Last year for my birthday Boyd and I spent a weekend in the small town of Stehekin in the North Cascades. Stehekin sits on the north shore of Lake Chelan, a 50-mile long lake in Central Washington. Unlike the Southern End of the lake, Stehekin is only accessible by boat or seaplane. On that trip, I learned of the Lakeshore trail which hikers are let off the ferry 18 miles before Stehekin and follow a trail along the lakeside to hike their way into the town. As this trail is lower in elevation and on the eastern side of the Cascades it’s a great option for an early season backpacking trip being warmer and snow-free compared to other trails. My friend Katie and I had free time during the week so we decided to tackle the lakeshore trail over 2 days starting on a Thursday.
drive time from Seattle
3h + ferry
Poles – ward off snakes
We had to leave Seattle at what felt like an ungodly hour of 5:30 am to have enough time to drive to Fields Point Landing to get the Lady of the Lake ferry. We stopped for coffee in Cle Elum and had enough time at fields point landing to pay for overnight parking and pick up our tickets. I couldn’t believe it but they make you hold on to a return ticket to get the ferry back, seems like something one could easily lose on a backpacking trip. The ferry ride from fields point landing to Prince Creek Dock (the start of the trail) was a little over an hour.
The ‘Dock’ at Prince Creek isn’t really a dock, they lower a walkway off the front of the ferry and you unload onto the rocky shore of the lake. The ferry then continues North leaving you alone in the wilderness 18 miles from the nearest exit point. We unloaded with a few other groups took a while to organize our things on the shore of the lake and were the last to depart. Starting out on the trail we got great views of the North Cascade Mountains towering 5000ft above the lake. The trail is never really at water level, it traverses just above giving you fantastic views most of the way. The going was hot and we quickly overtook all the other groups for the day.
Being the first on the trail for the day turned out to be a disadvantage. We read the warnings in the guide about rattlesnakes being common in the area and we came across our first one at the aptly named Rattlesnake creek. This was my first ever sighting of a rattlesnake so I thought it was pretty cool to see it. Wow, how my opinion changed! Katie admitted to being pretty scared of snakes so it was left to me to lead us on the trail. On our 11 mile hike to camp we (I) came across 5 rattlesnakes and 2 garter snakes on the trail. It’s safe to say my nerves were pretty shot by the time we got to camp, jumping at the slightest noise, or movement thinking it must be a snake!
On the 11 mile hike into our camp at Moore point, we experienced more views of the lake and mountains, wildflowers and used small streams along the way to cool off in. When we had about 2 miles to go the weather cooled as some storms passed by bringing in some dramatic clouds, a few rumbles and only a tiny amount of rain. By the time we got to camp (at around 5), we were pretty tired and happy to relax by the lake for the night.
Moore Point is accessible by the ferry so there was another group already there who got the ferry in that day to fish. The campground was huge! with multiple pit toilets, a shelter and food storage lockers it felt very luxurious. The weather cooled as we set up camp but wasn’t unpleasant. There were lots of mosquitos around and they were hungry, I managed to get multiple bites on my forehead. Right before we went to bed we watched the sunset over the mountains and the lake admiring all the colours.
The next day we only had 7 miles to walk into Stehekin but we had a deadline to get to the ferry by 2 pm. We decided to aim to arrive in Stehekin before lunch which still gave us plenty of time to have breakfast and pack up camp in the morning. The trail to Stehekin climbs above the lake once again and you get your first views of the head of the lake and the Stehekin Valley. The day was heating up again and we stopped to cool off in streams that the trail passed over. The closer we got to Stehekin the more privately owned lakeshore cabins there were that the trail traversed behind. These properties are vacation homes which are only accessible by boat. We also passed Flick Creek campsite which has a dock that people use for boat camping.
We made a good pace into Stehekin arriving at 12 before the ferry for the day! I only saw 1 garter snake and 2 rattlesnakes on the 7 miles which felt better than the 7 the day before. Seeing as we were early enough we hopped on a shuttle to the famous Stehekin Pastry Company to grab lunch before the ferry. I have heard about their cinnamon rolls and was disappointed to learn on my last visit to Stehekin they weren’t open. I don’t know if it was the hiking but the Cinamon roll definitely lived up to the hype.