party is 6 or more (or pay the equivalent). Book online. No phone.
Uber drivers will pick you up almost anywhere, including your hotel or a parking lot in town — and take you wherever, including the trailheads. Download the app, register, connect a payment method and go. It’s not the cheapest way, but it operates at your convenience.
Taxi. Yep, Leavy has a taxi service and they serve the trailheads. 509-548-7433.
Private transportation: Take two cars. Drop one at the far-end trailhead (usually Snow Lakes) and the proceed to the starting trailhead (usually Stuart Lake) to begin hiking.
See the paragraph below about parking passes. and note that the round-trip drive from the Snow Lakes trailhead to Stuart Lakes trailhead and back takes about an hour.
Mixed wheels: Bike back. Drop off an old mountain bike at the far-end trailhead and drive back to the starting trailhead to begin hiking.
Mixed transportation: Hitchhike to your car at the end of your hike. Take just one car and park it at your starting trailhead. The reason this isn’t so popular is that there’s not a lot of traffic going up the potholed dirt road after dark, when a lot of thru hikers tend to finish hiking. All the more reason for an empathetic and hopefully friendly driver to swing you a ride.
See the next paragraph about parking passes. The hitching option is for those who are comfortable with the — let’s say, adventure? — of thumbing a ride on a lonely forest road in the dark.
Parking passes required at Snow Lakes trailhead and Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake trailhead: Yes, even though you’re just day hiking, you need to display a pass to park a car at an Enchantments trailhead. Hang the pass in the window of each parked car.
Unlike overnight permits, the self-issued day-hiking permit does not include a parking pass.
So you’ll need a valid pass, such as an America the Beautiful, Northwest Forest Pass, NW Forest Day Pass, or equivalent. You can get these online, at a ranger station, at some merchants, or at the trailhead (bring cash). See the web sites for the deets. The WA Discover Pass is not valid there.
Pay attention to signage in the parking lots pertaining to (a) spaces reserved for overnight permit holders; and (b) parking along the shoulder if the lot is full.
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Photo: Okanogan-Wenatchee NF.