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6 Best Things to Do in Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is a great lake retreat in Washington. Since the lake is on the east side of the mountains, the area is much drier than the western side of the state and makes for a great vacation from the rain. 

The lake is stretched thin and runs from north to south, with 110 miles of shoreline. Most of this shoreline is remote, as there are only a few towns along the shoreline.

The towns of Chelan and Manson are the largest towns along the southern shoreline of Lake Chelan, and the small town of Stehekin is located on the far north end.

These cute Washington small towns and the nearby activities make Lake Chelan the perfect vacation for anyone.

Regardless of if you prefer wine tasting, watersports, or hiking, there are plenty of things to do in Lake Chelan: here are our favorites!

Boardwalk over the turquoise water of Lake Chelan with two boats in the distance, someone swimming in water, and hills in the distance.

Best Things to Do In & Near Lake Chelan

Enjoy some delicious wine tasting on the lake.

The Chelan region is designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA), meaning the region is a great location for wine tours!

The lake makes this a great area for wineries, since the lake moderates the nearby temperatures and prevents extreme heat or frost.

There is an abundance of wineries located on near Lake Chelan. Each winery has its own unique personality, both in the winery layout and the wine blend. You can spend many days touring the vineyards and trying the various wine tours.

Some of the most highly rated wineries in the region are the Chelan Ridge Winery, a large gravity flow winery and estate vineyard, Hard Row to Hoe, an organic winery with the first Low Input Viticulture and Enology and Salmon Safe certified vineyard in the region, and Nefarious Cellars, with an awe-inspiring view of its vineyards and the lake that will tempt you into spending all day drinking wine on the property.

Close up photo of green grape vines on a hill over the blue water of Lake Chelan

Explore local beer and cider.

In addition to wineries, Chelan is also home to many unique local breweries. Each of the local breweries specializes in its own unique brews.

There are several local breweries, including the Lake Chelan Brewery, a locally family-owned and operated brewery that emphasizes its hometown feel in Manson, WA along Lake Chelan.

Stormy Mountain Brewing is a local pub known for its beer and BBQ fare, and it’s a great place to go for craft beer near Lake Chelan.

Cider is relatively new to the region but has been growing rapidly. The local apple crop makes this a premier location to enjoy the local ciders at any of the local cider houses.

Each apple variety creates unique flavors when fermented into cider. Local favorites include Washington Gold Cider, Rootwood Cider, Steelhead Cider, and Chelan Craft Cider.

Apple orchards with ripe red apples in a valley near Lake Chelan surrounded by mountains.

Try your hand at fishing.

The Lake Chelan Valley is known for its world-class fishing. Cutthroat and Kokanee are the most popular fish, although there are also Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Large Mouth Bass, and Crappies.

Lake Chelan is stocked with 100,000 Cutthroat and 500,000 Kokanee Salmon yearly, making for a great place for fishing.

The lake is 33,000-acres with 110 miles of shoreline, providing ample habitat for fish and many areas for anglers.

Along the shoreline, there are many campgrounds and parks that provide fishing access from the shoreline and for boat launching.

With the equipment and a fishing permit, there are many opportunities to catch fish on your own. However, there are also many fishing guides and tours offered in the area for those who want some guidance.

Fishing in Lake Chelan is possible year-round, although some areas of the lake are closed during spring.

A red and white fishing boat in the turquoise water in a town on Lake Chelan on a sunny summer day.

Visit the lakeside town of Stehekin.

The town of Stehekin is a remote town along the north shore of Lake Chelan, providing a wilderness experience along Lake Chelan.

Access to the town of Stehekin is a large part of the fun, since the town is only accessible by foot, air, or water (not by roads).

The most common way to access the town is by boat, aboard the “Lady of the Lake”, the only boat servicing the town.

Boat rides to the town are 4 hours with several stops along the way at Field’s Point Landing, Prince Creek, and Holden Village, offering a full tour of Lake Chelan. A 2.5-hour express ride is also offered.

Although Stehekin is a quiet small town, there are many activities to enjoy during your visit.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities, since Stehekin is nestled in the remote North Cascades with plenty of mountain vistas to enjoy.

