I love Lake Chelan, but I always figured that in order to vacation there, you needed a friend with a lakefront house and speedboat to make it worth it.
Turns out, that’s not quite the case.
He described it as “sublime.” After that, I Googled a couple images and read some articles about it online and I knew I had to see it.
The Lakeshore Trail is about 18 miles of trail that connects Chelan’s shoreline to Stehekin, a town on the very northern end of the lake. I’ve never been to Switzerland but the views along the trail are what I imagine that landscape to look like, with rugged snowcaps peaking out from behind cliffs of green, cut apart by waterfalls and streams that wind down into Lake Chelan.
The only way to access Stehekin and the Lakeshore Trail is by boat. Most hikers start their journey at Prince Creek but we began the hike at Moore Point, which cut the journey in half and put us 8 miles outside of Stehekin.
We took the Lady of the Lake ferry to the trailhead, which departs from downtown Chelan. We couldn’t get reservations on the Express boat, so we were stuck on the large ferry, which travels at a snails pace all the way across the lake. It took four hours but you couldn’t complain about the scenery – Chelan has such gorgeous terrain that you pass rolling hills of brown to lavish green cliffs and waterfalls.
The north side of the lake is mostly uninhabited, so it was interesting to see the few cabins dotting that shoreline.
If you take the Lady of the Lake ferry, bring a pair of binoculars to not only scope out billy goats and eagles, but also the picturesque cabins so remote they can only be accessed by boat.
The boat was packed and we were worried that the trail would be crowded. But even on the popular holiday weekend, once we hit the trail, we didn’t see another soul.
The trail from Moore Point was phenomenal the entire time. Our packs weighed about 50 pounds each but with the right equipment it wasn’t unbearable – the sloping elevation gain wasn’t too difficult and time went quickly. People of all ages and sizes were on the trail – the walk itself was surprisingly easy.
Springtime is the best to enjoy the Lakeshore Trail. All the way, Tiger Lilies, Indian Paintbrush and Bluebells made the trail pop with color. It seemed that every time we turned a corner, the trail got more beautiful and the views more astounding.
Stehekin is a small “town” with about 70 full-time residents. There was one schoolhouse that currently has 15 students. There’s no cell phone service and only one pay phone. It was the most remote place I’ve ever been, in Washington.
Once we were there, we took a $5 shuttle to the High Point Campground, about 11 miles outside of civilization. Those interested in checking out Stehekin don’t have to hike in to enjoy it – you could take the Lady of the Lake all the way to Stehekin and walk across the dock to a beautiful camping spot, or hop on the shuttle to go somewhere a little more remote.
While on the shuttle, we stopped at a farm and bought some homemade goat cheese and maple syrup. We got to the campsite and realized we were the only people around for miles, and the only sound to be heard was the thrashing water from a swiftwater rapid just below.
From the High Point campsite we hiked up to Coon Lake, a steep but quick hike that ended at a lovely lake high above Chelan that was surrounded by mountains. Once we hit Stehekin and the surrounding area, it felt more like Mt. Rainier than Chelan.
By the time Monday rolled around and our boat came in, we were sad to leave our remote paradise behind. Visiting places where cell phone service, email and modern comforts are nonexistent fill my heart with peace. It’s a refuge, not an escape. I highly recommend this trek to anyone interested in visiting Chelan for a different experience, or someone searching for inspiration. Guaranteed, you’ll find it there.