Golden Larch Trees (Enchantments)

Golden Larch Trees (Enchantments)

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Hiking

Hope you like the color yellow.

When autumn arrives in the Enchantments, the basin turns golden as the Alpine Larch trees prepare to shed their needles. This is a spectacular scene like no other. These flaming yellow larch trees deserve a page just as much as any climb. The following page is chock full of photos of a golden yellow theme (taken during 3 separate trips in Oct 2008 and 2009). There are also some cool facts about the larch tree, and a little general information about the Enchantments here and there. Enjoy!

A Little About the Larch Tree

Alpine Larch Tree in mid-October.
Needles of Alpine Larch.

There are two larch species in Washington - the Alpine Larch (aka Lyall's Larch) and the Western Larch. The type of larch tree in the Enchantments is Alpine Larch, which grows at elevations above 5,000 ft (the Western Larch grows at elevations between 2,000-5,500 ft).

The Alpine Larch lives at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta. The Alpine Larches in the Enchantments are part of a disjunct population on the east slopes of the Cascade Range of Washington.

The Alpine Larch is a hardy tree, often found in the most inhospitable, rocky spots in north-facing basins buried by snow much of the year. It is also the smallest type of larch, growing from 30-70 ft tall, and shorter at higher elevations. The branches of the Alpine Larch are horizontal to the trunk, irregularly spaced and twisted by the snow, ice, and winds of its extreme habitats. (The Western Larch, by contrast, grows straight and tall, sometimes reaching 200 ft.) The needles of the Alpine Larch are about 1 inch long and crowded in groups of 30-40.

Larch is one of only two deciduous conifers in North America. It has needles on what look like typical evergreen trunks and branches, but like a leafy tree, it drops its needles in the fall. The needles of the Alpine Larch are pale blue-green in the summer, but turn a spectacular golden yellow in the autumn before they fall off for the winter. Usually, the trees begin turning golden in late September, reach their peak brightness in mid-October, and fall off by the winds and storms of November. The alpine spectacle that larches create in October is so compelling that many hikers plan annual trips to trails known for the trees.

The larch is a fire-resistant species that could play an important role as national forest managers attempt to restore the health of federal forests across the West. Amazingly, these trees may live in excess of 1000 years.

Okay, now for some photos!!

Photos of Autumn Brilliance in Enchantments


Temple Canyon / Tamarack Meadows under north side of Mt. Temple.
Temple Canyon / Tamarack Meadows under north side of Mt. Temple.
Prusik Pass from north.
Shield Lake from Prusik Pass.
Near Prusik Pass.
Little Annapurna from north.
Hiking through Enchantment Basin, Temple Ridge in distance.
Little larch.
A lake in Lower Enchantment Basin.
Prusik Peak from Gnome Tarn.
Remnants of ice storm.
Little Annapurna from north.
Prusik Peak south face.
Larch tree needles.
Larch tree needles.
Upper Enchantment Basin, Mt. Temple Ridge in distance.
Upper Enchantment Basin, Mt. Temple Ridge in distance.
Enchantment Basin from summit of Little Annapurna.
Larch tree needles.
Reflection of Prusik Peak.
Prusik Peak near trail to Prusik Pass.
Little Annapurna from north.
Prusik Peak from Gnome Tarn, at night.
Prusik Peak from Gnome Tarn.
Larches reflected on ice.
Little Annapurna from north.
Hiking in Enchantment basin.
Looking towards Witches Tower and Dragontail near Asgard Pass.


Near Asgard Pass.
Ice formations.
Tree hit by rockslide.
Trail marker.
Flat summit of Little Annapurna.
Ice formations.
Ice rimming log.
Prusik in October twilight.
Ice rimming log.
Camp below Prusik Peak.
Frosty ferns.
Colorful reeds in Nada Lake.
Low water level in Upper Snow Lake.
Ice formations.
Glow of Leavenworth at night.
Star trails over Little Annapurna.
October climb of Prusik (link to trip report).
Ice crystals.
Witch's Tower and Dragontail from Aasgard Pass.
Big Dipper over Prusik Peak.
Glowing camp below Prusik Peak.
Grass enclosed with ice.
Grass enclosed with ice.
Grass enclosed with ice.

Key Facts about Enchantments

Here I only give the bare facts about the Enchantments. For much more detail, see the page. APPROACHES There are two standard approaches into the Enchantments. The two stanards are: (1) To the west end of the Enchantment basin via Asgard Pass from Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake Trailhead and (2) To the east end of the Enchantment basin via Snow Lakes from Snow Creek Trailhead. DISTANCES Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake Trailhead to Asgard Pass: 6.1 miles Snow Creek Trailhead to east end of Enchantment Basin: 10 miles From Asgard Pass to east end of Enchantment Basin: approx. 2 miles ELEVATIONS Stuart Lake/Colchuck Lake Trailhead: 3300 ft Colchuck Lake: 5600 ft Asgard Pass: 7800 ft Snow Creek Trailhead: 1300 ft Snow Lakes: 5400 ft Lake Viviane (east end upper basin): 6800 ft Enchantment Basin: 6800-7800 ft CAMPING Popular camping spots on the approaches are Colchuck Lake, Nada Lake, and Snow Lakes. In the basin itself, there are great camp sites practically everywhere you look, at any of the tarns, lakes, or streams. PERMITS Permits are neded between June 15-Oct 15 for overnight camping. This is a popular area, so permits can be difficult to get if not reserved in advance. Permits are not needed for day hiking in the Enchantments.

