Stehekin (ste-HEE-kin) sits at the northwest end of Lake Chelan and can be reached only by boat, floatplane, or foot; thousands of visitors take the boat trip up-lake from Chelan for lunch or an overnight stay at one of Stehekin’s resorts. The town is also a launching point for treks into the heart of North Cascades National Park, or beyond into Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness and Glacier Peak Wilderness.
The name Stehekin, a Native American term meaning “the way through,” fits this mountain gateway well. The town began in the late 1880s when prospectors came here in search of gold and silver. They found the minerals, but not in sufficient quantity to establish a large mine, and Stehekin has never been connected to the outside world by road.
Today it is home to fewer than 100 permanent residents but has all the basics, including a post office, grocery store, restaurant, and grade school. A summer-only outdoor supply shop and bakery are also in town.
Getting to Stehekin
A longtime favorite of visitors to Lake Chelan is the 55-mile voyage from Chelan or Manson to Stehekin. Lake Chelan Boat Company (1319 W. Woodin Ave., 509/682-2224, www.ladyofthelake.com) has been operating boats along this route for more than 65 years and runs two vessels: the 350-passenger Lady of the Lake II ($39), which takes four hours to reach Stehekin, and the 65-foot-long Lady Express ($59), which gets there in two hours. Food is available on both boats, and onboard Forest Service interpreters give talks on the human and natural history of the area. Only the Lady Express operates November–April, and there is no winter boat service on Tuesday and Thursday.
You can also carry bikes, canoes, or kayaks aboard the boats for an extra charge.
Chelan Airways (509/682-5555, www.chelanairways.com) offers daily seaplane service to Stehekin and flightseeing over the Stehekin Valley. You may wish to fly one-way and take a boat in the other direction.
The National Park Service and Stehekin Adventure Company combine to offer daily van or bus transportation from the dock at Stehekin to Flat Creek, 20 miles into the mountains. This service is offered from late May through mid-October and costs $6 one-way to High Bridge, or $12 one-way to Flat Creek. Both buses carry backpacks, and the Stehekin Adventure bus also carries bikes.
Contact the Park Service’s Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin for details or reservations (360/856-5700, ext. 340, then ext. 14, www.nps.gov/noca, year-round Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m., mid-May to mid-Sept. daily 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.) or stop by their visitors centers in Stehekin or Chelan. Reservations are not needed for the larger Stehekin Adventures buses. Passengers on both services are given a narrated tour along the way, and you can get on or off at any point along the route.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition