Trip Report    

Backpack - Lake Stuart

A Winter Wonderland trip in the Enchantments. Beautiful, but very cold.

  • Road rough but passable
  • The trail to Lake Stuart is in great shape. Microspikes were very helpful on ice and hard packed snow on parts of the trail. The trail to Horseshoe Lake is hard to navigate due to snow and difficult due to a great deal of blowdown.

We had an overnight parking permit that allowed us to use reserved parking. This came with the camping permit. So no problems parking for us.

This was a great group of backpackers. Everyone was skilled and prepared with quality gear. All shared in route finding and decision making. It was a pleasure to hike with this group.

Snow starts at the trailhead (microspikes advised). The larches above Lake Stuart are at peak and clear skies made for many great views. Our campsite had a great view, was close to a stream for water and both toilets. We expected temperatures to drop below freezing at night. One participant had a watch with a thermostat, it displayed 12 degrees in the morning. We all had sleeping bags rated for temps below freezing, sleeping bag liners, slept in our down jackets, etc. and were still cold. 

That first day we talked to one hiker coming down from Horseshoe Lake who had made it to the lake. He said it was difficult, but we could follow his tracks in the snow. Another pair of hikers we met had turned back and advised against trying. We decided to at least explore the trail. There was an incredible amount of blow down. Another group (Day hikers who started early, did get to the lake, and hiked out in the dark - this is a long day trip) counted 27 blowdown before the horseshoe that marks the beginning of the trail. The trail gets very steep from there and blowdown made it impossible to stay on the trail. We came to a ledge with a great view 30 minutes short of our agreed turn around time and stopped there. We would not have made it to Horseshoe Lake and been back to camp by 5 PM as was the plan. We were glad we had tried as none of us had been there before and it was a beautiful day for exploring.

Once back at camp we decided to eat and  pack out. We had enough time and were the only campers left at the lake. It was just too cold for everyone. We passed no one coming up and needed headlamps for the last two miles. We had a great trip, but all looked forward to warm beds that night.

view of lake

lake and mountains