Cruise to Stehekin takes you way off gridWhile adventure-seekers sometimes fly all over the globe to completely get away from civilization, the isolated village of Stehekin is just a short boat ride from Chelan – a trip that will take you decades into the past as you discover what life would be like without many modern conveniences.
Located at the northwest end of 55-mile-long Lake Chelan, Stehekin is a tiny hamlet of 95 souls, give or take, that goes to sleep every winter only to awaken to a steady influx of summer visitors. It’s all about the outdoor recreation up here at the gateway to the North Cascades National Park, with hikers finding ample trails – and even a shuttle service to take them to the trails. Anglers find that fish practically jump into their baskets.
Visitors arrive mostly by boat, some by float plane, and the first sign that they’re not in Kansas anymore is the vintage cars used to get around town. Just like Cuba, Stehekin doesn’t have a lot of new car deliveries and local residents have learned to make do with what they have -- for 50 or 60 years, in some cases.
The convenient schedule offered by Lake Chelan Boat Company makes it possible to get a taste of Stehekin without even spending the night. A lot of day visitors will take a quick trip up to Stehekin on the Lady Express, spend a few hours and then take the more leisurely Lady of the Lake II back to Chelan. Others will come up and spend the night at one of a half-dozen or so lodgings in or near the village.
Whether it’s a day trip or overnight, visitors are likely to take the shuttle up to the 312-foot Rainbow Falls for some spectacular photos, or to visit other sites such as the Harlequin Bridge and Stehekin’s one-room schoolhouse. Those with a sweet tooth cannot resist a stop at the Stehekin Pastry Company.
The trip up to Stehekin is an adventure unto itself and the Lake Chelan Boat Company has been plying these waters since 1915. Over the years, the company has launched new boats and, today, you can choose between the Lady of the Lake II, which takes four hours to cruise from Chelan to Stehekin, and the Lady Express, a smaller, faster vessel that shortens the journey to 2.5 hours. Passengers can cut about a third off the trip by boarding at Fields Point instead of Chelan.
The scenery along the way changes from the dry east side of the Cascade Mountains with its rolling brown hills to the green, forested mountains that surround Stehekin. As you travel from Chelan, many parts of the shoreline are lined with luxurious houses and cabins. Further up lake, the beachfronts give way to steeper, rockier terrain as the mountains become higher and more majestic. The journey along this part of the lake is so spectacular that the scenery is often compared to what you would see cruising a Scandinavian fjord.
For more information on the Lake Chelan Boat Company schedule, please visit www.ladyofthelake.com or call 888-682-4584.
PHOTOS: From top: Stehekin Landing; Lady of the Lake II
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos courtesy of the Lake Chelan Boat Company
RECOMMENDED LODGING: North Central Washington lodging
Click here for more great Northwest travel ideas!
Click here for great deals on California travel