Colchuck Lake Elopement Guide – How to Elope at Colchuck Lake

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If you’re dreaming of an elopement filled with adventure, breathtaking mountain peaks, and an even more breathtaking alpine lake, then you’ve come to the right place, my friend: welcome to my Colchuck Lake elopement guide! Colchuck Lake is one of Washington’s most popular lakes and you’ll soon find out why—this location is nothing short of spectacular, and is the ultimate elopement destination for couples who are up for a challenging trek through the wilderness. The greater the challenge, the greater the reward, right? 

In this guide to how to elope at Colchuck Lake, I’ll be giving you everything you need to know about not only getting married at this stunning spot in the mountains, but also the most important practical information + logistics about the hike itself. Let’s dive right in (lake pun absolutely intended)!

Where is Colchuck Lake?

If you’re not a Washington native (or even if you are), you may not know where Colchuck Lake is—which is completely fair, as it’s smack dab in the middle of a majestic mountain range that’s not visible unless you actually make the full trek. Colchuck Lake is located on the western slope of The Enchantments, a.k.a. the most phenomenal mountain range in the western US (though I may be slightly biased). Part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, the lake sits at around 2,300 feet above sea level, on the southeast end of the Icicle Creek subbasin. The closest town is Leavenworth, which is a 30 minute drive from the lake, and the closest major city is Seattle, which is around 3 hours away. I recommend staying in Leavenworth the night before and/or after your hike to the lake, as it is a lengthy + tiring trek, and you will definitely not want to be driving 3 hours to & from Seattle (or wasting that daylight)!

Why You Should Elope at Colchuck Lake

Truly, the images in this guide should speak for themselves—but just in case you need a little extra convincing, allow me to let you in on three of the top reasons why you should elope at Colchuck Lake over any of the other beautiful alpine lakes in Washington State.

1. The views of Dragontail & Colchuck peaks are to die for.

This hike is iconic among trailgoers in the PNW for many reasons, the main one being the simply spectacular mountain views. Whether you luck out with a day full of sun and clear, blue skies, or you arrive at the lake only to find overcast, foggy weather, the atmosphere of this lake, set among the dramatic peaks, is unbeatable. You couldn’t ask for a more calm, quiet space to say your vows, to reflect on your relationship, and to start out your marriage! Oh, and did I mention the fall foliage at Colchuck Lake? To die for.

2. The hike is difficult, but oh-so-rewarding.

Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this hike—it’s labeled as moderate to challenging across most trail websites, and you will definitely break a sweat, especially throughout the steeper portions of the trail. But if this hike isn’t worth every drop of sweat, then I don’t know what is! Once you arrive at the lake, you’re golden: you get to reap the rewards of the hard work you put in on the way up, from the crystal clear, blue waters to the tree-lined shores to the dramatic shadows across the peaks on a sunny day. If you’re up for the challenge, then you will not regret it one bit.

3. You can do it in a day.

Many of the most popular + scenic hikes in the Enchantments are longer backpacking routes that require an overnight stay, but you can absolutely hike to and from Colchuck Lake in a day! No need to reserve a campground and go through the difficult process of trying to get an overnight permit via lottery (unless you want to)—you can wake up in your Airbnb/lodge in Leavnworth, have an incredible adventure to the lake, and be back in your cozy accommodations by bedtime.

Important Things to Know About Hiking Colchuck Lake

Now because eloping at Colchuck Lake does require a bit of a journey, it’s super important to be familiar with the trail + the area ahead of time to ensure a safe, smooth adventure. As a Colchuck Lake elopement photographer who has visited the area multiple times, here are some of the most important things to know about hiking Colchuck Lake for your big day.

