Backpacking the Chelan Lakeshore Trail
Have you ever hiked 22 miles for a famous cinnamon roll? This Memorial Day weekend I did exactly that!
Nestled on the northern shore of Lake Chelan lies the town Stehekin. Unreachable by car, the only way to reach it is by a four-hour ferry ride or float plane. A fun third option? Take the Lady of the Lake ferry to the Prince Creek Campground and backpack 17 miles into Stehekin!
I have to give all credit to Sarina Clark for planning this trip! In April she asked me what my Memorial Day Weekend plans were and mentioned backpacking the Chelan Lakeshore Trail. I was pumped for an early season backpacking trip and immediately agreed to come along. She had already planned all of the details so all I had to do was pay my share and show up!
On Friday afternoon Sarina picked me up from work around two and we met up with other friends and their baby before rushing to beat Memorial Day traffic out of the city. We made it to Chelan in the early evening and picked up food before heading to our reserved campsite at Lake Chelan State Park. We enjoyed a campfire and fancy camping food before turning in early for the night in order to pack up and catch our ferry in the morning.
Day One: Take Ferry to Prince Creek Campground
Hike from Prince Creek Campground to Meadow Creek Shelter: 7.2 miles
We caught the Lady of the Lake II at 8:30 in the morning and it was packed with other backpackers who all had the same idea we had. When the ferry stopped at the Fields Point stop and we picked up EVEN MORE backpackers I was feeling really worried about where we would camp that night. There didn’t seem to be any possible way we would all find a place to camp.
When the ferry dropped us off at Prince Creek, we all grabbed our packs and took off on the trail determined to beat everyone else to the Meadows Creek Shelter, our campground for the evening. The trail gains and loses elevation throughout, so it’s a bit of a will-killer. After six or so miles of hiking as fast as possible, Sarina and I began to feel a little ill from the heat and exertion. We took a break while our powerhouse friends ran off to the campground (with their baby in tow) to get our site. Nothing like the first backpacking trip of the season to remind you how futile your attempts to stay in shape during the winter were!
Day Two: Hike to Stehekin
Hike from Meadow Creek Shelter to Lakeview Camp in Stehekin: 11.8 miles
On day two we were able to hike at a more leisurely pace since we had a reserved campsite in North Cascades National Park in Stehekin, but we also needed to hike 11.8 miles to reach it. After breaking up camp we resigned ourselves to the long slog ahead. The first six or so miles went by super quickly and without issue. We stopped at Hunts Bluff for lunch and photos and it was my favorite view on the trail! The water of Chelan was such a pretty teal color and the bluff is up high above it. You can see north to Stehekin or south towards Chelan.
The type II fun hit hard about an hour after we started our hike again. It was around 90 degrees and it was a little miserable on the exposed trail carrying our heavy packs. Sarina and I took to singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” to help get us through it. About a mile and a half from Stehekin our friends baby lost it. Once again they flew past us and started running down the trail to our camp hoping to cool her off. I was so impressed with them the entire trip because it was taking everything in me to keep picking up my feet and moving forward. I kept joking with Sarina that I was going to give up and let the lake take me.
Just when I was about to make good on my promise to jump into the lake, we finally made it to town and stopped at the ranger station to pick up our camping permit. We all made it into camp and sat exhausted at our picnic table before setting up our tents again. After some rest we made our way into town and enjoyed a beer which happens to be the most amazing beer I have ever tasted.
Day Three: Explore Stehekin
Walk to Stehekin Bakery, 4 miles round trip.
We woke up early to make the two mile walk to the Stehekin bakery for the famous cinnamon rolls. There is also a shuttle, but after all the walking we had already done what is four more (round trip) miles? After we enjoyed multiple pastries (including the cinnamon rolls) we returned to break down camp and wait for our ferry back to Chelan!
Planning your Chelan Lakeshore Trail Trip
This is a great backpacking trip, but it definitely takes a bit of planning in order to make it happen! There are definitely options on how to break it up, it just depends on how many miles you want to hike a day!
There are four established campgrounds on the trail to choose from. Most have pit toilets, some also have bear boxes so you don't need to carry a bear can or hang your food!
-Prince Creek Camp
-Cascade Creek Camp
-Meadow Creek Camp
-Moore Point Camp (you can also ask the ferry drop you off here if you want a shorter hike and only one night of camping)
If you wish to camp within the town of Stehekin you will need a backcountry camping permit from North Cascades National Park. More information on the Stehekin Campgrounds can be found here
Sample Alternative Itinerary:
Day One: Take Lady of the Lake Ferry to Prince Creek drop off, hike to Cascade Creek Camp
Day Two: Hike from Cascade Creek to Moore Point Campground
Day Three: Hike from Moore Point to Stehekin. If done early enough you can catch a ferry back to Chelan depending on the ferry schedule or alternatively book a room in the lodge and/or camp in the campgrounds in Stehekin (both must be reserved in advance)
Day Four: (if staying in Stehekin) Explore, either take the shuttle or walk 4 miles round trip to the bakery for some cinnamon rolls. Go early as they tend to sell out!
You don’t need to plan out where you will be sleeping every night unless you opt for a National Park Campsite in Stehekin like we did, but you do need to purchase your ferry tickets in advance. You can also book a cabin or room in one of the lodges in Stehekin if you would prefer to end your trip with a shower! More information on lodging in Stehekin can be found here.