The Lake Chelan Valley: Home to a Washington Original

With a spectacular glacier-formed lake, an emerging wine region, and four seasons of recreation, the Lake Chelan Valley is a gem in Washington's crown. 

Published: 2/01/2015

With a spectacular glacier-formed lake, an emerging wine region, and four seasons of recreation, the Lake Chelan Valley is a gem in Washington's crown. 

Beyond astounding natural beauty, the Lake Chelan Valley is home to the three small communities of Chelan, Manson, and Stehekin, which blend seamlessly into their spectacular surroundings. If you have never visited this incomparable part of the world, we think it’s high time you do.

50.5 Miles of Lake
Long, lean, and beckoning, Lake Chelan is a Washington original. It’s nestled in the heart of North Cascades National Park and embedded with waterfalls, glaciers, forested mountains, and lush green valleys. With crystal clear waters that reach as far as 1,486 feet deep, it is the nation’s third deepest lake fed by roughly 100 glaciers sprinkled on its surrounding mountain peaks. This national treasure has long been a mecca for every conceivable water sport—from the simplest to the most extreme. Spend your day swimming, fishing, kayaking, rafting, boating, tubing, water skiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. There is plenty of room for everyone! Lake Chelan provides many year-round public boat launches. You can bring your own boat and equipment or rent what you need.

4 Seasons of Wine
Home to more than 25 wineries and over 200 acres of winegrapes, the Lake Chelan Valley is an exciting and relatively new wine region. Lake Chelan became an official AVA (Washington’s 11th) in 2009, recognized for its distinctive soil properties including coarse sand, quartz, and mica that result in winegrapes with discernable textures, minerals, and nutrients. The winemakers of the Lake Chelan Valley are inspired by their terroir and are proud of their wines, which an amazing diversity ranging from aromatic Riesling and Gewürztraminer to full-bodied Syrah and Malbec. Here, wine touring is a beautiful adventure. Many of the wineries, perched on the shores of Lake Chelan or tucked in a vineyard surrounded by mountains, offer resplendent views. The tasting rooms are low key and approachable—in fact, it’s not unusual to find the winemaker behind the tasting bar. Many wineries feature live summer music and fun winemaker dinners, and many wine enthusiasts routinely mark the Red Wine & Chocolate, Spring Barrel Tasting, and Lake Chelan Crush events on their calendars.

300 Days of Sun
The Lake Chelan Valley’s arid climate with little rainfall and more than 300 days of sunshine each year makes it a popular year-round destination for fun in the great outdoors. You may ask, “With so little rain, how does everything stay so lush and green?” Despite its desert climate, agriculture abounds in the Lake Chelan Valley, thanks to irrigation from the lake and the Columbia River. Since the Valley boasts four distinct seasons, many outdoor adventurists plan their next visit for a different time of year, to fully experience the wonders of its ever-changing lake, landscape, and temperature.

365 Days of Fun
With plenty of water, wine, and sunshine, the Lake Chelan Valley gives you all you could ask for in a vacation or getaway destination. Besides exploring its splendid lake, there are hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, cycling, skiing, and snowmobiling; a variety of golf courses from beginner to championship level; perfect slopes and air currents for hang gliding and paragliding; local theater productions, art shows, and a historical museum; and scenic vistas and public parks for bird watching.

For many families, a vacation in Lake Chelan has been an annual tradition for generations. Some come in the summer to immerse themselves in water activities, while others come in the winter to swoosh along its well-groomed slopes. Each autumn, when the Valley comes aglow in orange and reds, they come to pick apples and dance at harvest festivals, and each spring, they come to hike and cycle along the blooming trails.

There are many lodging facilities—deluxe resorts and condos, luxurious homes, private cabins, family hotels, quaint B&Bs—to choose from. Whether you settle into a mountain cottage, a secluded cabin, or a campsite under the stars; and whether you stay for a night, weekend, or week, you’ll be starting a new tradition. Because no matter what time of year you visit the Lake Chelan Valley, you’re going to want to come back for more.

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As seen in the issue Pacific Northwest Spring 2015 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.