Photo Courtesy of Joanna NesbitChelan DHC Beaver departs Stehekin

Families will love:

  • Sandy lake beaches and water sports
  • Small town charm
  • North Cascades National Park visitor center and hikes

Lake Chelan offers activities year-round, but it's best known as a premier summer destination with predictable sunshine, pristine blue waters, and water sports galore, as well as hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. In fact, nothing says summer quite like Lake Chelan to Washington's west side residents.

More than 50 miles long and the third deepest lake in the US (1,486 ... more
Lake Chelan offers activities year-round, but it's best known as a premier summer destination with predictable sunshine, pristine blue waters, and water sports galore, as well as hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. In fact, nothing says summer quite like Lake Chelan to Washington's west side residents.

More than 50 miles long and the third deepest lake in the US (1,486 feet), the lake lies in the eastern shadow of the North Cascades on the dry side of the state, giving visitors access to the mountains, outdoor recreation, and wineries. Summer brings steady sunshine and warm days; winter, cold temperatures and snow for cross country skiing and snow play. Fall offers unique harvest activities and hiking and biking in cooler temperatures.

Town of Chelan, Washington
At the southern end of the lake sits the cute resort town of Chelan with a population of some 4,000 during the offseason. Its compact footprint, locally owned shops, and friendly residents exude small-town charm. In summer, the town can draw 25,000 visitors and part-time residents, with families flocking to Chelan for lakeside camping, boating, jet skiing, standup paddle boarding, and swimming. There's also good mountain bike riding near Manson, a small community 8 miles northwest of Chelan. With more than 20 wineries in the area, mom and dad might want to take an adult detour for wine tasting.

Stehekin, Washington
At the north end of the lake, the tiny, isolated hamlet of Stehekin (less than 100 residents) is renowned for being the most remote location in the Lower 48, purposefully inaccessible by car, and offers an antidote to mainstream vacations. We love it. The only way to get here is by boat, float plane, or on foot (it's a popular destination for backpackers), and you might as well turn off your cellphone because it won't work. Surrounded by the majestic North Cascade Mountains, the quiet Stehekin Valley is a gateway to North Cascades National Park. You'll find a national park visitor center, a small vibrant community with good tourist amenities, and a single paved road used by the few cars that have been barged in.

Once arrived, you can rent bicycles to ride to various destinations along Stehekin's 11-mile road or take the national park's "big red bus" up valley -- it runs four times a day. Many people boat in for the day from Chelan to whisk around on a short bus tour and leave, but we recommend a weekend or more to fully appreciate how special this place is. You'll find everything you need for simple yesteryear fun, including three restaurants, camping, hotel accommodations, hiking, kayaking, river rafting, and horse riding. You won't realize how lovely it is to disconnect from the grid until you do. Bye-bye, responsibility. Hello, family time.

Written by Joanna Nesbit less

Lake Chelan, WA Planning & Tips
Traveling Family with Baby

Your personal family vacation planning starts now

Get expert advice, handpicked recommendations, and tips for your family all year round!