Park at the Snow Lakes Trailhead parking lot (left turn off Icicle Creek Road 4.2 miles after the junction with Highway 2). There is a restroom at the trailhead. Be sure to sign the trail register before you start your hike—it helps the Forest Service keep track of usage and is sometimes also useful in search and rescue operations.
Trailhead to Nada Lake
The trail runs down to the bridge over Icicle Creek (just a stone’s throw from the parking lot) before ascending steeply up a series of switchbacks. It gains about 800 vertical feet in the first mile, after which it starts to level off.
At 1.3 miles, pass a wooden sign indicating that you’re entering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. You’ve now at 2200 feet (1000 feet above the parking lot).
Shortly afterwards, you’ll ascend two more pairs of switchbacks—your last ones for about a mile. The open hillside here bears the scars of a wildfire that burned through the Icicle Creek gorge in 1994.
Continue about one mile along the gently climbing trail. On your right (across the valley) is the Snow Creek Wall, a popular rock climbing destination.
You’ll eventually reach another set of quick switchbacks, followed immediately by a flat area to the right of the trail with a partially obscured view of a waterfall. You’re now at the 2.9 mile mark and just shy of 3000′.
At 3.3 miles, the trail starts to climb away from Snow Creek, switchbacking up the side of the gorge.
At 3.7 miles and 3720′, cross a deep gulley which cuts down the hillside towards the creek. In the early season, this gulley may still be filled with snow. If it is, cross it with extreme care, probing the snow ahead of you with a stick or trekking pole. Melting snow creates hidden streams under gulleys like this one, which weakens the snow. An unexpected fall through the snow onto the uneven rock below can result in serious injury.
After the gulley crossing, the trail switchbacks tightly up the hillside a bit more before leveling off once again and traversing parallel to the creek below.
At 4.35 miles, you’ll reach a plank bridge which crosses Snow Creek. You’re now just one mile and 700 vertical feet from the first lake, Nada Lake (and coincidentally, also from the first campsites in the Snow Zone and the first backcountry toilet).
Nada Lake to Snow Lakes
At 5.4 miles, you’ll reach Nada Lake. The first campsite is to the right of the trail, just across from the day use area. The toilet is behind you on a spur off the main trail, if you need it (look for a wooden sign pointing the way). There are more campsites (and toilets) in the next half mile along the shore of Nada Lake.
At 5.8 miles, cross Nada Creek. There’s no bridge, but the creek is narrow. There’s a medium-size log a few feet upstream that those with nimble balance can use to cross. And at the driest times of year the creek may be low enough to simply step across. Otherwise, the safest approach may be to take your shoes off and wade.
The trail continues for a bit on the shore of Nada Lake before entering a boulder field and beginning to ascend again. It will switchback soon; be careful not to loose the trail in the boulders.
At 6.5 miles, the trail levels off, and after a short section of woods you’ll emerge on the shore of Upper Snow Lake. Here, the trail crosses a dam (at 6.75 miles). In the earlier part of the summer, when the lake is highest, water may be flowing over the top of the dam. Take your shoes off if you don’t want to get them wet.
There are campsites on both sides of the dam, and a backcountry toilet after it. Beyond the dam the trail skirts the shore of Snow Lake, passing a number of other campsites and toilets.
At 8.0 miles, you’ll reach a log bridge crossing Snow Creek, just above where it feeds into Snow Lake. There are no more campsites in the Snow Zone beyond this point. Carefully cross the log bridge before turning left to follow the stream uphill.
Snow Lakes to Lake Viviane
The final section of trail to the Enchantment Basin heads upstream, keeping vaguely near the creek, growing steeper with each step. At several points the trail climbs up and over large shoulders of bare rock. Where there is no worn dirt to follow, look for cairns (rock piles) indicating the way—often they’ll be above you.
About 0.9 miles after the log bridge, the trail crosses a small stream (which flows from Temple Lake). After this it works its way up the hillside before veering to the right and traversing across the slope. Follow it as it crosses the stream again, turns uphill briefly and then back to the left, crossing the same stream a third time. It makes its final push to the outlet of Lake Viviane across a sloping shoulder of unbroken granite.
At 9.3 miles, and after climbing 6400 vertical feet, you’ll reach Lake Viviane. You’ve made it to Enchantment Basin at last.
There are campsites on either side of the outlet of Lake Viviane, but they are limited and offer little shelter from the wind. If you have the stamina, continue onwards, crossing the outlet on the jumble of logs that have collected there.
From here the trail runs to the left, away from the lakeshore (which is an impassable cliff). Follow it around the large rocks, admiring the view of Snow Lakes below you. 0.1 miles later, the trail makes its move, turning hard to the right and climbing up and over a hump of granite to reach the lakeshore. Look for cairns and some rebar drilled into the rock for traction to guide the way.
Once you’re over the hump, there are several campsites among the larch trees near the lake, as well as a backcountry toilet. More campsites and another toilet are available just ahead, beyond the stream that flows into Lake Viviane from Leprechaun Lake.