Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States, behind Crater Lake in Oregon and Lake Tahoe in California, and is home to the city of Chelan on the Southern end of the lake, Manson along the North Shore and the tiny village of Stehekin, located at the Northern end of the lake and reachable only by boat, float plane or hiking in.
Lake Chelan is a common summertime destination for Washingtonians, providing warm weather, lots of sun and of course ample opportunities to enjoy the lake. While things quiet down in the non-summer months, there are still many activities available in the other seasons, and locals and tourists alike make use of the more tranquil atmosphere to enjoy the wineries, festivals and non-water based activities like hiking, mountain biking, snow skiing and snowshoeing.
Those familiar with Lake Chelan, often refer to the South Shore and North Shore. At the Southern end of the lake, where the city of Chelan is situated, the lake trends in a mostly East/West direction, hence the names South Shore and North Shore. Other parts of the lake tend to trend more North/South, however the “Western” shore is still referred to as the South Shore and the “Eastern” Shore the North Shore. Also, the direction towards Stehekin is uplake, while heading towards the city of Chelan is downlake.
Lake Chelan is a year round destination with 300 days of sun a year; however if watersports and warm weather are your game, June through September are optimal months with average high temperatures rising to 76 in June, 85 in July, 84 in August, before trending down in September to an average high of 76. Note, it’s not uncommon to have temperatures reach triple digits in the summer, although 80’s and 90’s are more common.
Given the depth of Lake Chelan and the fact that it is fed by snowmelt well into the summer, the water temperatures can be cool. This is especially pronounced as you go uplake, with water temperatures at Stehekin being considerably cooler than the Southern part of the lake. Most people find that by July, even though the lake can still be cool, the soaring air temps make it bearable if not enjoyable, with water temperatures increasing until the beginning of September (although my seven year old son would disagree and say the water is always too cold!). Water temperatures average 68 in July and 71 in August. Lake Chelan PUD has a mobile application which providers water
Much like the temperatures, the lake level lowers in the winter and rises in the summer. While you will still be able to use boat launches and enjoy the water with lower lake levels, many docks and boat lifts attached to docks in the area are at a fixed height, leaving them many feet above the waterline when it is fully drawn down.
Fall and Spring have average cooler temperatures, but can still be great times to visit. In September, the water temperature is still typically warm, and the summer crowds will have abated. Winter is often cold in the Lake Chelan Valley, and large storms will bring clouds and snowy weather to the area. Expect temperatures below freezing, and be prepared for snow on the ground. This also means there are a lot of winter time activities, from sledding to skiing and snowboarding and snowmobiling.
Spanning over 50 miles long, Lake Chelan has three distinct communities along its shores, with each community possessing a distinct character and amenities.
The 12 Tribes Lake Chelan Casino is located in Manson, and provides a variety of slot machines as well as seven live table games like Craps, Blackjack, Roulette and Poker and the ability to bet on your favorite sports teams via 12 Sports Book kiosks. The Casino features a players advantage club, has a restaurant and club, RV parking, and a large amphitheater with live music during the warmer months.
Rally Alley in Chelan next to the Don Morse Park has a go karting track with both single and double occupancy go karts. It's open for Memorial Day weekend, and then daily from Mid June through Labor Day. Must be 16 years old to drive the double kart, and 52" or taller to drive the single kart.
What better way to experience Lake Chelan Valley than from the sky with a helicopter tour by Lake Chelan Helicopters? They offer a number of different tours, including a Lake Chelan tour, visiting Stehekin or a Lake Chelan Wine Valley Tour.
