The name Chelan has its origins in Tsillan, a Salish indigenous word which means “Deep Water.” True to its name, this beautiful glacier-fed freshwater lake is almost 1,500 feet deep and about 380 feet below sea level at its deepest point. Located at the foothills of the North Cascades, flanked by the Chelan mountains, this lake boasts of crystal-clear waters, gorgeous scenery and a truly serene setting. Add to this a host of fun things to do, and you have yourself a weekend plan in place, in no time!
Getting There and The Stay
Lake Chelan is about a 3-hour drive from Seattle, and the drive itself is very scenic as you cross the North Cascades. Numerous hotels and AirBnbs dot the communities of Chelan, Manson and Hollywood Beach around the lake, and we stayed at an AirBnb in Manson. Our rented apartment patio overlooked the lake and sunrises were a complete treat to watch. Getting up early on a weekend was never this easy!
Areas around Lake Chelan are well-known for growing apples, the fruit having superior taste, long shelf-life and luscious color. Along with apples, fruits like pears, cherries and apricots are also extensively grown, and around 10,000 acres of Chelan Valley are fruit farms!
We visited Allview Orchards for a midday apple and pear picking experience and it was so much fun. Located on the banks of the Columbia River, the 30 sprawling acres of Allview have around 1,000 apple, pear and cherry trees. It’s an organic, family-owned orchard producing about a million pounds of fruit each year!
Wineries, Breweries and Cideries
Chelan Valley is also well-known for growing another yummy fruit: wine grapes! Over 200 acres and 30 wineries make Lake Chelan quite the destination for sampling some very enjoyable wines. Many of the wineries, breweries and cideries (using the local grown Chelan apples), are located right by or overlooking the lake guaranteeing a stunning view to compliment the drink in your hand. We visited Siren Song Vineyard Estate & Winery and found exactly that. Their wines are delicious and so are the bites and European-style wood-fired pizzas served in their attached restaurant. We really loved the evening we spent here!
We made a trip to the pretty downtown of Chelan and had a lovely brunch at The Riverwalk Café which serves locally sourced eggs, vegetable and meats and scrumptious breads and bagels freshly baked in-house. The pastries served are from Stehekin Pastry Company and coffee is from Bluestar Coffee Roasters, two local Washington businesses. The café is located right besides the Chelan Riverwalk Park, so you can easily enjoy a picnic while getting lost in the quaint beauty around you. If you choose to spend some time walking around and need another pick-me-up, definitely pay a visit to the Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery, a wonderful little place serving fresh baked goods and cozy drinks.
An arid climate, lack of rainfall, four distinct seasons and around 300 sunny days a year make Lake Chelan an easy vacation choice. There are activities to be done every season and itineraries can get filled in too easily. Chelan by the Glass is a great resource that we used to map out food and drinks. It lists wineries, ale houses, cideries, restaurants and their timings and specialties thereby functioning as an easy guide when you know you are going to be spoiled by choice.
All in all, Lake Chelan is a must-visit spot in Washington. You can choose to spend a day, a weekend or several days here and you are sure to be completely enchanted and thoroughly refreshed.