Exploring The Enchantments Core Zone – Day 2

Exploring The Enchantments
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A journey on Washington State’s most iconic backpacking trail, called The Enchantments, is like stepping into paradise. Getting a permit for The Enchantments and climbing Aasgard Pass are both nearly overwhelming challenges but once you are inside the Core Zone you will not want to leave. It is a mountainous landscape full of gorgeous alpine lakes and curious wildlife. We spent an entire day exploring Core Zone via several day-hikes but recommend two days to those planning for their own adventure.

This post is all about our experience of exploring The Enchantments Core Zone. For more details on planning your own journey check out our complete guide to The Enchantments. This is also a three-part trip report of our experience of backpacking The Enchantments. If you missed the first day, check out the true challenge of The Enchantment: Aasgard Pass.

Exploring The Enchantments – Day 2 Trip Report

Isolation Lake
Sunrise at Isolation Lake in The Enchantments.
  • 2nd Day’s Destination: Inspiration Lake (7,185′)
  • Rating: Moderately-Easy
  • Distance: 1.25 miles
  • Elevation Loss: 550′
  • 2nd Day’s Hiking Time: 1 hour (Main Trial)
  • Our Itinerary: 3 days, 2 nights
  • Season: Early-August
  • Camping Permit: Required (Core Zone)

I awoke early on our second day to watch the first light illuminate The Enchantments over Isolation Lake. I was once again mesmerized by the beauty of the upper basin. As I began preparing to make breakfast, three families of mountain goats came down to our campsite searching for the urine spots.

Mountain Goat Catnip

Camping with Goats
A family of mountain goats inspect our neighbor’s campsite.

Human urine is like catnip to mountain goats. I’m not even joking. One got a whiff of our neighbor’s pee spot (too close to their tent) and went crazy. He started violently thrashing around, located the spot, and then proceeded to lick the rocks and kick them over to locate the fresh salts below. The salt in our urine is really what they are after. Meanwhile, a mama mountain goat caught wind of the action and charged the male, running him out of the spot so she could have it all to herself. I even saw her dig a horn into her calf to push it away when it tried to take advantage of the discovered salt. 

Close Encounters with Goat… Too Close

Enchantments Mountain Goat
Along with the magical scenery the mountain goats make this place truly enchanting.

As things calmed down the male approached me and seemed to have no boundary issues as he backed me up a small boulder. I kept climbing higher. He came within two feet of me and all I did was backup during the approach. These animals have no real fear of man but have very clearly made the connection between us and the salts they crave. 

Breakfast with Goats

Breakfast Buddy
My breakfast buddy at Isolation Lake.

As the morning wore on, I finally successfully pulled myself away to make breakfast. A mother and baby goat came by and laid down behind our tent. It was a surreal thing to be enjoying our coffee and essentially having breakfast with wild creatures. 

Snow Creek Lakes

Snow Creek Lakes - Exploring The Enchantments
The upper basin has many small lakes collectively known as the Snow Creek Lakes.

Breakfast over we packed up our site and bid farewell to our native camping companions to continue exploring The Enchantments. We headed down the path through the upper basin towards our next campsite. The small descent from Isolation Lake to the next small lake is gorgeous. It’s part of a series of lakes collectively known as Snow Creek Lakes. The first lake has a small waterfall careening from the snowpack below Isolation Lake and rolling over the smooth boulder-like cliff into the small lake below.

Path Through the Upper Basin

The Enchantments Upper Basin
Looking back at Dragontail Peak (on the right) from Snow Creek as it flows across the Upper Basin.

The trail overlooks much of the upper basin, dotted with the Snow Creek Lakes, as it leads towards Prusik Peak rising in the distance. The path descends slightly as it passes through the upper basin with one stunning area following the next. Along the descent, we had to cross over a small snow embankment (in August) before following the flow of Snow Creek into a small gorge. The descent steepened as we hiked through the gorge and dropped to the shore of Inspiration Lake. The gorge also had some snow in it making this the most difficult section in the Core Zone of The Enchantments. But when compared to Aasgard Pass, the challenge is barely worth mentioning.

Our Inspiration Lake/Perfection Lake Campsite

Once on the bank of Inspiration Lake (7,185′), the trail continues along the eastern shore but we took a right to the bluff overlooking Perfection Lake. This seemed like an ideal spot to watch the sunset and the sunrise so we set up our tent and had lunch.