The Lake Chelan area has a variety of hikes for all ages and abilities, from easy strolls along the water to strenuous hikes through recent forest fires. The Chelan Riverwalk, Reach One and Little Bear trails are great for families, with little elevation gain and low mileage. If you are looking for views of the lake, check out Fourth of July Mountain hike uplake of Manson and Elephant Head near Chelan. Farther uplake on the South Shore lies the Twentyfive Mile Valley, with a number of hikes including the strenous Pot Peak as well as the remote Stormy Mountain, a great hike in the fall when the larches turn gold. And don't forget about Echo Ridge, conveniently located between Chelan and Manson with over 35 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. For those looking for overnight backpacking trips, check out our Lake Chelan Campsites page for boat-in and hike-in campgrounds on the upper section of the lake. Lake Chelan Hiking Guide
There is live music throughout the year in Lake Chelan, with many of the wineries hosting musicians, even during the winter. Alta Cellars in downtown Manson has live music every week, with Friday performances in the summer, and Saturday performances during the winter. Tipsy Canyon and Tsillan Cellars frequently have live music as well, and the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce website has an events page with an updated calendar of events, including live music. The 12 Tribes Lake Chelan Casino has a large amphitheater, capable of holding up to 1,500 people, and has musicians performing during the summer months.
If you are looking to take the family out for a relaxing game of mini golf, or work on your putting game while on vacation, Lake Chelan has you covered.
Echo Ridge provides over 25 miles of trails to both hikers and mountain bikers and is hands down the favorite area for mountain bikers in Lake Chelan, with a wide variety of easy to moderate mountain biking trails to choose from. The Twenty Five Mile Creek area on the south shore has a couple of trails open to mountain bikers, including Pot Peak, Devil's Backbone and Stormy Mountain. Note, these are difficult trails and some have substantial elevation gain. On the north shore, there are a couple of trails out near South Navarre Peak including Uno Peak trail and Safety Harbor Trail. These trails are not frequently accessed, as it requires a long drive on a dirt forest service road.
Echo Ridge is approximately 11 miles from Chelan and has 30 miles of nordic trails available, providing scenic views of Lake Chelan and the surrounding mountains. Situated at 3,500ft, Echo Ridge often sits above the low lying cloud layer during the winter, providing the opportunity to warm up in the sun as you cruise along the network of trails. There are a variety of trails available for beginners, intermediate as well as advanced. Grooming and track setting are done by the volunteer run Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club, and the club does an excellent job of providing updates on grooming reports and conditions on their website. Day passes run $15 for the 2022/2023 season, and can be purchased via cash or check at any of the trailheads. Didn't bring your nordic skis? No problem, rentals are available from Lake Chelan Sports (located in downtown Chelan) and Lakeland Ski Rental (located at Echo Valley Resort).
Whether it's going out for a quick board from your dock, or spending the entire day to see how far up lake you can make it, paddleboarding is a very popular activity on Lake Chelan. Paddleboarding around the lower end of the lake where it spills out into the Chelan River is a popular area, as is around Manson Bay Park. Note, with all the boat activity and wind coming down the lake, the waves can be sizable. General rules of thumb : farther up lake has less boat traffic, mornings and evenings tend to have calmer water, and the waves and wind can be much stronger past the narrows. There are a number of spots in Chelan that rent paddleboards, including Chelan Parasail, Lake Rider Sports and Shoreline Watercraft.
In the warmer months, you will see many paragliders circling in the sky around the lower reaches of Lake Chelan. Chelan Butte, the mountain overlooking the city of Chelan, is the preferred launch point, with an access road up to the top. It's considered one of the premier paragliding locations in the Northwest, and Lake Chelan often hosts the National and World competitions during the summer. Don't have a paraglider, but still interested in going, check out tandem flights with Paraglide Chelan.
Parasailing Chelan was Washington State's first parasail company, providing memorable experiences on Lake Chelan for over 30 years. For those not familiar with parasailing, it involves being towed behind a boat with a specially designed canopy wing that resembles a parachute which lifts the flyers into the air . Parasailing Chelan has packages that include flyers and non-flyers, and can accommodate three people at the same time, and also offer photo packages as well.
Pickleball is a fast growing sport with roots in Washington State, and the Lake Chelan area has a couple of different options for pickleball. Harmony Meadows on the outskirts of Manson is a beautiful destination resort centered around tennis and pickleball, allowing non members to book courts seven days in advance. Singleton Park in Manson recently added pickleball line markings to the basketball court, however you must bring your own nets. Don Morse Park in the city of Chelan has two pickleball / tennis courts, and Darnell's resort in Chelan and Wapato Point Resort in Manson have pickleball / tennis courts for guests.