Another larchy area in NW Washington

While the Enchantments is certainly a place to go to see larches in their flaming fall splendor, the area around Rainy Pass on HWY 20 is another hot spot for golden larch trees. The larches at Rainy Pass are not quite as concentrated as they are in the Enchantments, but they are still just as golden and they can be reached with less effort (only a few miles from the road). Also, Rainy Pass is a good destination for those who live further north. And of course, the mountain views are spectacular. In early October 2011, my mom and I hiked the popular Maple Pass loop just above Rainy Pass. This relatively easy 7-mile loop is spectacular in the fall. Here are a few photos.
We enjoyed our larch hike so much that we returned the following weekend (mid-October 2011) to dayhike the nearby Easy Pass trail, which also is chock full of snow-capped yellow-fringed views...
...and then returned again the next year (early October 2012) to the Rainy Pass area to hike to Cutthroat Pass and back. The arrival of fall in 2012 had been unusually warm and dry, which seems to cause the larches to change color in more gradual (but still spectacular) greens to oranges rather than to explode suddenly in brilliant yellow.

More on my website

This page is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere:


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-18 of 18

Dean - Oct 26, 2009 8:49 am - Voted 10/10

Enjoyable page

My favorite time of the year in the Enchantments is October due to the changing of the colors of the larch trees. You've put together an excellent resource and if it is ok with you I will feature it on my Enchantment page by providing a link to this page.


StephAbegg - Oct 26, 2009 10:16 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Enjoyable page

Thanks for enjoying the larch slideshow, and I'm happy if you'd link the page!


EastKing - Oct 29, 2009 12:06 am - Voted 10/10

Incredible pics!!

I have a Washington State Fall Foliage Album 2009 out. It is a public album. Your pictures are incredible. Those photos would rock in that album. There is a link on the Pacific Northwest Forum.

Great trip report and AMAZING PHOTOS!!!!!!!!!!


StephAbegg - Oct 29, 2009 2:38 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Incredible pics!!

Thanks, I added a few to the Fall Foliage Album. Cool idea for an album.


TimmyC - Nov 1, 2009 2:57 am - Voted 10/10

Brutal page to load on a slow connection

But ABSOLUTELY worth waiting for. Very, very, very nice.


SpiderSavage - Nov 2, 2009 8:44 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice tamaracks

I miss the tamarack trees of N. Idaho. This page is the fix!

Note: You say it is a fire resistant tree, this may be true, but the dead larch is the preferred choice for woodcutters in the NW due to it being harder and longer burning than most softwood conifers.


haivanhuynh - Nov 2, 2009 8:45 pm - Hasn't voted

painful love

I love the wall of photos even though it raped my poor computer.


sourstraw - Nov 2, 2009 11:40 pm - Hasn't voted


I did a 2.5 day backpacking trip in the Enchantments last year and a 1 day through-hike this year. I plan to make it an annual event - I don't think I will ever tire of larches and granite!


dskoon - Nov 3, 2009 12:48 am - Hasn't voted

Oh, Steph!

Beautiful shots, once again. You have the eye, creativity, and know-how of a genius. Not to mention spirit! Wowy-kazowy! Excellent and inspiring. Definitely gonna try and take in the splendor there next year. Thanks.


wasclywabbit - Nov 3, 2009 10:20 am - Hasn't voted

Very Nice

I'm from Colorado and was not aware that there were conifers that shed their needles. I knew I should have taken dendrology back in college. They put quite a show and now I have yet another entry on my bucket list.

Well done and thanks.


dwhike - Nov 3, 2009 11:35 pm - Voted 10/10

Tamarack Love...

I always look foreward to "Tamarack season" here in the northwoods...the only thing better than Tamaracks near home, though, are Tamaracks in the mountains!! Brilliant! Beautiful page, well done! Cheers!


mic007 - Nov 4, 2009 1:09 pm - Hasn't voted

well done

Just wanted to say the pictures capture the fall at heights so very well. I love the tent that is glowing, its like the REI


Redwic - Nov 4, 2009 2:51 pm - Voted 10/10

This is not really a Trip Report

First, I love this contribution to SummitPost. When many people who are not from the Northwest actually think of Washington in October, they tend to think of rain, rain, rain. The larch colors and Autumn colors in Washington are very underappreciated by those who are not familiar with the area, especially in the Enchantments. Your photos are awesome!!!

However, this is not a Trip Report. It is more of an Article (and a very good one, in my opinion). This is not an account of a particular trip, or trips, but rather a broad overview of larch trees and the Enchantments as seen on several trips. The trips themselves are not even described in this contribution, so this is not truly a "trip" report. You really should change this to an "Article", in my opinion.

But, again, I LOVE the photos and larch descriptions. This is a great resource, overall.


StephAbegg - Nov 4, 2009 8:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: This is not really a Trip Report

Done! I agree on the designation....although "Article/Album" is perhaps the best description....


Redwic - Nov 4, 2009 9:05 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: This is not really a Trip Report

You're right, it's really a combination of an Article and Album, but both would be more fitting than a TR. Again, I cannot say enough great things about the photos and larch information. I have recommended other SP members to see this page! *Thumbs Up!*


jmc - Nov 9, 2009 11:53 pm - Voted 10/10


Steph I have admired you photos for a long time. I would like to thank you for sharing your work with us. This page took a long time to load but was worth the wait. Also thanks for the write up on the trees, I am still learning. I am from a land without fall color so your photos have brought the season home.


StephAbegg - Nov 14, 2009 7:36 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Idiot question :)

It's actually a MegaLight, which is about 30% lighter than the MegaMid.....a great lightweight fair weather tent, although it handles 3 nighs in a windy snowstorm on the summit in the middle of the N Cascades quite well too....


alpinelight - Nov 23, 2009 3:14 pm - Voted 9/10

alpine larch

very nice pictures. something very magical about alpine larch in the fall.

Viewing: 1-18 of 18



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