Good Luck Getting a Permit for This Washington Hike

The Enchantments in Washington is a hiker’s paradise, offering challenging trails through breathtaking natural beauty. However, securing an overnight permit is incredibly difficult, with less than 7% of applicants getting one each year. This is because the area is divided into five zones, each with its own daily limits on visitors.

Located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the Enchantments features stunning granite peaks, clear lakes, and lush forests. Its delicate ecosystem requires careful management to maintain its pristine condition, so a permit system controls the number of visitors for both day hikes and overnight stays.

What Makes the Enchantments Special?

Hikers love the Enchantments for its tough terrain and amazing scenery. The full thru-hike covers 20 miles and climbs about 5,200 feet. Even experienced hikers usually take about 13 hours to complete it, often splitting it into a two-day trip. Other trails, like those to Colchuck Lake or Snow Lake, are just as challenging and offer spectacular views.

The hiking season is short, as the area is often covered in snow and ice, adding to its exclusivity and appeal.

The Enchantments Permits

Getting a permit for the Enchantments is tough. In 2023, only 2,558 permits were granted out of nearly 40,000 applications. Each applicant must pay a $6 non-refundable application fee, and if selected, an additional $5 per person. While you can apply multiple times, you can only get one permit per season.

Permit Zones and Quotas

The Enchantments is divided into five zones, each with daily visitor quotas:

  • Core Enchantments Zone: 24 people/day
  • Colchuck Lake Zone: 3 groups/day
  • Stuart Lake Zone: 4 groups/day
  • Snow Lake Zone: 5 groups/day
  • Eightmile/Caroline Zone: 3 groups/day

Permits are required from May 15 through October 31. Outside these dates, you can visit without a permit, but some areas may be inaccessible.

Applying for the Enchantments Permit

There are two ways to apply for a permit: the advanced lottery and the day-before lottery. The advanced lottery opens in mid-February, with results announced in mid-March. Successful applicants have until the end of March to confirm and pay for their permits. Unclaimed permits are available through the day-before lottery.

The new day-before lottery, starting in 2024, allows for more spontaneous visits. This system ensures that applicants are within a reasonable distance to reach the area the next day. The lottery runs Mondays through Fridays, covering hikes from Tuesday through Saturday, with permits for Sundays and Mondays filled in the advanced lottery.


The Enchantments in Washington is a dream destination for hikers, known for its challenging trails and stunning natural beauty. Despite the difficult permit process, the experience is unmatched for those lucky enough to secure a spot.

For outdoor enthusiasts looking for an unforgettable adventure, the Enchantments is worth the effort to navigate the permit system. Have you hiked the Enchantments? Share your experience in the comments!

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