After an early morning drive from Seattle, we made our way to Field’s Point Landing (a spot along Lake Chelan) and boarded Lady of the Lake, a passenger boat that took us the remaining 30-plus breathtaking miles up Lake Chelan to the town of Stehekin. 

As we floated past waterfalls, waterfront homes and mountain peaks in the distance, I was reminded that the journey really is half the fun. Did you know Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in the United States? I had no idea, nor did I realize what a fun time we would have on our way to Stehekin.

Stehekin is nestled deep in the North Cascades. It’s a Salishian word meaning "the way through." The Stehekin valley has long served as a passageway for travelers, linking Washington's interior wilderness to the rugged Cascade Mountains.

Stehekin has about 75 permanent residents, and swells in the summer months with both vacationers and seasonal workers. We chose to visit Stehekin for the first time in the off-season. In my opinion, the pluses of off-season travel (i.e. no crowds) will always outweigh the minuses of having some/most services closed down.

Although Stehekin boasts loads of natural beauty, getting there takes a little bit of extra planning, which makes it all the more alluring to those wanting to avoid crowds. There are no roads into Stehekin, but you can get there one of three ways: on foot, boat or plane. This time we came by boat. But next time, I would love to experience the vantage point of being on a plane. 

Stehekin, although small in population, is a hub of sorts. It serves as a jumping-off point to explore the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park.

We were greeted by Patty, co-owner of the Stehekin Cedar Cabins, once we docked. She was both quick to help us with our luggage and even quicker to make us feel right at home. We hopped in the loaner car (which comes with the cabin) and made the one-mile drive to our cabin in the woods. 

Upon arrival, we were delighted to see every modern convenience was present, plus a few extras. There was a wood-burning stove to keep us cozy, an outdoor screened-in porch to enjoy bug-free nights and snow-free wood retrieval, a full kitchen with a coffee maker and microwave, beautiful handmade quilts draped over the loft, and plenty of room for our family of four to sleep.

Once situated in our cabin, we were eager to see the sights, so we hopped in our car and visited Rainbow Falls. It was easy to tell where the 312-foot waterfall got its name. On that particular day, the sun was shining and a rainbow appeared across the falls.  

Back at our cabin, we enjoyed the peace of our surroundings as we made dinner and felt cozy tucked away from the world. The sound of a crackling fire served as the soundtrack to our evenings as we put the kids to bed and then spent the rest of the evening playing card games, snacking and reveling in the slower pace of life in Stehekin.

The next morning, we were eager to get back out to do more hiking as we explored Agnes Gorge in the morning and then Howard Lake in the afternoon. Being able to hike with no one else around left a permanent smile on my face for the duration of our stay.

It didn’t take long to notice the stress of the city leaving our bodies as we embraced this simpler way of life. It had us contemplating how we could incorporate more meaningful time together each day in our lives back home. 

Stehekin receives around the same rainfall as Seattle, but much more snow. If feeling like you are inside a snow globe is on your list of things to do this winter, then look no further than Stehekin for that magic feeling. 

 A few things to know before you visit:

  • You must make lodging reservations in advance. There is no place you can pop in to get a last-minute deal.
  • There are virtually no services available unless you visit in the summer months. You must bring all your own food, toiletries and supplies for the duration of your stay.
  • There is no cell phone reception. However, the cabin we stayed at had Wi-Fi.
  • There are no ATMs, so bring cash if you plan to tip tour operators or need to buy a random candy bar.

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