Between the Cascade Mountains and Columbia River rests the clear blue waves and historic downtown of Lake Chelan, a fjord-like glacial lake in north-central Washington. As the third-deepest lake in the United States, its depth and glacial-fed waters are to thank for the lake’s crystalline waves and sapphire hue. The resort town has been a favorite lakefront getaway for nature lovers, couples, and families, due to the limitless adventures and things to do. Take the boat out and tow an inter-tube along for a day of high-speed high-jinks, tour downtown Chelan by electric bikes, sample the area’s deliciously fresh produce and local wine, and ferry out to explore somewhere new in the remote village of Stehekin.
Pair lakeside fun with a quaint downtown and gorgeous mountain views and your summer plans are set. Ready to head out? Here is our list of 8 things to do in Lake Chelan.
First and foremost is fun at the lake. Since Lake Chelan is situated on the eastern side of the Chelan Mountains, the area makes for a favorite summer escape and provides a nice break from Washington’s famous rain and cloudy skies. Make the most of the sunshine with a day out on the water by jet skiing, water skiing, inter-tubing, kayaking, or parasailing. If you’re in need of a vacation rental with a boat dock for your own boat or are looking for a rental, there are plenty of boat launches and rentals along the shore.
Lake Chelan State Park is also known for its world-class fishing, so be sure to cast a line to reel in cutthroat and kokanee Salmon, rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and bluegills.
When you need a break from watersports, you don’t have to look far for a sweet treat. Surrounding this crystalline lake are tens of thousands of acres of fruit orchards and vineyards. Take a drive to a number of farm stands selling apples, cherries, grapes, apricots, pears, and peaches—or, make a day of walking through the orchards with your partner, friends, or family, and pick some fruit to bring back with you.
Of course, this fruitful soil also translates to incredible wines and ciders. Lake Chelan is an American Viticulture Area, which means it has been designated as a region favorable for wine-grape growing. Treat yourself and loved ones to an evening of wine-tasting at any of the area’s 40 wineries, and make new memories together.
After you’ve wandered the sandy lakeshore, stroll historic downtown Chelan for boutiques, bookstores, restaurants, and small-town charm. If you need a break from the lake, you can easily spend a day perusing all there is to see. Stop in for a flick at Ruby’s Theatre, sample the local brews at Stormy Mountain Brewing, and cruise around via Chelan Electric Bikes. You’ll also find antique stores, gift shops, cafes, outdoor outfitters, a number of eateries, and the Chelan Museum.
For homegrown and homemade goods, head out to Chelan’s two farmers markets: the Chelan Evening Farmers Market (May through October, every Thursday from 2PM-6PM at Chelan Riverwalk Park) and the Chelan Saturday Farmers Market (Memorial Day Weekend through October, every Saturday from 8AM-1PM at the parking lot on Johnson Ave).
Peruse trinkets, flowers, fresh produce, and goods harvested or crafted from the local community. Grab a bottle of honey or a container of goat cheese to brighten your breakfast or as a treat to remember your trip. If you’d rather just sit back and take in the ambiance, pick up a snack from the food trucks and enjoy views of the lake.
Slidewaters water park is one of the most popular Lake Chelan family activities. The park packs in plenty of fun, with a surf wave pool and surfing coaches, a lazy river, a hot tub, a splash pad, a number of body, tube, and water slides, cabanas, and a concession stand, as well as stunning views of the lake. No matter the age group, everyone is sure to have a good time racing down the slides, relaxing with a float along the lazy river, or sitting back to catch up with friends and family.
When your little ones want to switch things up from pruney fingers, High Trek Adventures is located on the same property, featuring a high adventure ropes course, zip lines, and axe throwing for adults.
Along the northern side of the lake rests the remote village of Stehekin. With a population of 75 permanent residents, the area boasts an unspoiled natural setting, with no cell phone reception or outside roads. The only way to reach Stehekin is by seaplane, personal boat, or the popular ferry, Lady of the Lake, which departs from Chelan.
Once you reach Stehekin, you’ll be fully immersed in the magic of the North Cascades. Unwind in this tiny community’s slower pace and simple living with a visit to the Stehekin Pastry Company, a horseback ride through Stehekin Valley Ranch, or a tour through Buckner Orchard. For those that are looking to kick up the adventure, there are hiking trails, fishing spots, mountain bike rentals, and boat rentals.
Another favorite lake-access park is Don Morse Memorial Park. Here, you’ll find 2,000 feet of waterfront, with a few additional attractions to boot, such as a putting green golf course, a skate park, a playground, sports courts, and nearby Ralley Alley Go-Karts. Swim, boat, or picnic in the sunshine by Lake Chelan’s crystal clear waters. For golfers looking for more fairway, head a few miles north for Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course.
Beebe Bridge Park is an excellent place for a breath of fresh mountain air or a sunset walk. Take in beautiful views of the Columbia River, join in on a game of basketball, and if you’re planning a pet-friendly vacation, the park makes the perfect backdrop for a game of fetch.
The charming Bavarian town of Leavenworth is a must-see if you’re planning on staying in the area for a while. This alpine village is located about two and a half hours from Lake Chelan and promises mountain thrills and authentic German cuisine. Take a ride on the mountain coaster, visit the reindeer farm, and plan a stop back around winter, when the town transforms into a wonderland of Christmas markets, sparkling lights, and sleigh rides.
At Lake Chelan, the fun doesn’t stop with a little snowfall. Bring your skis and snowboard to Echo Valley, just 9 miles from downtown Chelan, or seek serene views while Nordic skiing around Echo Ridge. Nearby Leavenworth is also a winter must-see, with reindeer farms, Christmas markets, and winter festivals.
In and out of the water, Lake Chelan is pretty fantastic. The lake itself is the third-deepest lake in the United States, and its glacial waters make it clear, cool, and safe to swim in. The Chelan region is also known for its abundant fruit orchards and vineyards, as it has been designated as an American Viticulture Area. Given its place within the Chelan and Cascade Mountains, you’ll also find plenty of hiking and biking trails, as well as winter sports.