|Prusik above frozen Gnome Tarn.|
You must have a permit to visit this fantastic place, which encourages one to plan in advance. Of course, if you're feeling lucky, you can roll the dice the morning of by playing their lottery system. Don't get caught without a permit; the rangers patrol the area and strictly enforce the permit policy.
Once the legal obstacles are handled, one must face the physical challenge of the approach, and decide which approach is best for them.
The Snow Lake approach gains 5,700' in ~9.5 miles. Aasgard Pass, a favorite among many, has 1,000' less elevation gain and shorter distance, but uses a climber's path to ascend over a nearly 8,000' pass before descending to the lakes. Neither approach can be classified as easy.
The Enchantment Lakes are best visited from late July through mid-October. Late July-early August will often find the area mostly snow-covered, though peaks are very accessible. Late August and September are the best hiking months; the area is mostly melted out and the weather generally continues to be nice. This is a great time to explore and scramble in the upper basin. October offers the turning of the larches, as well as the seasons. It's common to have a dusting of snow on the ground, making off-trail travel in the upper basin tricky. Though photographic throughout the summer, October offers a photographer's paradise when the larches can be timed right. Unfortunately, the weather can be unpredictable and present challenges. One must be prepared for winter conditions, or to even cancel their trip altogether.
|Larches above Sprite Lake.|
This year we once again had a system move in ahead of our visit, bringing temperatures in the 20's, and snow. Nine inches of fresh snow were reported at Lake Vivian the day of our entry. As such, we elected to to approach via Snow Lakes. This would offer us a seemingly easier approach under the conditions, as well as an easier bail route should we need to beat a hasty retreat.
|Camp near Sprite Lake.|
We arrived at Lake Vivian to find the few backpackers there had been tent-bound the previous day during a blizzard. Reports were that nobody was camped higher.
We continued on to Sprite Lake, arriving after 9 hours of hiking and 5,700' above our starting point. The snow awaited us as promised.
|Prusik Peak Reflection near Leprechaun Lake.|
Photography options abound throughout the Enchantment Lakes. But if looking for larches in October, the best option is the lower lakes; Lake Vivian, Leprechaun Lake, Sprite Lake, Perfection Lake, Inspiration Lake and Gnome Tarn provide excellent showings of larch. Larch can be found higher, but their numbers are greatly reduced. A central camp to easily access all these areas is recommended.
|Prusik Peak above frozen Gnome Tarn.|
Lake Vivian: I have not photographed Lake Vivian, though having passed by it many times, I believe it to be very photogenic. It offers a lake set in granite amidst larches, and a unique perspective of Prusik Peak above. I'm not sure Prusik is very photogenic from this side, however. I would probably tend to focus on the lake itself. I hope to spend time photographing near its outlet stream, as well as up high from an obvious overlook along the trail. I've always found myself passing through this area during the middle of the day, and camped too far away for a comfortable visit.
Leprechaun Lake: I've always liked Leprechaun Lake. It is lined with larches and offers excellent views of Prusik Peak and The Temple. It's a large lake and subject to windy conditions. I would suggest the chances of catching a reflection as slim to none. However, don't despair! Locate the trail that explores the peninsula of the lake. At the very end are some tarns, one of which catches a beautiful reflection of the peaks above in late afternoon/evening, which is when the best light arrives.
|Upper Basin from Gnome Tarn.|
Sprite Lake: Sprite Lake is a small gem of a lake encircled by larches, just shy of Perfection Lake. It's quite pretty and often photographed. If offers a small waterfall at its inlet from Perfection Lake, sandwiched between larches. Its outlet stream lines up to perfectly frame Prusik Peak. There is excellent photography to be had from each and every side of this heavenly lake, which can hold an early morning reflection. From this location, don't miss first light on the buttress above Perfection Lake to the west - it can turn a brilliant red in the right conditions, and reflects nicely if the water cooperates.
|Prusik Peak above frozen Gnome Tarn.|
|Prusik Peak above larches and Perfection Lake.|
|Photographer and upper basin of Enchantment Lakes.|
|Prusik Peak above Gnome Tarn.|
For the easiest access to this lake, go to the junction at the head of Perfection Lake and take the Prusik Pass trail.
Many compositions can be had around this small tarn. It holds a reflection of Prusik Peak well. Add larches in season and the scene becomes...well, enchanting!
This scene is best photographed shortly after sunrise, once light has had a chance to light the rock of Prusik and the larches below. If you arrive at or before sunrise, continue up to the ridge top to get above the larches to the south, and catch first light on the peaks of the upper basin - breathtaking!
|Photographer in the Upper Enchantments.|
Having painted this area in such glorious light, I must also take time to stress some safety considerations.
Understand the physical challenge required to get into the Enchantments and make sure it is within your ability. Both routes are physically demanding.
Choose your gear carefully and be conservative. Ounces add up quickly. I recommend a wide-angle and medium range zoom lens, along with polarizers and GND filters for your camera gear.
Be prepared for the weather and elements. The Enchantments can offer winter conditions at any time of year, and do. October can be particularly cold. During my visit, a group of photographers coming over Aasgard Pass in a blizzard learned this the hard way. It ruined their trip. Meanwhile, we found ourselves wearing all of our layers, all of the time!
I hope to have some of these images from my latest trip available on my web site soon. In the meantime, feel free to check out images from previous Enchantment trips, or peruse other galleries of my web site.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line.
As always, thanks for visiting!