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Sitting deep within Washington’s North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is enveloped by vast valleys, towering peaks, and countless glaciers. The beauty of this area is made even more so due to its isolation. In fact, there are no roads here at all, which means you’ll need to leave your trusty RV rental in the town of Chelan during your time in the park.
Your first port of call in the national park will be the small town of Stehekin, home to no more than 100 residents. When you book an RV rental in Chelan County, you’ll be as close to this recreational hotspot as you can get in a car. From here, the easiest way to access the town is via the public ferry that runs throughout the year. Daily services are available from May through to October, with a more sporadic service available during the rest of the year. For a truly memorable visit, opt for a ride on a seaplane flight, which not only treats you to unbeatable views but will have you in the park in 25 minutes.
Once you arrive in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, miles of secluded hiking trails leading to cascading waterfalls, white-water rafting routes along the scenic Stehekin River, and wildlife spotting opportunities all await.
Boasting more than 400 miles of trails camping at Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is all about hiking. It doesn’t matter whether you’re visiting during winter, summer, spring, or fall, there will always be a trail open that suits your wants and needs. Just remember to bring a sturdy pair of walking boots, dress for the season, and don’t skimp on the water. Some of the easiest hikes include the 2.5-mile trail through Agnes Gorge, the one-mile-long Imus Creek Loop through to Lower Stehekin Valley, or four-mile path along the banks of the Stehekin River. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, don’t hesitate to rise early and tackle the eight-mile McGregor Mountain, which involves a short scramble to the very top.
Surrounded by spectacular scenery, avid fishers couldn’t wish for a more beautiful spot to fish from than the Stehekin River. With fewer visitors coming to this spot in Washington, fish have been able to thrive in the waters, and novice and professionals regularly reel in fish more than 18 inches long. Some of the most common species found here are rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout, though plenty of other panfish lives in the waters too. It is possible to fish from the shoreline, but getting out and about in a rented boat during your Lake Chelan National Recreation Area camping trip will put you in with a better chance of catching the monsters. As you won’t be able to bring your own boat with you into the park, there’s a convenient rental service not far from the river’s edge.
In the same place, you’ll find facilities offering kayak and canoe rentals along with the chance to join a white-water rafting tour. If you’re a fan of taking things slow, exploring the river via kayak and canoe should do the trick. However, when you’re looking for something to get the heart pumping white water rafting is the way to do it. The rapids, along with the river range from grade 2 to grade 5, so you’ll want a qualified instructor with you if you’re not qualified yourself.
While RV camping in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area isn’t possible, tent camping is. So, if you’re looking to spend a couple of days exploring everything there is to offer here, it’s worth bringing a small tent. There are more than 140 campsites spread across the national park, so make sure to visit the Golden West Visitor Center before your trip to see which ones suit your itinerary the best. Most campsites are remote, with vault toilets at most and the odd picnic bench here and there.
Outside of the park, and back in Chelan, the Lakeshore RV Park offers a convenient place to park up your rental RV before or after your adventure into the wilderness. Sites are big-rig friendly and pull-thru, so you don’t need to worry about finding the right spot for you. Each site is also equipped with 20, 30, or 50 amp electric, water, and sewage hook-ups to make your visit that little more comfortable. Extra facilities include a handy laundry room, dump station, hot showers, and flushing toilets.
On the way up to Chelan from Ellensburg, you’ll pass by the town of Wenatchee, perfect for a quick lunch break or pit stop. No matter when you rent an RV near Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, you’ll be able to pop into Wenatchee’s famous Pybus Market. Visitors can peruse stall after stall of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally made beers and wines, cheese and oils seven days of the week. At the weekend, visitors are in for even more of a treat as the market comes alive with music every Friday. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite to eat, sip on a glass of wine, and enjoy the atmosphere.
To see where some of this local produce has come from, consider a self-guided around the town’s wineries. There are more than ten wineries to visit, some of which can be found in town, others that sit in the surrounding countryside. For the ultimate indulgence, hire a driver for the day, or join a guided tour to make the most out of the free samples.
If a bit of cultural enrichment is in order during your visit, the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Centre is worth your time. Housed in the city’s former Post Office, the building is a time warp in itself. Inside, exhibits documenting the local area’s fascinating past, from the effects of the Great Missoula Flood to the arrival of the railway, are all available to be explored.