The Chamber of Commerce provides a bike route guide which details three bike rides in the Lake Chelan area. For organized bike rides, check out the Cycle Chelan website by the rotary club, which organizes a number of bike rides in the summer. Prefer a guided tour on electric bikes? Check out Chelan Electric Bikes which provides a number of tour options on electric bikes. Including the Chelan River Gorge and wine tours.
High Trek Chelan offers both a ropes course and zip line on the south shore of Lake Chelan . There are a total of 60 obstacles on the ropes course, and the course is covered by shade sails to help mitigate the high summer temperatures. Tickets can be purchased to include access to the two zip line towers.
Echo Valley Ski Area is a family friendly community run non-profit ski less than 20 minutes away from Chelan. The area sits at an elevation of 2,600ft with approximately 600 vertical feet of terrain with three rope tows and a poma. The ski area is typically open from December until March, and operates on weekends and holidays. As of 2022/2023 season, tickets are $35 and tubing is included in the ticket price. The area offers lessons as well as rentals. Mission Ridge will appeal to those looking for a larger resort, and is a little over an hour away from Chelan.
Skydive Chelan offers tandem jumps for beginners as well as full altitude jumps for those with a license. It's the only skydive company in the United States that offers a tandem winery skydive landing amongst the vineyards of a couple of the Chelan wineries with an optional bottle of wine waiting for you. I can't think of a better way to make an entrance at a winery!
The Lake Chelan Valley can get quite cold during the winter months, and can be blanketed with snow during the heart of the winter. What better way to enjoy the cold weather and snow than sledding? While there are many hills in the area for sledding, the Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course provides a convenient option, with a designated sledding hill right next to the club house. Drive on up, and you will see signs directing you towards the sledding hill.
During the winter months, Snowshoeing provides a great way to be active in the Lake Chelan area. Echo Ridge is an excellent option, with the Zoom and Snowshoe trailheads providing access to a number of snowshoe trails, many of which have views of the lake. Day access passes at Echo Ridge are $15 per person and can be purchased at the self service fee areas located at the trailheads with cash or check (kids 17 and under are free). Chelan Butte is another great option, either from the Chelan Butte trailhead which follows the summer trail, or follow the Chelan Butte Road, which is only plowed part of the way up. The Lake Antilon Sno-Park is also an option, where you can follow forest service roads, or try Fourth of July Mountain for an epic view of the Lake.
The cool winter time temperatures in the Lake Chelan Valley result in great snow conditions in the mountains surrounding the lake, and the area has over 150 miles of well marked, groomed trails. Throw in the sun, stunning views of the lake and lack of people and it's easy to see why Lake Chelan is an excellent option for snowmobiling. There are three Sno-parks within the Chelan Valley :
There are a couple of different surfing options around Lake Chelan. Wakesurfing is a popular new activity, where a rider trails behind a boat without using a rope, and is a great sport when the waves in Lake Chelan make wakeboarding difficult. For more traditional surfing, look no further than Lakeside Surf, which has one the world's largest artificial waves measuring in at 6 feet high and over 54 feet wide.
While the lake can be on the colder side, once the temperatures rise in the summer swimming is a very popular water activity. Your best bet for finding a suitable spot to swim is one of the many parks situated on the water, which all have swimming spots :
Harmony Meadows in Manson is a beautiful destination tennis resort with both lodging and tennis courts available for rent. The Don Morse Park in Chelan has two public tennis courts, and a number of resorts in Lake Chelan have tennis courts on the property, including Darnell's Lake Resort, Wapato Point and Lake Chelan Shores.
Echo Valley Ski & Tubing Area has six lane tubing hill, and tubing is included in the price of a ski ticket for $35 dollars, or a tubing only ticket for $15. Echo Valley provides the tubes, so no need to bring your own. There are a couple of smaller tubing lanes for younger children available as well and children 3 to 5 years of age tube free!
