Explore Stehekin: The Hidden Treasure of Lake Chelan

by | Jan 17, 2024 | Things to Do, Travel

At the tippy top of Lake Chelan lies a hidden treasure of North Central Washington: the Village of Stehekin.

With a population of 95 and no accessible roads from the outside world, Stehekin is a marvel tucked neatly into the North Cascade Mountains!

But what makes Stehekin so special, and why is it so revered by locals and tourists?

Let’s explore!

A note that Stehekin is truly in the wild! This means weather varies considerably between seasons, and some amenities are unavailable in winter. Be sure to research what to expect before booking an off-season trip!

History of Stehekin

Stehekin waterfall

The name “Stehekin” is of Indigenous origin and translates to “the way through.” Historically, the area was inhabited by Indigenous tribes, primarily the Chelan, who used the valley for hunting and fishing.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries marked significant developments for Stehekin. European settlers arrived in the 1880s, attracted by the area’s natural resources, and established small-scale agriculture, mining, and logging operations. 

The remoteness of Stehekin fostered a close-knit community that relied heavily on its own resources and the natural bounty of the land. By the early 1900s, the area began to gain popularity as a tourist destination, thanks to its stunning natural beauty and isolation. 

Visitors were, and still are, drawn to its tranquil environment, scenic landscapes, and outdoor recreational activities like hiking, fishing, and horseback riding.

In the latter part of the 20th century, Stehekin focused on conservation and tourism.

Establishing the North Cascades National Park in 1968 played a significant role in protecting the area’s natural environment. Stehekin became a gateway to exploring the park’s rugged and pristine wilderness. 

Stehekin has maintained its small community feel despite growing as a tourist destination. Today, it stands as a testament to the balance between preserving natural beauty and offering a retreat for those seeking solace in the wilderness, embodying the spirit of the Pacific Northwest’s untouched landscapes.

How To Get To Stehekin

Boat launch at Stehekin

The only ways to get to Stehekin are by helicopter with Lake Chelan Helicopters, plane, boat, or foot via the Pacific Crest Trail off Highway 20.

The easiest and most convenient transportation option is by ferry. The Lake Chelan Boat Company offers year-round service to Stehekin via the Lady of the Lake. 

With the Lady of the Lake, you can stay for a day trip or overnight! It’s a beautiful way to travel up and down Lake Chelan while discovering its pristine nature.

Getting Around Stehekin

You may wonder how you’ll get around without any roads into Stehekin. Luckily, several transportation options get you from point A to point B!

The Stehekin Shuttle Bus travels 11 miles up the valley, stopping at landmarks along the way. You also have the option to rent off-road vehicles that give you the flexibility to explore the area on your schedule!

And nothing quite beats the sun on your face and the wind in your hair while riding a bike! Check out Stehekin Discovery Bikes for hourly and daily bike rentals, just ¼ mile stroll up the valley road.

Hiking in Stehekin

Hiker in Stehekin

Stehekin is bursting with natural beauty, and one of the best ways to explore is on foot!

Enjoy miles of hiking trails ranging from easy day trips to more difficult overnighters.

The Lakeshore Trail, Stehekin River Trail, and Agnes Gorge are beautiful day-hike options suitable for most ages and abilities. Each trail offers a different vantage of the area, from stunning lake views to peaceful walks along the river.

For more of a leg burner, try a hike to Howard Lake or check out the Rainbow Loop or Bridge Creek Trails. The Rainbow Loop trail grants views of the famed Rainbow Falls, accessible via a moderate hike on the Rainbow Falls Mist Trail, via tour bus, and even by bike.

And if you’re on the hunt for something more intense, try McGregor Mountain or the Purple Creek Trail. These more advanced options offer some of the most breathtaking views of Stehekin’s untouched beauty.

Activities in Stehekin

Fly fishing at Stehekin

Besides hiking and biking, there are many family-friendly activities to maximize your time in this natural oasis.

Buckner Orchards

Just beyond Rainbow Falls, you’ll find Buckner Orchards, a historic homestead offering self-guided tours of the stunning grounds to the public. 

Stehekin Garden

The Stehekin Garden is not to be missed! Open daily through the growing and harvest seasons, the Stehekin Garden offers all-organic produce and goat cheese, yogurt, honey, maple syrup, soaps, tinctures, and more!

Horseback Riding

If you’re looking for an equestrian adventure, try out Stehekin Outfitters, which offers half-day rides, full-day rides, horseback riding lessons, and even overnight excursions!

Fly Fishing

Try out Stehekin Fishing Adventures for a guided fly fishing excursion on the Stehekin River! They offer half-day and full-day adventures spearheaded by professionals, all gear included.


Whether you prefer to tread the waters by kayak or electric boat, there’s something for everyone! Expert guides are available for summer kayak tours, while electric boat rentals allow two adults to peruse the headwaters of Lake Chelan on their own schedule.

Dining in Stehekin

Stehekin Pastry Company in Stehekin

Photo from Stehekin Pastry Company

What it lacks in size, it makes up for in flavor! Try these options during your visit to Stehekin.

Stehekin Pastry Company

It’s an absolute must to visit the Stehekin Pastry Company! This Stehekin staple is famous for its giant cinnamon rolls and offers sandwiches, baked goods, pizzas, espresso, and ice cream! They are open seasonally, so check their schedule before your visit.

North Cascades Lodge

The North Cascades Lodge is just a hop, skip, and jump from the ferry landing. Their full menu includes lovely breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. The menu varies seasonally, so check their website for updated hours!

Stehekin Valley Ranch

Open exclusively during the summer, the Stehekin Valley Ranch offers unique nightly specials in its rustic cookhouse — reservations are required.

Lodging in Stehekin

While day trips are available by ferry, you can stay overnight to get acquainted with the area! Stehekin is home to various rentable cabins, camping, and rooms at the North Cascades Lodge.

Check out this full list of available lodging options for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Itineraries

If you’re unsure how to incorporate a Stehekin visit into your next trip to Lake Chelan, don’t worry! We have three suggested itineraries to get you started:

  1. Plan a day trip to Stehekin during your stay at Mountain View Lodge & Resor

Take the boat from downtown Chelan, a quick drive from your room at The Lodge, and enjoy the gorgeous views from the water. 

Once you arrive in Stehekin, rent bikes and make the rounds to the must-see spots listed above. The return boat will have you back in Historic Downtown Chelan right in time for happy hour!

  1. Make it a multi-day excursion.

Stay at The Lodge on night one, then catch the Lady of the Lake (or a plane or helicopter!) uplake the next morning. 

Stay at the North Cascades Lodge for a few nights to fully explore the natural beauty of the area. Then, plan for a final night’s stay back at The Lodge to experience the small-town feel and fun of Manson!

  1. Boat on your own schedule.

Rent a boat* from Shoreline Watercraft & Boat Rentals (or bring your own!) and enjoy a leisurely travel day up to Stehekin and back. 

Rent bikes, visit the old historic school and beautiful Rainbow Falls, stop at the bakery for a snack or lunch, and grab some amazing goods at the organic vegetable garden!  Of course, The Lodge is the best home base for those “Day Trippers” out there!

*Note: if you go up by boat, always check the weather! High winds are common and can make travel difficult, so planning is very important.

Book a Stay at The Lodge, Your Gateway to Stehekin!

Mountain Views

Mountain View Lodge & Resort is your gateway to the remarkable beauty of the Lake Chelan Valley! A stay at The Lodge makes a perfect home base for all your nature adventures while visiting Lake Chelan.  

Book online or give us a call today to reserve your getaway to the Lake Chelan Valley. We look forward to hosting you!