Horseshoe Lake - Enchantments Area, Washington

Trail Distance: 16 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,293 ft
Terrain Rating: Moderate
Hike In: 7AM
Hike Out: 4PM

Trailhead: Stuart Lake Trailhead here. Northwest Forest Pass required.

Route: Unmarked there-and-back trail starting from Stuart Lake Trailhead

Horseshoe Lake is a beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Core Enchantments area of Washington (~2 hours east of Seattle). 1.5 miles in, you will cross a bridge over a creek. 2.5 miles in, there is a trail junction for Lake Colchuck. Keep going towards Stuart Lake and then navigate counterclockwise around. The hike itself is well marked for the first 2-3 miles as you pass Lake Stuart on your left, but the trail soon becomes hard to find.

Once you get into the woods, the trail becomes tricky, as it is not marked by blazes and there are fallen trees you have to maneuver around. About ½ a mile in, you will run into a marsh. Some of the footprints go into the marsh, and some stay within the woods. We ended up on the marsh for a ¼ of a mile and then traced it back into the woods. We couldn’t find the trail for a bit, so just keep looking for footprints and stay alert.

Finally as you clear the marsh, look for an old horseshoe nailed to a tree and head back into the woods. The steep 1,300ft/half mile ascent begins now. (It’s not as fun to go down this later). You’ll begin a climb up and over fallen trees, loose soil, until you reach alpine territory. The rocks become bigger and easier to climb. Once the trees clear, you know you’re there! Enjoy the view. And turn around to head back when you’re ready.

Gear Specs:

  • 4L of water
  • 5 bars and beef jerky
  • Sandwiches for lunch
  • Salmon X ULTRA MID 2 hiking boots
  • Osprey Daypack
  • Nike shirt + running shorts
  • BUGSPRAY (there were so many bugs)
  • Extra clothes packed away: socks, windbreaker
  • Emergency Gear: Map & GPS, Headlamp, reduced First-Aid Kit, Swiss Army Knife