Chelan Lakeshore Trail Backpacking
Thank goodness I wrote this trip report up on the ferry ride home from Stehekin, because it is now 1.5 months later and finally getting around to posting it!
Dates hiked- Memorial Day Weekend 2018
Location- 3.5 hrs to Chelan from Seattle, 2.5 hour ferry trip up the lake, 4 hour ferry trip from Stehekin to Chelan
- 22 miles
- 3,500 gain
- 3 days
Planning the trip-
The night before we camped at Chelan state park $40. I booked this a couple months in advance and there were limited spots left since it was a holiday weekend. Next thing I had to do was purchase the ferry tickets. Be sure to get these in advance as well as they do sell out. The express tickets were sold out by the time I called, so had to get the regular one for the return trip (making it longer). The last thing I arranged for this trip was a night of camping in Stehekin. We applied for a backcountry spot in North Cascades National Park (there is camping here right as you exit the trail) and within a few weeks heard back we got it.
The ferry left at 8:30 and the parking lot across the street. It would be smart to stay nearby like we did the night before for the early start. Parked/ (parking cost $16 for the 3 days for one car).
We then took our packs and sorted depending on destination. You aren't allowed to carry your pack on with you. We got on the ferry in Chelan. You can also get on at Fields Point a little further up the lake. We then embarked on a 2.5 hour boat ride to Prince Creek. We sat up top, which got windy and cold quickly. Probably over 70 people got off at Prince Creek with us. This made us nervous as there is somewhat limited camping and many people starting the hike at the same time going for those limited campsites. As we exited the ferry, everyone was told to grab a pack on their way out and we would sort them out after. It took some time for everyone to get off and find our packs. Once the 4 of us had them all, we busted up the trail at a quick pace. By the time we started was after 12 and very hot, 80's at least. We tried to keep a fast pace to get a better choice of camp spots. The heat got to me near the end of our first day. Make sure to bring lots of electrolytes! The trail is very exposed as well so sun hats and sunscreen are a must. We made it to Meadows Creek- 7.2 miles in. A more popular camping destination is Moore point- over 10 miles from Prince Creek. We found two spots next to each other to fit the 2 tents. This campsite is close to a creek, but farther in the woods. Not a great view of the lake from here. The campground was packed with people. It was nice being one of the first to roll in and choose our site though. The campground had a pit toilet and we had to hang our food. One big caution on the trail is rattlesnakes. We never ended up seeing any, or bears. Caitlin did see one tick in her tent. We built a fire night one at our campsite, which was lovely, thanks CJ! Caitlin and CJ brought their one year old Winter who did pretty good on the whole trip!
We woke the next morning and started hiking by 8:30 or so. We knew it was going to be another hot day so we started moving quickly. The first 5 miles didn’t feel bad at all. It wasn’t too hot or challenging and we went through the miles quickly. This day we took more time to break, hydrate, eat and take pictures. The views of the North Cascades kept getting better and better the further up the lake we got. The water was glacier water blue, jagged snow covered peaks, the trail dressed with spring lupine and other wildflowers. The views reminded me of something out of Europe and not Washington. The last 5.8 miles of this day felt much more challenging. It got hotter, more hills and my feet were killing me. This hike was different than I am used to with rolling hills through out and no very giant hills. A constant incline and decline with not much in-between. We did 3,500 gain total. The last couple miles were the worst. Super hot, exposed and lots of pain. We finally exited the trail and the first thing we saw was Lakeview Camp, our camp for the night. You have to keep walking a bit down trail towards the lake to get to the ranger station though. We had to check in here first to get our permit we reserved ahead of time. The backcountry sites here feel way more like car camping than backcountry ruggedness. There are beautiful bathrooms, running drinking water, bear vaults to put your food in. Each campsite also has a picnic table. Such a dream after backpacking and filtering all of our water for 2 days. We picked a spot and set up camp for the night. There are tons of camping spots available through the North Cascades National Park. You can apply for these ahead of time or go for a walk up site. After this, first priority was getting an ice cold beer. The 4 of us shared a 6 pack. Beer had never tasted better! The town of Stehekin is out of a dream and the cutest little hiking/ adventure town. Stehekin is only accessible by boat, plane or foot! There is a lodge close to the ranger station with a store and restaurant. The famous Stehekin Bakery is 2 miles more down the road from everything else. We made dinner and then enjoyed adult beverages by the lake. We walked up the lake a bit taking in the sunset. We relaxed at the picnic table before another early night to bed. Kaelee and I braved the night with no rain fly, which was mostly really nice, just bright in the morning. Every night on trail was very warm and never got cold.
We woke with the light by 6:30 and left our camp behind as we made the 2 mile walk for the Bakery for breakfast. We were walking by 8 and got there before 9. There is a shuttle you can take, but it is $8 a person. There is also bikes to rent in the area. The walk was easy and flat compared to what we experienced on trail. We arrived and I got a pesto, swiss and mushroom croissant. Kaelee and I also split one of the famous cinnamon rolls. Everything was super delicious. Now I know what all the rave is about! We walked the 2 miles back to camp and slowly packed up and then headed to the main area where the ferry would pick us up. Kaelee and I got lunch at the restaurant. It was very busy, but service was quick! I got a grilled chicken sandwich and Kaelee got a burger. We both got a beer as well. The whole areas Internet was down so they had to manually enter credit cards and some things were cash only, so be prepared for that. I had wanted to catch the 12:00 ferry, but it was sold out by the time I got our tickets so we got the 2:00. We loaded up all the packs and made the long journey back to Seattle (4hrs in the ferry and 3.5 hour drive back).
I already want to go to Stehekin again for its charm and relaxing vibes. There is so much more hiking to do in the area. It’s a great place to get away from it all with great amenities still in the area.