Hike Travel Washington

Backpacking The Enchantments: Eightmile/Caroline Zone

After spending the night in Seattle, Michael and I drove along HWY 2 towards Leavenworth to backpack the Enchantments overnight. Along the way, the ever-changing landscapes were incredible!

Now some of you may be wondering, what the heck is the Enchantments?

The Enchantments are a chain of lakes located in the protected zone of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Okay…

Now why are these chains of lakes so darn special?

Picture this. You’re surrounded by sparkling-blue colors of the alpine lakes, the sheer rock faces of the granite mountains, forests and the surrounding meadows, and, of course, mountain goats.

Now doesn’t that sound like paradise? 

If you answered yes, then keep reading.

The Enchantments has five zones, each for either hiking or backpacking: Snow, Core Enchantment, Colchuck, Stuart, and Eightmile/Caroline.

Image result for the enchantments zones

Before I go on, The Enchantments (similar to Mt. Whitney and Half Dome) requires a lottery permit to camp overnight. But if you want to just day hike, then the permit is not required.

The most popular permit people try to shoot for is Core Enchantment and this what I like to call “a backpacker’s dream come true.”

Why?

Because this zone allows you to camp on all five zones, totaling at 18 miles of backpacking experience.

Out of the Five Enchantment Zones, the Eightmile/Caroline Zone is the least popular trail which was one of the reasons why we won the permit.

To get to Eightmile/Caroline Lake from Highway 2, you turn onto Icicle Rd. and drive until you make a left on Eightmile Rd. #7601. This road is unpaved and bumpy so drive slowly and carefully.

We parked the car and loaded our packs, only bringing the essentials since we were going to spend the night. The parking lot requires a National Forest Pass or a National Park Pass. If you read my previous blogs, then you know I have a National Park Pass.

Anyways, we started our hike a little past 1 pm (I know…late start). 

The start of the trailhead.

We walked through what I like to call “The Never-Ending Forest” along with a few stream crossings.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed the solitude as I took my time admiring the surroundings. Just having this forest to ourselves without a single soul felt like paradise.

About two hours into our hike, we made it to the “Alpine Lakes Wilderness” sign, which meant we were halfway towards Eightmile Lake.

After passing the sign, the trail turned uneven as we passed through rolling hills, leading to some rocky steps.

Next up, we made to “The Clock” since a fallen tree has a clock painting on its rings.

As we kept ascending the trail, the hike got much easier as it started to level out!

Then we saw it.

Little Eightmile Lake.

The lake looked more like a small pond from where we’re standing.

We took a few photos and kept moving forward as we ascended more rocks and rolling hills. Along the hike, I lost Michael since he moved very quickly. About 30 minutes later, we arrived at this breathtakingly, gorgeous lake.

Since Michael and I were the only ones camping, we picked a spot next to a huge rock to shield us from the wind. We set up our tent before it got dark and discussed our plan to hike Lake Caroline tomorrow. We decided not to hike Windy Pass since there was a possibility of snowfall and we were, unfortunately, unprepared for this hike.

After planning out our hike for tomorrow and eating dinner, we called it a night.

The weather was SOOO freezing that I had a hard time getting a good night’s sleep. Eventually, I passed out from exhaustion. But, I’m pretty sure I woke up occasionally from the numbing, cold pain from my foot.

Next morning, we packed up our belongings, ate breakfast, and headed towards Lake Caroline.

We headed back out the way we came until, once again, we reach Little Eightmile Lake. From there, we followed the signpost pointing to Trout Creek,” which led to Lake Caroline and Windy Pass.

Since there was nobody around, we left our heavy packs next to the signpost.

We started ascended up the trail as the hike started to get more challenging. Michael was pacing himself while I slowly followed behind, taking photos and enjoying the dramatic sceneries.

Views of Little Eightmile Lake from the Lake Caroline trailhead

Since we gained quite an elevation as we hiked through multiple switchbacks, the trail became exposed with open views of meadows and trees from afar. It’s amazing to see how far we made up those trails.

Eventually, I noticed there were trees that looked to be burnt or damaged, possibly from natural causes.

The trails finally started to even out.

As we got closer and closer to Lake Caroline, the trail eventually descended. I was slightly relieved, but one problem. The trail was very muddy and covered with patches of snow. We took our time descending the trail towards the lakes, hoping not to slip or fall on our asses.

As we got closer to the lake, the forests were covered with snow. The scenery almost felt like a winter wonderland.

Soon, the trails turned flat which was a huge sigh of relief for the both of us. Then, we found a trail behind a thicket of trees which led to the open views of Lake Caroline.

We were, of course, ecstatic since we made it to this pristine, beautiful lake and I swear, this really was “a backpacker’s dream come true.”

Thankful that we didn’t camp at Lake Caroline, Michael and I enjoyed every single moment as we breathed the fresh, crisp air while basking in the views of the lake’s reflection of the snow-capped mountains and autumn-colored forests. This lake was an ABSOLUTE GEM and even though we didn’t hike up to Windy Pass, I’m still proud that we made it this far!

We headed back down, knowing that we completed the Eightmile/Caroline Lake Zone.

Of course, Michael was WAYYY ahead of me, but he was patient enough to wait for me by the signpost where we left our packs. Unfortunately, he lost his First Aid kit somewhere along the trail. So if you happen to find a first aid kit, consider yourselves lucky (just kidding!).

We continued our way back to the parking lot. Soon enough, Michael was WAYYY gone as I moved at a snail’s pace, completely exhausted from the heavy pack I was carrying.

Fortunately, I told myself if I was ever tired, I have a CHOICE to take a break as much as I needed to.

Along the way, I met two hikers who were heading up to Eightmile Lake and we talked for a moment. I don’t exactly remember our conversation, but eventually, we split and I was completely alone again. I often took breaks, adusting and re-adjusting my backpack as the straps started to hurt my shoulders.

About an hour later, I met up with the same two hikers who noticed I looked tired and in a lot of pain. One of them helped carry my pack as we walked downhill. I was extremely grateful to meet such kind people.

About 30 minutes later, all three of us finally made it back to the parking lot. I thanked the hikers immensely for their generosity and we split up for the final time.

Michael was already standing next to my car, ready to get the hell outta here! We loaded our backpacks in the backseat and drove off to Leavenworth where we stopped by Kristall’s Restaurant for some grub and booze!


Would I recommend hiking or backpacking the Enchantment Lakes? Absolutely! If you’re short on time, I recommend the day hikes. If you want to challenge yourself and be rewarded with breathtaking views, then I recommend applying for the overnight lottery permit.

Even if Eightmile/Caroline is the least popular zone, I still recommend it if you’re very much into solitude.

And from what I heard, Colchuck and Stuart zone has some AMAZING, JAW-DROPPING views too!

If you really, and I mean REALLY, want to apply for Core Enchantment, my recommendation is to do your research and find out which days and months have the least amount of application. That way you, at least, have a much higher chance of winning the lottery permit. 

(Good luck)

Photo Credit: Michael Hall

Our adventure doesn’t end there.

Next up: Nez Perce National Historic Park!!! 

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