A few of the most popular trails from Stehekin include the 2.5-mile hike to Agnes Gorge, walks along the scenic Lakeshore trail which follows the north shore of Lake Chelan, and the 4.4-mile Rainbow Loop, overlooking the scenic Stehekin valley and historic Buckner Orchard.

Other great activities in Stehekin include kayak tours, horseback riding, the Stehekin Garden, and Buckner Orchard and Homestead.

Stehekin Waterfall cascading over a cliff on a sunny day, grass and trees in foreground of photo

Spend the night camping by the lake.

Camping near Lake Chelan is a low-cost, outdoors way to enjoy all the lake and town has to offer.

Lake Chelan State Park has more than 100 campsites but is often still sold out during the summer.

For those who want to camp here during peak summer weekends, you will have to make reservations well in advance.

However, if you manage to reserve a spot, you will get to enjoy a campsite near the long sandy beach and calm lagoon located along the lakeshore in this state park. If you don’t reserve a campsite, this state park is still a great place to visit during your trip to Lake Chelan.

A less crowded and more remote campsite is the Snowberry Bowl Campground, located on the western shoreline of the lake. This campground is located near Holden Village, a small retreat center, but further away from other towns and services on the lake.

This campground is much less crowded than Lake Chelan State Park, meaning it is a good choice for a busy summer weekend.

Kamei Campground and Wapato Lake Campground are additional campgrounds located near the lake, both located on the eastern shoreline outside the town of Manson.

Red and green tent lit up from the inside with a dark sky lit up by lots of little tiny bright stairs.

Get active with some boating or water sports.

With the warm weather and the large lake, Lake Chelan makes the ideal location for boating and watersport fun.

There are many places to rent boats near the lake, and many options of types. The options include, but are not limited to, jet skis, party and pontoon boats, kayaks, and canoes. Inner-tubing and water skiing are other popular sports on the lake.

For the most adventurous, there is even a Chelan Parasailing company, that will instruct you and take you out to try parasailing.

Any boat ride or tour on the lake will have panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, wineries and vineyards, making it a beautiful and fun way to enjoy the region.

For a more relaxed way to enjoy the water, try floating near the shoreline on an inflatable, soaking up the sunshine. Lake Chelan State Park has a great beach for swimmers and floaters, as it is located in a calm cove on the lake. On a sunny day, there will be many people, especially parents, enjoying the lake from an inflatable in the state park.

A group of people out on a speed boat in Lake Chelan, with another speed boat way off in the distance, on the lake shores are agricultural fields and other flora.

Tackle some local hikes.

There is plenty of hiking available from the southern edge of the lake. The hiking out of Stehekin is remote and wild but requires a long journey. There are plenty of trails located closer to the main towns of Lake Chelan.

One of the best hikes near Lake Chelan is the Chelan Butte Trail, a 7.5-mile trail that heads up from the outskirts of the town of Chelan to Chelan Butte. The trail is rated as difficult, but there is a shorter hill for those who prefer an easier hike.

This trail offers breathtaking views in every direction, including fantastic views of the lake, North Cascades mountains, and towns along Lake Chelan.

An easier trail option is the Bitterbrush Loop on the Little Bear Trail. This trail is a 2-mile loop underneath trees, providing a welcome respite during hot weather.

The trail is home to bears, and although you are unlikely to see any during your walk, keep an eye out for signs of their presence. If you do see a bear, keep your distance, make yourself look big, and create lots of noise. Bears rarely attack humans when given reasonable space and respect.

View over Lake Chelan from above, with grass-covered hills and trees and a small bunch of yellow wildflowers in the foreground.

Swim in the Columbia River.

Swimming is great in Lake Chelan, but when you want to mix it up, head over to Beebe Bridge Park.

Beebe Bridge is a bridge over the Columbia River at Chelan Falls originally designed to carry irrigation water from springs across the river. The water pipeline was removed from use in the mid-1920s, but the bridge remained. 

The park is located on the Columbia River and has a campground, boat launch, swimming area and many other amenities.

The swimming area in the Beebe Bridge Park is one of the few designated swimming areas along the Columbia River, and is great for a change of scenery during your visit to Lake Chelan.

Aerial photo of a rust-covered bridge over the Columbia River on a partly cloudy day.

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