Many of you have probably visited Lake Chelan a time or two, but did you know there is a spectacularly quaint town called Stehekin only a boat ride away? Visiting Stehekin is much like stepping back in time; there are no stoplights, traffic, sit-down restaurants, and for the most part, you will have the place to yourself.
Your first question might be how one gets to such a lovely place. There are no roads into Stehekin, but you may reach it one of three ways: On foot, by boat, or by plane. The simplest way to arrive is by boat.
The journey to Stehekin is almost as grand as the destination itself. Within three hours you will arrive at the east end of Lake Chelan, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The boat ride is a glorious journey past waterfalls and waterfront homes with mountain peaks looming in the distance.
Stehekin is located deep in the North Cascades and is a Salishian word meaning “the way through.” The Stehekin Valley serves as a passageway for travelers as it links Washington’s interior wilderness to the rugged Cascade Mountains.
Once our boat docked in Stehekin, we were greeted by Patty, the co-owner of the Stehekin Cedar Cabins. Patty was both warm and eager to help. One of the biggest perks of staying at the Stehekin Cedar Cabin is it comes with a loaner car for the duration of your stay. After we made the one-mile drive to our cabin, we were delighted to see every modern convenience as well as a few extras. A wood-burning stove to keep us warm, an outdoor screened-in porch for bug-free nights, and a full kitchen with a coffee maker and microwave.
Throughout our stay, Patty was kind and attentive like a long-time neighbor would be. She was helpful with ideas for hikes with little ones, offered any spices I might have forgotten, and provided me with eggs when I forgot to pack them. Initially, you come to Stehekin for the beauty– but in my experience, the warmth of the community is what takes hold of your heart.
Traveling with little ones can be chaotic, so we were eager to get outside and explore the area upon arrival. We didn’t have to travel far before we were standing in front of the 312-foot Rainbow Falls. It was easy to tell where the falls got their name since on that particular day the sun was shining and a rainbow appeared across them. Once back at our cabin, we enjoyed the serenity of our surroundings as we felt hidden away from the world.
Each day we were eager to get outside but had to remind ourselves there was no rush. After years of living in Seattle, we are used to getting up early on the weekends, jockeying for parking spots, and battling crowds when we want to get outside. Being able to hike any time of day with no one else around felt like a total luxury. It also meant we did not have to choose between a leisurely breakfast and a spectacular hike– we could do both! Having the space and time to do what we wanted when we wanted left a smile on my face for the duration of our stay.
It did not take long to notice the stress of the city leaving our bodies as we embraced this simpler way of life. One day we visited both Agnes Gorge and Howard Lake, the other day we played by the river and hiked Rainbow Loop. The sound of a crackling fire served as the soundtrack to our evenings as we reveled in the slower pace of life in Stehekin. If you are interested in fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, or seeing a star-filled evening sky, Stehekin is the place to go.
A few things to keep in mind when planning your trip:
- Make round-trip reservations in advance. The boat only runs on certain days at certain times.
- If visiting the Stehekin Pastry Company is high on your list (which it should be), make certain to visit on the weekend.
- There are no services available unless you visit in the summer months. You must bring all your own food, toiletries, and supplies for the duration of your stay.
- There is no cell phone reception. The cabin we stayed at had Wi-Fi but check before you book.
- Bring cash if you want to tip tour operators.