Prusik Pass Loop – Day Hikes in The Enchantments

The Enchantments Map
A reference map and elevation profile for The Enchantments hiking trail.
  • Type: Loop
  • Rating: Moderately-Difficult
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 460′

After lunch, we set off to climb Prusik Pass and continue exploring The Enchantments. To access the Prusik Pass trail we followed the main path, skirting Inspiration Lake, and then dropped down to the Perfection Lake’s western shore. At the north end of the lake, we found the sign that clearly marks the path to Prusik Pass. The trail up is straight up, but relatively short. Once we topped the ridge, Shield Lake was revealed along with the basin it lies within. Prusik Peak is beautiful from the pass, but the best view is further up the bouldery cliffs to the east.

Prusik Overlook
A panoramic view of Prusik Peak and Shield Lake.

Prusik Peak Overlook

We climbed higher until the view of the jagged arrow-like peak of Prusik was unobstructed. The view over the lower basin of The Enchantments all the way to Lake Viviane (6,812’) is one of the best views in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We even got lucky and watched as a few rock climbers summit the knife-edge of Prusik. 

The Enchantments
Looking back over Perfection Lake (left), Inspiration Lake (right), and Little Annapurna Peak (center left) from the top of the Prusik Pass Trail.

Gnome Tarn

Gnome Tarn
Prusik Peak reflects beautifully off of the still waters of Gnome Tarn.

Next, we descended the southeast side of the ridge and headed towards Gnome Tarn (7,372′). I had read that these still waters held the best reflective views of the iconic Prusik Peak and the reports were correct. This spot holds one of the best views in the state of Washington and can only be found by exploring The Enchantments. It is simply stunning. 

Looping Back to Perfection Lake

We tore ourselves away from the beautiful tarn and started the descent back towards Perfection Lake on an unmaintained trail. It was easy enough to follow with a downed tree being the only real obstacle. Before long we were headed south on the eastern edge of Perfection towards Crystal Lake continuing our exploration of The Enchantments.

Crystal Lake Trail- Day Hike

Sprite Lake and Little Annapurna
The trail to Crystal Lake crosses over the top of this little waterfall between Perfection and Sprite Lakes.
  • Type: Out-n-Back
  • Rating: Easy
  • Total Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 65’

The journey to Crystal Lake includes hopping over the small waterfall between Perfection Lake (7,079′) and Sprite Lake (7,069′) before traversing the mostly flat basin area south of Perfection. Finally, the trail drops about 30’ just before arriving at the crystal clear water’s edge of the aptly named Crystal Lake (7,010′). 

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake
Looking down on Crystal Lake from the upper basin above Inspiration Lake.

Crystal Lake has a peninsula that bisects half of the lake’s clear blue water. The pennisula apparently makes for an amazing campsite as several backpackers had staked their claim there. We skirted the south side of the lake and climbed to an overlook on the southwestern corner. From here we were able to see Mt. Rainier rising far in the distance. 

Camping with More Goats

Goat in the Dust
This mama goat laid down in the shade above our campsite and proceeded to kick the dust up in an attempt to cool herself.

We returned back to our campsite at Inspiration Lake and started preparing dinner. Before long, we were once again distracted by the locals. A mother mountain goat and her baby decided that the flat area above our campsite, about 10’ away, was an ideal spot to take a late afternoon siesta. It is amazing how these creatures carry on their lives without a care to the humans who invade their environment. Shortly thereafter two more families of mountain goats came sliding down the nearly vertical cliff face adjacent to our campsite. It was a sight to see. None of them had issues with us but they had very little patience for their fellow goats and tended to prod one another with their horns if they felt that their personal space was being invaded.

Sunset with Goats

Kid Climber
A baby mountain goat, known as a “kid,” traverses the rocky terrain better than a world-class rock climber.

After dinner, I went out to the cliffside overlook to take some sunset photos. Sitting on the cornice I heard something behind me and I turned to find a mama mountain goat standing behind me blocking my way back off the rocky precipice. I looked to my right to see her baby literally standing on the side of the wall looking up at me curiously. It was a surreal few moments of wondering if she would run me off the cliffside or eventually allow me to pass. Luckily, she got bored of waiting on me (to pee I’m guessing) and laid down on the rocky cliff below me. I retreated to the tent and slept soundly after a day of truly surreal interactions with the natives while exploring The Enchantments.

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