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On The Loop: Lake Chelan Valley

Lake Chelan sign

Following Highway 97A, descend into a glacier-carved valley and approach the pristine lake surrounded by rolling orchards and vineyards. One of the most stunning lakes in the world, Lake Chelan has drawn generations of families to its shores year after year. Water sports, beachside fun, numerous vineyards, and wine-tasting rooms combine to make the area an idyllic year-round getaway.

The Lake Chelan AVA is Washington State’s 11th American Viticultural Area. The AVA boasts 24,040 total acres located 7 miles along the lake's eastern end and the surrounding lands that are at or below 2,000 feet in elevation. Wineries and tasting rooms surround Lake Chelan among the 300+ acres of vineyards that are planted providing exceptional wine-tasting experiences year-round.
Enjoy the vineyard views as you approach the lower end of the lake, home to the resort community of Chelan. Explore the historic downtown—friendly, family-owned boutiques and lodging, resort facilities, wine-tasting rooms, galleries, restaurants, small-town charm, and a wonderful visitor information center. Swimmers play in shallow waters while sailboats, fishing boats, and motorboats slice through deeper water offshore. Choose from accommodations on long, sandy beaches with lakefront views, hotels in the center of town, or private cabins tucked in the hills.

South Lake Chelan State Park

Along the wooded, steeper south shore, Lake Chelan State Park features camping, picnicking, water sports, and boat launch facilities. The paved highway along the south shore ends at Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park. Numerous parks and Forest Service campgrounds along the entire length of Lake Chelan allow you to plan multi-day boat trips with overnight stops along the way. 

Keep your eyes open for wildlife — mountain goats, bears, deer, big horn sheep, and a variety of birds. Fishing in Lake Chelan is exceptional year-round. The cool depths yield landlocked lingcod or burbot, lake trout, kokanee (which are landlocked sockeye salmon), as well as landlocked chinook salmon. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and smallmouth bass are abundant in the warmer, clear waters near shore. 

Manson Scenic Loop

Take a short 7-mile drive on Highway 150 along majestic Lake Chelan to the town of Manson. Walk to over 18 wineries and tasting rooms here including Winegirl Wines, known for its exceptional wines and super-friendly attitude! The town’s waterfront park at Manson Bay has picnic facilities, a swim area, and boat moorage. The Manson Apple Blossom Festival is held in May and is popular with locals and visitors alike.

Meander along Manson’s Scenic Loop and explore four small neighboring fishing lakes: Roses Lake, Wapato Lake, Dry Lake, and Lake Antilon.  Wapato Lake and Lake Antilon have camping facilities. You’ll want to spend some quality time in the cute community’s downtown core— complete with wineries, breweries, lodging, boutique shopping, and family-friendly dining. Nearby Old Mill Park is a great place to take the dogs for a swim!

Stehekin Starrise


Looking to really get off the beaten path? Then a trip to Stehekin is a must. There are no roads to this tiny, uplake, mountain village. It is accessible only by boat, helicopter, or hiking. The Lady of the Lake passenger ferry leaves Chelan with regularly scheduled service to Stehekin and back. While in Stehekin, ride horses, kayak, bicycle, or fish. Visit the historic Buckner Orchard to see the tools and techniques early settlers used to make a living in this valley over a century ago. Cool off at Rainbow Falls, a picturesque, 312-foot waterfall. The Stehekin Valley is the southern gateway to North Cascades National Park. Hundreds of miles of trails carry hikers into four adjoining wilderness areas.

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Lake Chelan Area Visitor Resources

Current Conditions

WSDOT Traffic Conditions & Cameras


Lake Chelan Heritage & History

The 50.5-mile glacial lake slices northwestward into the Cascade mountains. The first people in the area were from the Chelan tribe. The word Chelan (originally spelled Tsillan) means “deep notch,” a fitting name for the third-deepest lake in the U.S. — situated in a valley deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is the largest natural lake in Washington state. The Chelan Tribe spent the winter along the south end of the lake near the Chelan River, which drains the lake to the Columbia River. The Chelan people paddled canoes 50 miles to Stehekin at the head of the lake and then followed a trail over Cascade Pass to trade with Puget Sound tribes. Stehekin is derived from a Salish word that means “the way through.” By the 1860s, tribes were decimated by smallpox epidemics and wars that broke out after the treaties. Remaining Chelan tribal people became part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Plan Your Lake Chelan Adventure

Wildlife & Birding
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Schedule an extra day or two to visit this off-the-grid community but note there is no access by car. To get there you must take the Lady of the Lake tour boat, a helicopter flight or hike in.

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Side Trip: Manson
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Wine Country

Lake Chelan is the 11th AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Washington State. Tour vineyards, hit wine tasting rooms and purchase delicious wine souvenirs.

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Amazing Food

Chefs in this region are making some tremendous Pacific Northwest fare. Seriously delicious!

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Water Fun
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Scenic Rides
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Fish On!
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Images from Lake Chelan

Upcoming Events in Lake Chelan

Stories from Lake Chelan

Fall Elk Rut
The elk rut begins around the time of the autumnal equinox in mid-September, and lasts a month. During this time, male elk, called bulls, will challenge each other for the… Read More >>>>
Photographers Paradise
The Cascade Loop Scenic Byway spans the east and west sides of Washington State's Cascade Mountain Range, and photo opportunities along the route are varied and spectacular, covering all interests… Read More >>>>
Geocache Your Way Around The Loop!
Geocaching is kinda like a family-friendly treasure hunt! There are a variety of types of Geocaches from large containers like ammo cans or plastic containers (snap-lock-type) to small magnets stuck… Read More >>>>
Salmon Viewing Locations on the Loop
Fall marks the season when Salmon can be seen in the waterways along the Cascade Loop. Check this list for some of our favorites! Read More >>>>
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