Lake Chelan is one of the most popular places to visit in Washington when the weather gets warm. The area even gets more tourism than any other county in the state. This is a great place to go on a Seattle weekend trip to wine taste, go hiking, and soak up the sun at the lake. There are plenty of things to do in Lake Chelan no matter what your interests are.
One of the more unique aspects of the lake is it’s long – 55 miles long to be exact. Truly exploring the entire lake will take you a while and can’t be done in just a day or two. That’s why I recommend spending at least three to four days at the minimum here on your Lake Chelan trip.
I come here about every one to two years, and my last trip was in the summer of 2019. I always find things to do in Chelan that are new for me each time. There are many activities in Lake Chelan to choose from, so this guide will show you some of the best along with basic information to know when planning a trip.
The information in this post has been fact-checked and updated as of March 2021.
How to Plan for Your Lake Chelan Activities
Here are a few tips to help you plan where to stay and what to do in Chelan.
- Thanks to the gorgeous, sunny weather, Lake Chelan summer is the most popular season to visit. That means you’ll need to book your hotel reservation months in advance.
- I also suggest booking any tours or boat rentals at least one month in advance if you’re set on that.
- If there’s somewhere specific you want to eat at during the summer, call a week in advance to make a reservation.
Places to Stay in Lake Chelan
There are a variety of Lake Chelan hotels to choose from, whether you want to stay on a budget or indulge in more luxurious accommodation. Prices will be more expensive during the summer, which is peak season, and taper off during the rest of the year.
- Deep Water Inn – If you’re looking for a cheaper place to stay, check out this hotel. It’s located downtown so you’ll have access to plenty of restaurants and stores and is also pet-friendly. (rates start at $103; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Campbell’s Resort – This is a popular Lake Chelan hotel that I personally love staying at. It’s right on the lake and they have their own pool and beach, so you have multiple ways to get in the water. They have their own restaurant on-site and are across from Safeway and Starbucks. (rates start at $154 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
You also have plenty of options to stay at if you prefer a vacation rental.
- Two-bedroom condo – You’ll have a gorgeous view of the lake and mountains, a balcony to drink wine on, sleeping for up to four guests, and a washer and dryer available. (rates start at $201 per night; book your condo here)
- Lakefront condo w/hot tub – This pet-friendly condo has a private hot tub, dock, and a grill and outdoor patio set. (rates start at $121 per night; book your condo here)
- Huge waterfront home – This stunning seven-bedroom house sleeps up to 20 guests and has a large back deck overlooking the lake. (rates start at $333 per night; book your house here)
Best Things to Do in Lake Chelan
There are plenty of Lake Chelan activities to do, whether you love wine tasting or getting out on the lake.
1. Go Wine Tasting
There are over 35 wineries in the area, so it’s no surprise that wine tasting is one of the Lake Chelan attractions people come here for. Many people consider this region on-par to California’s Sonoma Valley wineries. Tsillan Cellars & Sorrento’s Ristorante is one of the best wineries in Lake Chelan due to its beautiful Tuscany-inspired building.
Another great Lake Chelan winery to stop at is Benson Vineyards Estate Winery. It has a stunning view of the lake from on top of a hill and is always one of my favorite things to do in Chelan, Washington.
After you wine taste, you can sit outside to enjoy lunch and a bottle of wine to have a relaxing afternoon. One of the most popular things to do in Lake Chelan is wine tasting, so add at least a few of the wineries here to your list.
2. Take a Tour of the Lake
The Lady of the Lake boat was originally built in 1900 as a way to transport passengers from the south side of the lake to the north. There are now multiple tours you can do to reach parts that are harder to reach, such as trails that are hike-in only. You can also reach remote campsites as a way to get away from it all, which is one of the more unique things to do in Chelan.
3. Head to a Waterpark
Slidewaters has been rated one of the top 15 waterparks in the United States year after year. There’s nothing like spending a day at this waterpark when it’s hot outside and is one of the top Lake Chelan activities for families.
The waterpark consists of plenty of waterslides, a lazy river, and an area for small children to play in. Slidewaters opens at 10 am every day and closes at 7 pm, so there’s plenty of time to visit the park.
4. Learn About Chelan’s History
Located downtown, the Lake Chelan Museum explains the history of the area and how it came to be. While the lake was formed thousands of years ago, people didn’t start settling here until the 1800s.
I always love learning about the history of an area when I travel, and you can see old artifacts at the museum as well. If you’re wondering what to do in Chelan on a rainy day, this is a great option until the sun comes out again.
5. See a Movie
While the weather is often warm and sunny in Chelan, there are still days where it’s rainy or cloudy. One of the best things to do in Chelan on days like that is to see a movie at the Ruby Theatre. Built in 1914, this is one of the oldest movie theaters in the state.
6. Skydive into a Winery
This is one of the best Chelan activities for the adventurous types. You’ll get picked up from a Lake Chelan winery and taken to Skydive Chelan, where you’ll get ready to go up in your plane.
Skydive Chelan is the only tandem winery skydive you can do in the country. After you’re back on land, you’ll get to enjoy a bottle of wine that is well deserved. This may be one of the most exciting things to do in the PNW if that’s what you’re into!
7. Go Golfing
When looking for what to do in Lake Chelan, golfing is popular for group trips. One group can go wine tasting while the other group can go golfing. Lake Chelan Golf Course is only a few minutes from the central part of town and is a beautiful course to golf on.
You can golf a majority of the year, and prices range from around $30 to $50 per person depending on if it’s offseason or peak season (which is typically Memorial Day until the beginning of October). This is one of the more active things to do near Lake Chelan.
