Lake Chelan National Recreation Area


Stehekin and upper Lake Chelan
Stehekin and upper Lake Chelan, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area

Lake Chelan National Recreation Area is a 61,958-acre property at the north end of Lake Chelan and extending northwest up the Stehekin Valley along the Stehekin River. The property is managed as part of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex. The primary access to the area is via floatplane or passenger ferry from Chelan at the southern end of the lake. There are roads in the Stehekin area but no roads in or out of the National Recreation Area. There is an actual town at Stehekin but there are fewer than 100 permanent residents in the town. The area can also be accessed via a number of hiking trails through the National Forests on both sides (Okanogan-Wenatchee and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie) or through the south unit of North Cascades National Park.

The Pacific Crest Trail enters the northwestern corner of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area over Cascade Pass. Weather events over the last several years have washed out a lot of trail between that area and the town of Stehekin, adding more than 10 miles to a one-way hike into town for R&R and/or to pick up supplies.

About 56,000 acres of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area are included in the Stephen Mather Wilderness. To the west is Glacier Peak Wilderness, to the southeast is Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.

Generally, the North Cascades Visitor Center in Newhalem is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The Park and Forest Information Center in Sedro-Woolley is open daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm. The Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount is open Sunday through Thursday, 7 am to 6 pm and Friday-Saturday from 7 am to 8 pm. The Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm. The Chelan Ranger Station is open Monday through Friday (except for federal holidays) 7:45 am to 4:30 pm. The Glacier Public Service Center in Glacier is open daily from 8 am to 4:30 pm. The Methow Valley Ranger District in Winthrop is open Monday through Friday (except federal holidays) from 7:45 am to 4:30 pm. The Skagit Information Center in Newhalem is open Friday through Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm. I say "generally" because schedules are liable to change with seasons, individual weather events and Congressional budget cuts...

Update 2015: I'm sad to report that in the summer of 2015 forest fires wiped out most of the greenery seen in the pictures of this area.