Hiking the Enchantment Lakes: 9 magical sights in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Crystal Lake. Photo: Stephen Hui
Crystal Lake. Photo: Stephen Hui

While reservations for Berg Lake and the West Coast Trail are hot tickets for hikers in British Columbia, a backpacking permit for the Enchantment Lakes is one of the most-coveted prizes in Washington.

Found in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, near the Bavarian-themed tourist trap known as Leavenworth, the Enchantments are a constellation of stunning alpine tarns situated in the Central Cascades. Every year, the U.S. Forest Service holds a preseason lottery (February 15 to March 1) to allocate the majority of overnight permits for the peak and (snowy) shoulder seasons (May 15 to October 31).

Day hikers require a permit too, but it’s free and available at the trailheads — no reservation necessary. Both out-and-back and crossover hikes are possible; a privately operated shuttle service helps with the latter.

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Hiking the Tatchu Trail on Vancouver Island

After experiencing the North Coast Trail and East Beach Trail, I felt a yearning to return to the wild coast of British Columbia. Backpacking the remote Tatchu Trail on Vancouver Island fit the bill.

This essentially unmarked coastal route traverses the Tatchu Peninsula in the territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, covering 32 km (20 mi) on the west coast of the island. Access is by air or water; we opted to floatplane in and out from Gold River with Air Nootka.

From Port Eliza, we trekked northwest to Rugged Point in five days, encountering no other hikers or even kayakers. Things got off to a wet start upon disembarking the floatplane, when my backpack fell in the ocean as we transferred gear and ourselves from dock to shore using an inflatable dinghy. Then it rained as I hastily separated my soggy and dry clothes.

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