Lake Chelan is uniquely located in the very heart of North Central Washington, and there are lots of great options for day trips for travelers wanting to explore the beautiful and diverse landscape of our special part of the state. Each trip below is within 100 miles of Lake Chelan and a must see adventure for travelers in our region!
- The first trip on our list is right here locally in the Lake Chelan Valley. Nestled at the other end of the 55-mile natural wonder known as Lake Chelan is the off-grid village of Stehekin. A place where no roads lead, but adventure awaits. A piece of the old world untouched by time awaiting travelers from around the world to share their unique way of life. Take the “Lady of the Lake” ferry service from Chelan to Stehekin and hop on the North Cascades National Park Tour Bus and take the guided tour up to Rainbow Falls, the world famous Stehekin Pastry Company, and up to the High Bridge and entrance to the National Park. Hear personal stories from a local tour guide about the unique history of the Stehekin River Valley. The tour schedule coincides with the ferry schedule and will give you enough time to grab lunch at the North Cascades Lodge before boarding the ferry back to Chelan.
- Driving West about an hour and a half from Lake Chelan, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains along highway 2, Leavenworth is a small and beautifully designed, old-world Alpine/Bavarian style village. If you envision a small town, somewhere in Germany, nestled in a narrow valley and surrounded by snow-covered mountains, Leavenworth could be that very place. With traditional Bavarian style cuisine, Ale in abundance, and an old-world charm throughout the village, what’s not to love? Some of the world’s most beautiful hikes are located just outside of Leavenworth such as The Enchantments and Colchuck Lake.
- Another adventure will take you North up the Methow Valley to the rustic cowboy town of Winthrop. Winthrop is a tiny old western town with antique boardwalks, great boutiques, restaurants, and every outdoor recreational pursuit you could ask for! The pristine Okanogan National Forest is right in the backyard and your playground. Winthrop is a year-round wonderland but in the winter is acclaimed for the continent’s largest network of cross-country ski trails. Visit on any day of the year and you are sure to have a great experience!
- While you’re headed in this Northern direction, note that the Methow Valley, spreading from Pateros to Mazama with little towns dotting the drive and warm, comfortable scenery that will leave you feeling like you might just find the Little House on the Prairie.
- Heading East out of the Lake Chelan area will take you into the North American region of the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. Just an hour and 16-minute drive brings you to Dry Falls located in the heart of the Grand Coulee. The falls itself is 3-1/2 miles wide and drops 400 feet! The free Visitor Center is small and thorough leaving you with a sense of historic activity. The landscape and views are simply extraordinary!
- From there, a drive to Soap Lake is just 21 minutes up the road! Soap Lake is a meromictic soda lake in the town of Soap Lake, Washington. These mineral rich waters have been hailed for years for their medicinal values and you’ll find people along the shores spreading the soft mud on their skin to this day! Seeing and learning about this natural wonder is fascinating! In fact, back in the day, this lake was known as neutral ground for warring tribes; it was a place of healing for all – NOT war. Learning about this natural wonder is fascinating but you can get a really good bite to eat here, too!
- The last adventure on this leg, just 58 minutes up the road, will take you to Grand Coulee Dam. Grand Coulee is the largest dam in the Columbia River Basin and one of the largest dams in the world. For a time, Grand Coulee Dam was the largest concrete structure ever built. A great visitor center will fill you with more history, but every night at 9:30 is a one-of-a-kind laser light show on the Dam! This is a must see for travelers young and old!
- Last but not least is our own little slice of heaven, Echo Ridge. Located above the cloud level with breathtaking view of Lake Chelan and Slide Ridge. Echo Ridge has trails for all ages and times of year. In the spring, summer and autumn months enjoy miles of hiking and mountain bike trails of various difficulties, and in the winter enjoy precision groomed cross country ski trails with warming yurts perfectly placed along the way or spend the day at the Echo Valley ski hill and grab a burger and some cocoa in the little lodge. With so many different trails to take and only so much time in a day, you could spend several days exploring all the sights and sounds of the in-depth trail system. Bring your snacks or lunch and make it a day!
While you could certainly spend your days at Lake Chelan on the water, wineries, or other local hangouts… and you SHOULD do that, there is no disputing the fact that this is the BEST jumping off point in the State of Washington for day trips of all kinds. Making Mountain View Lodge your base camp is definitely the ticket to adventure over and over again. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!
By Matt Renggli and Kim Ustanik