North Central Washington is filled with wide open spaces, enormous lakes and rivers, and highways that go for hours between towns. The weather is surprisingly warm here, too, with week-long stretches of 100 degree temps in summer. That makes the clear water of lakes and rivers here something magical in summer, and everyone swims. The shoulder seasons are usually incredibly dry with days that can feel like summer around lunch and winter by dinner.
Alta Lake State Park has a wonderfully cozy feel, in a part of the state where everything else seems over sized. A mile-long lake is ringed by steep and rocky mountains, with trees on the campground side and bare rock faces on the other. The area was directly hit by the Carlton Complex fires in 2014 but has recovered so quickly that you might not notice. The extra attention given to the park after the fire has resulted in a place that feels well-loved and exceptionally clean.
The nearby waters of the Columbia River and Lake Chelan draw crowds of ski boats, jet skis, and loud parties. Visitors love this spot because it facilitates quiet enjoyment. The lake is stocked with trout and has a dock and launch areas. The swimming area is huge, with lots of sandy shore and a long roped off section. The hills block the afternoon winds and make a perfect place for paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. There is a small, but steep trail which gets you to the ridge top.
This is a family and group friendly spot where many visitors come year after year. The day use area has space for large gatherings and would be ideal for reunions and weddings. The warm, dry, and mosquito-free weather here in summer encourages everyone to be outside (instead of hiding by the air conditioner), so even around camp you'll probably get to chat with your neighbors.
Luxurious Lake Chelan is just thirty minutes to the south with major shopping retailers and a terrific variety of dinning options from drive-thus to white tablecloths.
RV Rentals in Alta Lake State Park
Transportation in Alta Lake State Park
Stick to HWY2 on the east side of the Columbia River as it has shoulder, passing lanes and more access to stops for gas and groceries when heading to Pateros and avoids the tunnel and steep climb up to Chelan. The area is known for very high winds at times and if you decide to visit Lake Chelan, be warned that it is steep, no matter which direction you come from. The Alta Lake campground is well maintained and newly paved in spots. The large sites are all back-in.
Campgrounds and parking in Alta Lake State Park
Campsites in Alta Lake State Park
Alta Lake State Park Campground
The park offers 91 campsites with 32 full hook-up and some are large enough for 45ft RVs. There are several regular bathrooms and showers throughout the park. There is drinking water, a dump station, a concession stand with supplies, drinks and firewood, and an extra parking area for boat trailers. The campground is closed November through March. The place is like new after the fires of 2014 and one of the cleanest parks you'll find.
Seasonal activities in Alta Lake State Park
Alta Lake Golf Resort
You'll find two beautiful 9-hole courses just minutes away from Alta Lake State Park. The course is difficult enough to challenge seasoned golfers, but the casual atmosphere and ultra-low fees make sure that all ages and skill-levels feel welcome. Low key, unpretentious, and friendly. They have a well stocked pro shop, cheap cart and club rentals, and a cafe serving breakfast and lunch. The resort is in an newer community of affordable vacation homes and you'll probably meet the locals on the course.
Lakeside Picnic Area
Because Alta Lake State Park received so much help to clean up after the fires in 2014, it feels brand new. The grass is so inviting around the picnic shelters, you'll want to kick your shoes off. Whether you want to set up close to the swim beach to keep an eye on the kids, or you want to lay on a blanket with a good book in the shade, the Day Use area has it all. There is lots of parking, many picnic tables, a kitchen shelter for parties, modern restrooms with many showers, and even a tempting concession shop. It's a rewarding stop even if you aren't spending the night.
Though there is a lot of water to explore in north central Washington, much of it feels a bit too large and exposed to be at the mercy of the wind on a paddleboard. Alta Lake is big enough to to feel adventurous, but being ringed with large rocky hills on both sides, it is also protected from the winds. The views are excellent and the depth of 10-30 feet makes it ideal for paddling around the edges checking out submerged logs and the rock slide area. Easy in and out at the sandy swimming beach in the Day Use area.
Goat Mountain Hike
The steep mountain walls surrounding the Lake may leave you feeling a little closed-in. The two mile hike to the top of the ridge of Goat Mountain has you covered. The trail head is marked just past the last camping loop headed farther down the shoreline road. The trail is mostly steep switchbacks and wastes no time climbing out of the valley, but the view from the top is rewarding. You'll have a birds-eye-view of the whole lake and even see beyond to the Columbia River. A great hike in cooler Spring or Fall.
The lake is about a mile long and offers boaters two launches and sixty feet of dock. It's usually calm enough to feel safe in the center of the lake, even in a tiny raft. Larger craft are allowed though, and you may even find jet skis making some waves in the summer. Motorized craft are only allowed from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. in order to preserve quiet enjoyment of the lake. There are many submerged logs and an underwater boulder field with are hot spots for bigger fish. The WDFW report rainbow trout and Kokanee up to 16in. Check with them for rules and regulations.
If you're loving the scenery of this area, heading north through the Methow Valley will blow you away. The unique towns ot Twisp and Winthrop are situated on the Methow River and become the end of the road every winter when the North Cascades Highway 20 beyond is closed for the season. There is a Rhythm and Blues Festival each summer, one of the best farmers markets in the state from April to October, and local bands every weekend at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. This is one of the most scenic drives in the country, well worth the trip even without plans.