  • It is challenging! The Colchuck Lake hike is approximately 8 miles round trip, with nearly 2,300 feet of elevation gain, so be prepared for a difficult climb. It requires at least half of a day to complete—I’d recommend a minimum of 8 hours depending on your hiking ability and what activities you might want to incorporate into your day. 
  • Be aware of permit requirements: If you want to stay overnight in the area, you’ll need to follow the Enchantment Zone rules, which require you to have a permit for overnight use between May 15 and October 31. To obtain an overnight permit, you’ll have to go through the lottery system, which you can learn more about here.
  • Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail or at the lake, so you’ll have to leave your furbabies at home (or back at your Airbnb with supervision).
  • National Forest Road 7601 is closed from Icicle Creek Road to the trailhead during the winter (typically November-May), so you’ll need to opt for a summer or early fall elopement. You can monitor current road conditions here.
  • The trail starts at the Stuart Lake Trailhead, and you’ll follow it to the junction with Colchuck Lake Trail.
  • There’s a toilet at the trailhead, as well as a parking lot with limited spots. If you’re hiking with guests, I’d recommend carpooling.

Best Time to Elope at Colchuck Lake

What is the best time of year to elope at Colchuck Lake?

Colchuck Lake has a fairly short hiking season, as it’s located at a high elevation that gets a lot of snow in the winter months. The trail is typically fully open and clear of snow between July and October, but I recommend eloping during the shoulder season (late spring or early fall) to avoid crowds! You can monitor current trail conditions on the Forest Service website here to make sure you know what to expect weather-wise.

Now I hate to tell you this, but you can never really predict the weather in the PNW, especially at spots high up in the mountains like Colchuck Lake. That’s why I recommend preparing yourselves for any + all weather scenarios beforehand; this way, you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable adventure no matter the conditions you may be hit with. Be sure to check out my guide to How to Embrace “Bad” Weather On Your Elopement Day for all my best tips!

What is the best time of day to elope at Colchuck Lake?

I recommend starting your hike in the morning, and if you can elope on a weekday (especially midweek), you’ll have the best bet at a quieter, less crowded experience!  If you’re eloping on a weekend, you’ll want to arrive at the trailhead by at least 7am, ideally earlier, in order to get a parking spot + avoid crowds as much as possible.

Legalities of Getting Married at Colchuck Lake

Eloping outdoors comes with a few additional requirements to ensure you’re following local rules + regulations, so let’s go over the legal steps you’ll need to follow in order to hike and get married at Colchuck Lake.

1. Get a Northwest Forest Pass for day use

First up, you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass on your vehicle in order to park at the trailhead. This pass costs $30 annually and is honored at all Forest Service operated recreation sites in both Washington & Oregon, and is valid for all passengers in a vehicle. You can get this pass online, which I recommend doing well ahead of time as you’ll need to wait to receive your pass in the mail! If you need your pass at the last minute, you can purchase a printable ePass here.

Alternatively, an America the Beautiful Pass will also work—so if you already have one of those, no need to buy a separate Northwest Forest Pass! This pass costs $80 annually and is probably the best bang for your buck, as it covers entrance fees at lands managed by the NPS, US Forest Service, BLM, and more. It’ll cover you and all the passengers in your vehicle, same as the Northwest Forst Pass.

2. Fill out the mandatory wilderness permit at the trailhead

This is a free permit that helps track trail usage, so be sure to fill it out once you’re there.

3. Get an overnight permit if you’ll be camping

As I mentioned before, if you want to camp at Colchuck Lake or anywhere in the Enchantments Wilderness Area, you’ll need to get an overnight permit. This requires you to either participate in the pre-season lottery system or in the walk-up permit lottery at the Leavenworth Ranger Station, and I will warn you that it can be difficult to get one! If you’re interested in spending a night under the stars in this beautiful area, you can learn more about Enchantment Area Wilderness Permits here.

4. Get your Washington State marriage license

Finally, you’ll need to get a Washington State marriage license to get married at Colchuck Lake, of course! Washington requires you to have at least two witnesses over the age of 18: if you don’t want to invite any guests and want a completely private elopement, I can be one of your witnesses, and then we can find someone else on the trail to serve as your second. You can get your license through any county, so no need to get it in Chelan County if that’s not the easiest way for you to go. Once you get your license and pay your marriage license fee (which varies by county; the Chelan County fee is $57), there’s a mandatory three-day waiting period. After that waiting period is up, your license will be valid for 60 days, so be sure to use it within that timeframe!

Visit this blog post for more details on getting your Washington marriage license + wedding permits.

