Alpine Lakes WildernessBackpacking

How to Get a Backpacking Permit for the Enchantments

The Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of the most sought-after backpacking destinations in Washington State. The area is renowned for its natural beauty, featuring rugged granite peaks, clear mountain lakes, and numerous mountain goats. Over 40,000 people apply for overnight permits, but only about 2,500 permits are awarded. You’ll be lucky to win one!

Important Dates for Enchantments Permits

Here are the key dates you need to know regarding permits:

DATESINFORMATION
February 15 – February 29Lottery opens at 7:00 a.m. PT, closes at 11:59 p.m. PT
March 7Applications randomly drawn at 1:55 a.m. PT
March 14 – March 31Confirmation period
April 1Unclaimed permits returned to the reservation system at 7:00 a.m. PT
May 15 – October 31Permits are required for overnight camping

Camping Zones in the Enchantments

There are five zones within the Enchantments:

  • Core Enchantment Zone
  • Snow Lake Zone
  • Colchuck Lake Zone
  • Stuart Lake Zone
  • Eightmile/Caroline Zone

The most popular zones are the Colchuck Lake and Core Enchantment Zones. These two areas are the most sought-after and, as a result, will be the most competitive.

How to Apply for a Permit?

To apply for a lottery permit, follow these steps:

  • Visit Recreation.gov: The lottery opens on February 15th at 7:00 a.m. PT and closes on February 29th at 11:59 p.m. PT. During this time, you can submit your lottery application and make any modifications to the dates. Click the “Register for Lottery” button to get started. Note that you will need an account with Recreation.gov before applying.
  • Select Your Date Preferences: You are allowed three choices, so maximize your chances of winning by selecting three dates. Ensure your first choice is your top preferred date.
  • Choose Your Zone: The Core Enchantment Zone is the most popular because it allows you to camp in the other zones as well. Selecting any of the other four zones confines you to camping in only that zone. Essentially, the Core Enchantment Zone is a winner-takes-all option.
  • Select the Number of People: The maximum group size is eight.
apply for enchantments permits

What Dates Are Best to Pick?

When choosing a date for backpacking The Enchantments, consider both availability and weather. The most competition is during peak conditions in July, August, and September, when the weather is ideal for most. However, your chances of winning the lottery decrease during these months. If you choose May, June, or October, you will face less competition but may encounter snow.

How Much Are Permits?

When you apply for a permit, you must pay a $6.00 non-refundable fee. If awarded the permit, you will then need to pay $5.00 per person per day. For example, a group of three people staying for three nights would pay $45.00 in total.

What Happens if I Win a Permit?

If awarded a permit, you will be notified via email. You can then go on to Recreation.gov to select the duration of your trip, up to a maximum of 14 consecutive days without the option to exit and re-enter. For example, if you selected the Colchuck Zone with an entrance date of August 16th, you could choose a stay of up to 14 days. Holding a Core Enchantment Zone permit allows you to stay within any of the zones during your selected days.

What if I Don’t Win the Lottery?

If you don’t win the lottery, there are still ways to obtain permits:

  • Book Unclaimed Permits: Available on April 1st at 7:00 AM PT.
  • Walk-Up Lottery: Available daily (except Sundays) at 8:30 AM at the Wenatchee River Ranger Station in Leavenworth, WA, offering one permit (up to 8 people) per zone.
  • Last-Minute Cancellations: Check Recreation.gov regularly.
  • Day Hike: Alternatively, you can through-hike from the Colchuck/Stuart Lake Trailhead to the Snow Lakes Trailhead for a day-long adventure without needing an overnight permit.

By following these guidelines and preparing accordingly, you can increase your chances of experiencing the unparalleled beauty of the Enchantments.

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