Don Morse Park in downtown Chelan has a couple of beach volleyball courts, and Lakeside park in Chelan also sports a sand court. There are a number of resorts in thhe Lake Chelan area with beach volleyball courts, including Darnell's Lake Resort, Lake Chelan Shores, and Wapato Point. Campbell's Resort will often put up a volleyball net in the shallow water on their beach on Lake Chelan.
Round out your family vacation to Lake Chelan with waterslides and a lazy river at Slide Waters Waterpark. Slidewaters has a beautiful landscaped lawn area and trees for shade, providing the perfect spot to set up the family for the day. Enjoy the food at the River Run Grill, or bring your own, as you will need energy to hit every waterslide in the park.
While Wine grapes have been grown in the Chelan Valley for over a hundred year, commercial production began in the late 1990's. Lake Chelan became Washington State's latest American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2009 and now boasts over 40 wineries, with a mix of tasting rooms in Chelan and Manson, and estate vineyards with incredible views of Lake Chelan. A number of wineries also feature restaurants, and there are a number of wine focus events throughout the year. Chelan Wineries
Start the new year off right in the middle of January with a celebration of all things winter, including ice sculptures, live music, polar plume in Lake Chelan, ice bar and fireworks. The event is spread out over two weekends, with a focus on the downtown areas of Chelan and Manson on each respective weekend. A number of businesses also participate,where you will find ice sculptures and discounts for Winterfest button holders.
Throughout the entire month of February, enjoy special pairings of Red Wine and Chocolate at one of the many participating wineries in Lake Chelan. You will also find amazing wine dinners, live music, art shows and more during the Red Wine and Chocolate event in Lake Chelan.
In the month of March, wineries pair their best wines with incredible tasting menus developed by local restaurants and chefs. On Saturdays in March, a Taste Chelan ticket will give you access to wine and food pairings at four locations around Lake Chelan. Tickets must be purchased in advance, at which point you will select your desired locations.
The Lake Chelan Wine and Jazz Festival is a 4 day event in May that features internationally acclaimed artists performing around the Chelan Valley. You will find a variety of styles, including R&B, latin jazz and traditional jazz spread across 50 shows at numerous venues.
At over 100 years old, the Manson Apple Blossom Festival has a rich tradition in Chelan Valley. A parade held in May, including a float for current selection of Manson Apple Blossom royalty, numerous marching bands, fire trucks and more is the star attraction. Centered around the parade are a number of other events that change year by year, including a pancake breakfast, 2k and 5k run and street festival.
Cruizin Chelan typically happens on the first weekend in June and offers the opportunity to walk through the streets of Chelan and view an amazing collection of vintage cars. Participants kick off the event with a party at Millers Auto Museum.
Celebrate Fourth of July with two days of fireworks. On July 3rd in the city of Chelan, fireworks are shot from a barge anchored in the bay near Don Morse Park. On July 4th in Manson, fireworks are discharged from a barge anchored in Manson Bay. Both events take place around 10pm.
Watch hydroplanes, a special type of boat that glides above the water, race each other in Manson Bay each September. Races can be viewed from the Manson Bay Park for free, and a ticket will get you access into the pit area, allowing you to get up close and personal with the racing crews.
There are a number of activities at the various wineries in the Lake Chelan AVA during the wine harvest, which kicks off the end of September and proceeds until Thanksgiving. Check your favorite winery to find a harvest dinner, live music or wine stomping event!
The Old Bridge in Historic Downtown Chelan shuts down for a day in October and provides the perfect fall venue to sample beer and cider from throughout Washington State for this 21+ event.
Manson is home to a number of Halloween and fall themed events during October, with downtown Manson closing down its main street for a Saturday to feature wine barrel rides, face painting, a dog dress up custom competition and more. Throughout the month, you will find other activities in the area including hay rides, pumpkin patches and the amazing Haunted House in downtown Manson.