Seeking Winter Sunshine at Lake Chelan

“300 days of sunshine” is a promise worth traveling for — especially in the winter. So after spending much of the season in hibernation, my partner and I hit the road for a destination just three hours from the Seattle area: Lake Chelan. This massive, glacially-carved lake runs over 50 miles from the Cascade Mountains to the resort town of Chelan, where recreation and relaxation go hand-in-hand. From snowy excursions to wine tasting, our winter weekend was spent playing outdoors and taking it easy. 

echo ridge winter trails
echo ridge winter trails

Driving over Snoqualmie Pass in a mixed rain/snow storm (Stevens Pass was closed due to avalanche danger) was a good reminder of what we were escaping from. February forecasts in Seattle are often dreary and this week was no exception. Once we traversed both Snoqualmie and Blewett passes, though, our weather luck began to change. Following the Columbia River from Wenatchee to Chelan, we were rewarded with blue skies and one of those 300 days of sunshine every rain-drenched Pacific Northwesterner longs for. 

grandview on the lake chelan

Grandview on the Lake

Our first stop in Chelan was Grandview on the Lake, our home base for a couple of nights. Perched over the lake (with a grand view indeed) the Grandview offers 93 condos and suites. Our vacation rental was spacious, clean and comfy, with a kitchen and even a fireplace. First order of business: opening a bottle of Washington wine and watching the sun go down from the couch.

grandview chelan

The storm followed us in on our first night, making for a dramatic sunset show over the lake. But soon the rains passed, the skies cleared, and we were ready to walk into town for some exploration.

Grandview on the Lake is located on the Chelan Riverwalk, a 1-mile waterfront loop through Historic Downtown Chelan. Everything we needed was within walking distance. Bakeries, restaurants, taphouses and tasting rooms line the quaint Woodin Avenue, with more than enough variety for a weekend stay. Try Campbell’s Pub & Veranda — located right across the bridge from Grandview on the Lake — for great brunch, happy hour, and dining options.

the vogue liquid lounge

Breakfast at The Vogue

One of our favorite foodie discoveries was The Vogue. Coffee shop by day, The Vogue transforms into a “liquid lounge” in the evenings with live music on the weekends. While there wasn’t any live music during our stay (due to Covid), we hope to return for a show when possible. The Blue Star Coffee and breakfast sandwiches (we tried a syrupy Belgian waffle sausage sandwich) were well worth coming back for. 

After breakfast, we headed across the street to Lake Chelan Sports to rent snow gear. You can rent cross-country skis and snowshoes from the friendly folks at this outdoor clothing shop. Rental prices are very affordable here ($18 for the ski package includes skis, boots, and poles). We were fitted for skis in a matter of minutes, and the staff had some timely snow tips for us. Before heading up to Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, check the grooming updates!

echo ridge trailhead

Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area

Located about half an hour from Chelan, Echo Ridge offers over 25 miles of groomed nordic ski trails in the winter. As beginner skiers, we felt comfortable checking out some of the easier trails and simply enjoying the views. With an elevation of 3,600 feet at the lower parking lot, Echo Ridge offers panoramic mountain views of the Enchantments, Pyramid Peak, and the Okanogan Highlands. There are miles of snowshoe trails to explore as well. During spring-fall, you can hike or mountain bike the Echo Ridge trail system.

echo ridge skiing
echo ridge skiing
echo ridge skiing

We downloaded the Avenza PDF Winter Trails Map for Echo Ridge. Using the Avenza app, we were able to easily navigate the trails and see our GPS location on the map. We spent the day walking snow-covered trails and skiing beneath the winter sun. There is a $10/person/day trail fee (cash or check) to cover maintenance at Echo Ridge. 

wine and cheese plate

Lake Chelan Winery

If there’s one year-round experience you simply can’t miss in Chelan, it’s wine tasting. Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2009, Chelan is home to over 30 wineries. The biggest challenge is choosing where to go. So we started at the beginning — an apple farm that became the first commercial vineyard in the Chelan Valley. Lake Chelan Winery was the perfect apres-ski stop on our way down from Echo Ridge. 

The winery is perched on a hillside sloping down to the lake. Several deer crossed through the vineyard as we arrived — perhaps, like us, stopping by to catch the sunset. We chose a cheese plate to pair with Lake Chelan Winery’s award-winning estate wines and enjoyed them outside on the heated, covered patio. 

Neighboring Cairdeas Winery and Succession Wines are within walking distance if you seek more sips. And if cider is your thing, the Washington Gold Cider house — an old apple packing shed built in the 1930’s — is also located at Lake Chelan Winery. To dine with your wine, drive around to Lake Chelan’s southern shore. Siren Song Vineyard Estate and Winery offers artisan pizzas, handmade desserts and of course delicious wines from their veranda overlooking the lake.

lake chelan winter

Explore More

Chelan is a year-round destination for sun-seekers. While winter is quiet and relaxing, consider visiting in the spring, summer, and fall to camp, hike and play on the lake. Check out the Visit Lake Chelan website for info on additional places to stay, eat and drink in sunny Chelan. 

Brandon Fralic

Brandon Fralic

Brandon Fralic is the author of Urban Hikes Washington and Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest. Based in Bellingham, he writes about trails, beer, and travel for numerous regional publications. Follow Brandon at @beersatb on Instagram and at his website: beersatthebottom.com

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