What to Wear for Your Colchuck Lake Elopement

Let’s talk outfits for a brief minute—because I know what you’re thinking: Marla, how the hell are we supposed to complete a steep, 8-mile hike in our nice elopement attire?

Short answer: you’re not!

I recommend hiking in your most comfortable and practical hiking attire, as this is a lengthy and challenging elopement. Safety comes before fashion here, friends—I’d much rather see you stepping over exposed tree roots in your comfy REI pants than attempting to do so without ripping the dress that you spent thousands of dollars on. Hiking boots with good traction and clothes that allow you to freely move around are going to be your best friends on this hike, and then you can change into your elopement attire once you’ve made it to the water. You should also bring along a light rain jacket no matter the season, because you never know when it might drizzle (or pour) in the PNW.

Dress/suit/elopement outfit-wise: we will be out in the middle of the rugged wilderness with rocks, tree roots, unstable surfaces, etc., so I’d lean toward choosing elopement attire that is flexible, breathable, and doesn’t drag on the ground too much. Especially in the summer, when it can get quite sunny + warm up at the lake, lightweight fabrics are definitely the way to go—such as chiffon, crepe, organza, and linen.

Since Colchuck Lake is located at a fairly high elevation, you’ll also want to bring sunscreen along with you, or have your makeup artist apply SPF beneath your makeup to protect your precious skin. And on that same note of protecting your precious skin, Colchuck Lake can have a TON of mosquitoes in the summer, so be sure to bring insect repellent.

Fun Activities for Your Colchuck Lake Elopement

Leavenworth and the Enchantments area are truly every outdoor lover’s dream come true, with endless epic adventures available—as well as more relaxing opportunities for those who want to take it a little easier. Below is a list of 10 fun things to do in the area for your Colchuck Lake elopement!

1. Take a dip in the lake 

2. Go stargazing (if you’re camping overnight)

3. Explore the town of Leavenworth

4. Visit Lake Wenatchee

5. Have a lakeside picnic

6. Go climbing at Colchuck or Dragontail Peak

7. Go wine tasting or visit a brewery in Leavenworth

8. Go white water rafting on the Wenatchee River

9. Go horseback riding through the wilderness

10. Find an epic mountain biking trail

Where to Stay Near Colchuck Lake

Like I mentioned earlier in this guide, I recommend staying in or near Leavenworth for your Colchuck Lake elopement, as the drive is only about 30 minutes. Here are some of the best places to stay for your Colchuck Lake elopement, whether you’re looking for a rustic cabin or a luxurious mountain resort.

Leavenworth Chalet

A cozy creekside Airbnb with an outdoor hot tub, space to sleep 8 people, and easy access to Leavenworth + Stevens pass

LOGE Leavenworth

An upscale hotel in downtown Leavenworth with a beer garden, outdoor gear rentals, and gorgeous amenities

Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort

A secluded resort in nature with a tranquil spa, delicious dining, and spacious cabins

Lakeview Retreat

A large home with views of Lake Wenatchee + the Cascades, a private hot tub, and space for 6 people

Bavarian Lodge

A Bavarian-style lodge in the heart of Leavenworth with endless things to do nearby, including skiing, biking, and wine tasting

Icicle Village Resort

A mountain resort within walking distance of downtown Leavenworth with an alpine spa, Northwest-inspired cuisine, and a variety of on-site activities

NaMu Lodge

A stunning mountain lodge with luxurious suites, breathtaking views, and modern amenities

Colchuck Lake Elopement Photographer

The final step to bring your dream day together: finding the right Colchuck Lake elopement photographer to document it all for you. Because hiking Colchuck Lake is a bit of a challenge, you’ll want to make sure you hire a photographer who has experience on the trail and will be able to guide you along the way + help you prep for the trek in advance! I’d be honored to tag along on this epic adventure with you, and help you plan the most unforgettable experience of your lives in this breathtaking wilderness—get in touch with me here, and let’s start chatting!

Looking for more stunning elopement locations in Washington State? Check out a few of my personal favorites below:

Rattlesnake Lake Elopement Guide

Washington Coast Elopement Guide

San Juan Islands Elopement Guide


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