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On the 50-mile passenger ferry ride to the far north end of Lake Chelan, the deepest lake in Washington, you’ll begin to realize just how distant Stehekin is from the frenetic life you’re leaving behind. Three hours or so later, the meter of the boat’s diesel engine now one with your pulse, the dock, lodge and scattered cabins of Stehekin come into view.
You can begin to enjoy the simple pleasures of Stehekin—which has just 75 permanent residents—at the well-appointed North Cascades Lodge (be sure to book ahead). The recently revamped retreat offers 28 lake-view, hotel-style rooms, as well as seven cabins with kitchens, and the larger, self-contained Lake House, which accommodates families or small groups. The lodge’s cozy restaurant serves three hearty meals a day during the May–October “high” season—along with a mean cocktail or microbrew—and makes box lunches for customers who are on the go. Another great lakeside lodging option is the Silver Bay Inn Resort, where you can rent a passive-solar lakefront house for your whole family, or choose one of the smaller nearby cabins for a rustic romantic getaway. If you plan to cook, bring in your own groceries.
Once settled, decide whether to hop into a canoe or a kayak and paddle your way around the wild coves and windswept beaches of northern Lake Chelan. Hire a guide to take you fishing or horseback riding. (The lodge desk has rental and guide information.) Or even better, set out on foot: The 5-mile loop hike through the historic Buckner Orchard to Rainbow Falls and back is a great way to while away an afternoon. For more hiking options and to brush up on the natural and human history of Stehekin, check out the National Park Service’s Golden West Visitor Center, just a few steps south of Stehekin Landing. Indeed, with so little and so much to offer all at once, Stehekin is the kind of place you will never want to leave.
On your hike to Rainbow Falls, stop along the way for a freshly baked snack at the Stehekin Pastry Company.
GETTING THERE: Stehekin is at the far north end of Lake Chelan, and there are no roads to it. Most visitors arrive by a passenger ferry run by Chelan-based Lady of the Lake (Chelan, 1418 W Woodin Ave.; 888.682.4584). The drive to Chelan from Seattle takes about three and a quarter hours; The Lady of the Lake II takes four hours from Chelan to Stehekin Landing ($40.50/round trip). The smaller, faster Lady Express takes two and a half hours ($61/round trip). Both boats make the return trip later the same day. You can also hoof it via the 26-plus-mile hike in to Stehekin from the Cascade River Road trailhead near Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park. It takes most hikers from two to three days.
North Cascades Lodge, Stehekin, 1 Stehekin Valley Road; 509.682.4494; $145–$249, Lakehouse, $540.
Silver Bay Inn Resort, Stehekin, 10 Silver Bay Road; 509.670.0693; $225–$425.
Stehekin Pastry Company, 509.682.7742