How’s the smoke in the Enchantment Lakes Basin?

enchantments smoke forecast map

Bottom line: Several online resources help you make an educated guess about wildfire smoke and air quality for your through hike of the Enchantments.

First off, hiking in unhealthy smoke is never a good idea. Sometimes, we just have to save it for another day. If you decide to go anyway during fire season, see the last section of this post, about being prepared for smoke.

A little lingering smoke creates amazing sunrise and sunset colors, and gives your Enchantments photos a mysterious foggy look.

Note: The map shown above is a snapshot and does not represent current conditions. Read on to find a link to that map and more.

Here are some online resources for researching Northwest smoke and air quality levels for your through hike of the Enchantments.

Smoke and air quality index sites

Air quality monitoring stations scattered about the state provide very good information about smoke, especially around populated areas. There are very few such stations in the high country, however.

Digital models of smoke behavior help forecasters predict what the smoke will be doing for the next day or two. It’s hard to find a forecast any farther out than about 48 hours. But that’s enough for a day hike through the Enchantments. Here are some resources:

AirNow (US EPA). Map of air quality monitors. (Leavenworth, the closest, is Zip Code 98826.)

AirFire (USFS). Maps of 24-72 hour smoke forecasts. Scroll to “Northwest,” then in the “Today” column, click “MAP” for any of the available models. It can be useful once you learn your way around.

The Enchantments weather forecast is a useful tool, as well. Look at the predicted wind direction and speed for the time of your hike. Combine that with your knowledge of the location of wildfires, particularly to the west of the enchantments.

Web cams

Internet-connected live cameras are useful for seeing what conditions are like right now. Assuming it’s daylight, of course!

Like AQI monitoring stations, most of these cameras are located around population centers at lower elevations. They don’t tell you what conditions are like at 7,000 ft. Here are some suggestions:

Leavenworth downtown webcams provide a visual clue. This camera at the Icicle Creek Chalet is the closest camera I’ve found to the Enchantments. The golf course camera is nearby. Mountain Home Lodge is east of the Enchantments at about 2000 feet elevation.

Facebook groups

Social media sites include posts of trip reports and photos by hikers who have recently through-hiked the Enchantments. The best of these in my opinion is the “Enchantments Hiking and Backpacking” group.

How to prepare for smoke while on a day hike in the Enchantments

If you’ve determined that the smoke levels are OK, then you should be ready for sudden changes in smoke in the Enchantments.

The best preparation for smoke is to carry one N-95 face mask per person. The kind with a ventilator valve are best because you don’t have to rebreathe your exhaled air. That makes a mask more comfortable to wear when exerting, which means you’re likely to keep your mask on until you’re done exercising or the smoke clears up. Keep masks handy and keep them dry.

A bandana or other cloth mask is not nearly as effective against smoke as an N-95 mask.

The N-95 mask (or P-100) filters a lot of the nasty chemicals that make smoke so unhealthy and dangerous to breathe. Wildfire smoke can contain organic toxins and hazardous metals, among other things. Smoke from burning structures is far worse than that.

A disposable mask can’t make it totally safe to exercise in smoke. If you or someone in your party starts showing symptoms, stop and reassess your plans. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, headache, chest pain and fast pulse, among others.

Hikers with respiratory concerns, such as asthma, should definitely carry their medications and let companions know of the condition before the hike.

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