8. Explore By Bike
Another way to be active on your trip is to bike around the area when you want Chelan things to do. They even have electric bikes to make it easier on you while allowing you to cover more ground. Several tours are available, including a Lake Chelan winery tour and a twilight tour to bike around the area as the day is winding down. Note – as of March 2021, most tours have been postponed, but this section will be updated when they’re up and running again!
9. Spend the Night Camping
Camping is one of the more popular things to do in Lake Chelan during the summer. I love spending a good three or four days camping and then coming into town to enjoy some of the activities or grabbing groceries.
A popular campsite in Lake Chelan is Twenty-Five Mile Creek, which is about 30 minutes from town and halfway up the west side of the lake. There’s a small store available to buy camping supplies like wood or ice and essentials like s’mores. You can also brush up on some camping for beginner tips before you head out.
Another good place to go camping in Lake Chelan is Lake Chelan State Park. This is closer to town and has more access to the lake when you want things to do at Lake Chelan. There are boat ramps at both campsites though, so you can easily put your boat in at either site. As with all campsites in Washington, this books up pretty fast, so I recommend booking your site months in advance.
10. Buy Local Produce
One of my favorite things to do in Lake Chelan and the surrounding areas is to stop at fruit stands. You’ll find the freshest fruit at great prices, and it tastes way better than what’s at the grocery store. If you’re headed back to Seattle, make sure to stop here before going south to visit Leavenworth.
You can get everything from cherries to pears to apples. They usually sell other products too, which as homemade jam or candy. You’ll see these fruit stands on the side of the road as you’re driving into Chelan, but there are also two set stands near town.
Sunshine Farm Market and Chelan Evening Farmer’s Market are both places you can stop at if you need your fix of fresh fruit while you’re in town. The latter is only open on Thursday evenings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., while Sunshine Farm Market is open daily.
11. Take a Helicopter Tour
While the drive around the lake is beautiful, you’ll have a completely different view of it when you take a helicopter tour. While this is one of the more expensive things to do in Lake Chelan, you won’t regret it when you see the landscape. You can read reviews here if you’re curious but hesitant about going on a helicopter for the first time.
You can do just a short helicopter tour or make a day of it and go to a few wineries while you’re at it. While this is more of a splurge, it’s perfect if you need a date idea.
12. Walk Along Chelan Riverwalk Park
If you feel like being too adventurous but still want to get out and move, check out Chelan Riverwalk Park. It’s a one-mile loop that goes along the water for an easy walk.
The water is calm here, so you’ll likely see many people kayaking or on a SUP. During the summer, you can catch live music at the Riverwalk Pavillion.
13. Try Your Hand at Fishing
If you enjoy fishing, you’ll love to hear that you can fish all year round on the lake and the rivers that surround it. Just make sure to check with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to see what the limits are as well as license requirements.
Trout and salmon are common catches in the area, and you can often catch one around 10 pounds. You can either go out on your own or sign up with a fishing guide.
14. Visit Stehekin
Stehekin is all the way at the top of the lake, where only 80 people live. The only way you can get here is by hiking, a floatplane, or by boat. You can take your own boat or the Lady of the Lake tour to get here, but you should know it will be an all-day event.
This is one of the most unique things to do in Lake Chelan, as there’s only a small convenience store here. It’s fun to walk around and go hiking, but come prepared. The nearest grocery store is 50 miles south, and even the mail comes by boat.
15. Take a Hike
There are plenty of summer hikes in Lake Chelan to choose from. Stehekin is a very popular place to go hiking, as there are dozens of different trails to go on. It’s also the entrance to the North Cascade National Park, which is one of the most scenic places to hike in Washington.
You don’t have to go that far to hike, however. There are plenty of hikes in Chelan that are much closer, such as Little Bear Trail. This is 2.3 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 250 feet, so it’s a hike that people of all levels can do. It’s located in Lake Chelan State Park, so if you’re already camping there it’s an easy Lake Chelan activity to do on your trip.
16. Hire a Boat for the Day
If you’re with a group of friends or your family, one of the top things to do in Lake Chelan that I recommend is hiring a boat for the day. You can either rent it and drive it around yourself or have someone who will take care of that for you.
Renting a boat is a fun way to see different parts of the lake, and you can bring food, beer, and other items with you for the day. Intertubing is popular during the summer, which is made easy when you have your own boat.
17. Explore the Local Restaurants
There are plenty of restaurants in Lake Chelan to choose from, but here are some of my favorite ones.
- Lake Chelan Artisan Bakery – There always seems to be a line at this small bakery, and once you try the food you’ll understand why. They have a variety of bagels, croissants, scones, and more that are baked fresh daily. They also have an espresso bar to get a mocha, latte, or whatever else you’re craving.
- Lakeview Drive-In – This establishment has been around since 1957 and a place you’ll want to stop for lunch. They have affordable burgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, and more. You’ll have a great view of the lake while you sit outside enjoying your meal. It’s so famous that it’s almost an activity in itself, as it’s one of the more common things to do in Lake Chelan.
- Tin Lilly – If you’ve done a bit too much wine tasting and want something different, come here for a variety of other drinks. There’s everything from signature cocktails to local beer, and they have a cute patio in the back to sit at for a happy hour.
- Local Myth Pizza – Coming here for pizza is the perfect way to end a long day of activities in Lake Chelan. They have a variety of pizza, calzones, and salads in addition to local beer on tap. There’s a small area to sit outside if you want to enjoy the weather.
You’ll love all the things to do in Lake Chelan no matter what season you visit, and you’ll have plenty of Lake Chelan activities to choose from.