Downtown Chelan's Riverwalk Park, which stretches along both shores of the lake, has a 1-mile paved path and is a pleasant spot for a walk. The park is also home to the Riverwalk Pavilion, where outdoor concerts are sometimes held during the summer. Lake Chelan history is on display at the Chelan Museum, at the corner of Woodin and Emerson streets (tel. 509/682-5644). June through September, the museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm; in other months, call for hours. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for students and seniors.
Chelan has long been one of Washington's main apple-growing regions, but with low prices for apples in the past decade, local farmers have sought other ways to make money. Many have now set up farmstands, while others have planted vineyards and are now making wine. In downtown Chelan, be sure to stop by Culinary Apple, 109 E. Woodin Ave. (tel. 800/568-6062; www.culinaryapple.com), a shop dedicated almost exclusively to apples and apple products. At Blueberry Hills, 1315 Washington St., Manson (tel. 509/687-2379; www.wildaboutberries.com), you can pick blueberries or sit down to a slice of pie.
Chelan is one of Washington's fastest-growing wine regions. In recent years, wineries and vineyards have been popping up faster than champagne corks on New Year's Eve. The following are my current favorite wineries in the area. For more information on area wineries, contact the Columbia Cascade Winery Association, 301 Angier Ave., #B, Cashmere, WA 98815 (tel. 509/782-0708; www.columbiacascadewines.com), or Lake Chelan Wine Valley, P.O. Box 777, Chelan, WA 98816 (tel. 509/682-0814; www.lakechelanwinevalley.com), which publishes a map to area wineries. You can pick up a copy of this map at any area winery.
Three Cherries in Apple Country
If you want to try recouping your vacation costs while you're in the area, stop by the Mill Bay Casino, 455 Wapato Lake Rd. (tel. 800/648-2946 or 509/687-2101; www.colvillecasinos.com) in the town of Manson, which is on the north shore of the lake. The casino is operated by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
Up the Lake to Stehekin
If you have time for only one activity while in the Lake Chelan area, it should be an all-day boat ride up the lake to Stehekin, a community located within the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area of the North Cascades National Park Complex and accessible only by boat, floatplane, or hiking trail. This remote community has been a vacation destination for more than 100 years and is set amid rugged, glacier-clad mountains at the far north end of Lake Chelan.
The Lake Chelan Boat Company (tel. 509/682-4584; www.ladyofthelake.com), with its dock 1 mile west of downtown Chelan on South Shore Road (U.S. 97A), operates two passenger ferries -- Lady of the Lake I and Lady Express -- between Chelan and Stehekin. The trip encompasses some of the most spectacular scenery in the Northwest as you travel from gentle rolling foothills to deep within the rugged North Cascades mountains. Wildlife such as deer, mountain goats, and even bears are frequently seen from the boats.
The Lady of the Lake II takes 9 1/2 hours for the round-trip (including a 90-min. layover) and charges $39 per person, while the Lady Express takes about 6 hours (including a 60-min. layover) and charges $59. Children ages 2 to 11 pay half-fare, and children under age 2 ride free. Unless you plan to stay overnight, you won't have more than 90 minutes to look around Stehekin unless you book a combination ticket that allows you to go up on one of the boats, spend 3 hours in Stehekin, and return on another boat. These tickets are only available in summer.
If you want to get to Stehekin in a hurry, you can make the trip by floatplane on Chelan Airways (tel. 509/682-5555; www.chelanairways.com), which leaves from the dock next to the ferries. The fare is $159 round-trip. This company also offers flightseeing trips for between $64 and $249.
A Stehekin day trip is operated in conjunction with the passenger ferries of the Lake Chelan Boat Company (tel. 509/682-4584; www.ladyofthelake.com). The popular bus tour goes up the Stehekin Valley to 312-foot Rainbow Falls ($7 adults, $4 children ages 6-11, free for children 5 and under).
Although a road (paved for the first 4 miles) once led 23 miles up the Stehekin Valley to Cottonwood Campground, a flood in 1995 damaged much of the road toward the upper end of the valley and another flood in 2003 did more damage. Currently, the road is only open as far as Car Wash Falls (13 miles up valley). Between mid-June and early October, a shuttle bus runs four times a day between Stehekin Landing and High Bridge. The cost is $5. If you just want to ride as far as the Stehekin Pastry Company, the fare is only $2. From late May to mid-June, the shuttle bus operates twice a day.
A wide range of recreational activities can also be arranged in Stehekin through the Courtney Log Office (tel. 509/682-4677; www.courtneycountry.com), 150 yards up the road from the boat landing. Horseback rides are offered through Cascade Corrals (tel. 509/682-7742) at Stehekin Valley Ranch. A 2 1/2-hour ride costs $43. Whitewater rafting trips on the Stehekin River are operated by Stehekin Outfitters (tel. 800/536-0745; www.stehekinoutfitters.com) and cost $50 for adults and $40 for children 12 and under. Sea-kayak tours are also offered ($35 for adults; $20 for children). Mountain bikes can be rented for $20 per day from Discovery Bikes (no phone; www.stehekindiscoverybikes.com) by the Courtney Log Office. Discovery Bikes also does a very fun Ranch Breakfast Ride that includes a hearty breakfast at Stehekin Valley Ranch and then a bike ride down the valley. There's also a lunch ride.
Along the length of the Stehekin Valley are many miles of excellent hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls along the river to strenuous climbs high into the mountain wilderness surrounding the valley. Many of the valley's trail heads can be accessed from the bus that usually runs up the valley, which makes this an excellent place for doing a variety of day hikes over several days. Also, many longer trails originate in Stehekin, making it a popular starting point for backpacking trips. For information on hiking trails and to pick up permits for overnight backpacking trips, stop by the Golden West Visitor Center (tel. 360/854-7365), which is operated by the National Park Service and is near the boat landing. It's open daily between mid-March and mid-October. Fly-fishing on the Stehekin River is also very popular and usually very productive. In winter, there is good snowshoeing at Stehekin, and snowshoes can be rented from Stehekin Landing Resort (tel. 509/682-4494).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.