It’s crazy to me just how much natural beauty there is in our state that I haven’t yet seen in person. The list of trail runs, adventures with family, mountains I’d love to explore via bike or foot is seemingly endless.
But I’m not here to share my dreams or goals — I am here to share two point-to-point runs/hikes that I recommend to each and every one of you. The individual beauty of both is truly unique as are the terrain and obstacles that will stand between you and the cold beer in your cooler at the end of your adventure.
But before I dig into the excursions themselves, I do want to give you a few tips so that you enjoy your day(s) in the mountains as much as possible.
Tip No. 1: Train.
And this doesn’t mean just using the elliptical at the gym for 30 minutes a few days a week. Both of these runs/hikes are a lot of elevation and a decent amount of miles, which means that even if you spread them out over a few days, you still need to prepare to be on your feet for hours at a time. Logging ample mileage as well as getting in good, hilly runs and hikes, coupled with a good focus on nutrition for at least a few months prior to your trip will do the trick. Believe me, you don’t want to be miserable for the last 10 miles because you didn’t train enough.
Tip No. 2: Train in the clothing and gear you will use for your hike/run.
OK, this seems logical, right? But there is always someone in the group who gets a “brand new pair of shorts” for the run (or something along those lines) that they haven’t actually run in yet and are spending the entire run wishing that they hadn’t worn them because they didn’t live up to the hype. Figure out what you are going to wear (bring layers!), train in it and make sure everything is good to go prior to your trip.
Tip No. 3: Pack enough water, food and supplies.
Figure out how much you will need and what you should bring at least a few weeks prior to your trip so that you can do some long runs/hikes carrying that load. This is so important because on daily hikes/runs, you may not carry anything, but on these long excursions, you may have 20-plus pounds on your back depending on if you are staying overnight along the trail.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dive into the two trips that both hold a special place in my heart: The Enchantments and Chinook Pass to White Pass.
(Distance: Roughly 19 miles if you start at the Colchuck Lake Trailhead and end at the Snow Lakes Trailhead)
Quick note: If you’re running, I recommend doing this route in the opposite direction. If you’re hiking, either direction works. But keep in mind that if you go from Snow Lakes to Colchuck you will have to descend Aasgard Pass, which doesn’t seem like much fun to me — especially without trekking poles. Elevation: Roughly 6,000 feet of elevation gain and 7,800 feet of loss.
The Trail: This trail is a mix of dirt, rocks and rock scrambling with some roots on the Colchuck side of Aasgard Pass. Speaking of … Aasgard Pass sits at 7,841 feet and is basically straight up a hill of rocks and loose dirt. It’s considered one of the hardest climbs in the Cascades. It’s 1.4 miles with a gain of over 2,200 feet, so you will want to be mentally and physically prepared (hence the tip to hike/run with weight on your back prior to your trip).
But enough with the daunting details. The views in the Enchantments are honestly the MOST spectacular that I have ever seen during a trail run. We went in the beginning of October, so all of the larches were turning colors and the contrast between the blue skies, fall colors and turquoise alpine lakes were nothing short of breathtaking.
Keep in mind that the permit season for the Enchantments is between May 15 and Oct. 31 — but that snow is very likely in the beginning and end of that season. (I would NOT want to go up or down Aasgard with any type of snow or ice, so keep that in mind). This stretch of trail requires a permit for overnight stays, and permits are doled out by lotter — so there is no guarantee that you will get one. If you choose to do the run/hike in a day, which we did, you do not need to get a permit through the lottery, but instead, ﬁll out a day permit at the trailhead before heading out on the trail. It’s important to know that dogs are not allowed in this area, so you’ll have to leave your pups at home.
There is also a shuttle that can take you from one trailhead to the other to retrieve cars after ﬁnishing your point-to-point. You can ﬁnd out more information on this here: http://www.leavenworthshuttle.com/Trailheads.html
You will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at any of the trailheads.
CHINOOK PASS TO WHITE PASS
(Distance: 28 miles)
Elevation: AllTrails.com states that Chinook to White Pass is 3,753 feet of elevation gain and from White Pass to Chinook Pass is 4,806 ft, whereas mountaineers.org states that White Pass to Chinook Pass is only 2,200 feet of elevation gain. Both times I’ve run it, I came up with diﬀerent numbers. Just know that this hike/run is on the mellow side for hikers and trail runners alike — especially if you break the 28 miles into three or four days.
The Trail: If you’re running this popular route, I recommend going from Chinook Pass to White Pass, but if you are hiking it over a few days span, I recommend starting at White Pass. This trail is a mix of dirt, rocks and roots, but all in all, it is in great condition, so if you are running it, you will have a lot of opportunity to keep those feet going at faster speeds. You’ll see stunning views of Mount Rainier, the Goat Rocks and Mount St. Helens, and you’ll pass numerous alpine lakes. There are countless camping spots near the trail, but make sure to check out a Pacific Crest Trail hiking app so you can tell which spots are established campsites. Keep in mind that this means that you will need to be at least 200 feet away from the trail as well as any water source to camping at a legal spot.
You do not need a permit ahead of time before staying overnight on this portion of the Paciﬁc Crest Trail, but you will need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead.