Lake Chelan is fifty-five miles long and 1,486 feet in depth, the third deepest lake in the U.S. At the north end of the lake (inaccessible by road), Stehekin, Washington has only about 100 year-round residents. Daily ferries service the community, which is the jumping off point for the mountain trails of Lake Chelan National Recreation Area and North Cascades National Park.
Ferry, Stehekin, Rainbow Falls, backpacking trails
Stehekin is too fun for a brief day trip, so we recommend you book a room or pick up overnight backpacking permits at the Golden West Visitor Center in town. Then hop on the red jammer-style bus that provides transportation to the trailheads, including the short hike to Rainbow Falls. Nearby, the old one-room schoolhouse is open to visitors since it was replaced by a more modern building. Don’t miss the chance to sample the delicious variety of baked goods at Stehekin Pastry Company. After backpacking the many steep switchbacks, you will need the extra calories.
There are several great loop options, but we enjoyed hooking into the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail then back south over McAlester Pass to Rainbow Creek Trail on a two night backpacking trip.
The beautiful Lake Chelan is known for its clarity and its fjord-like proportions, which you can best enjoy on the ferry ride to Stehekin.
No entrance fee, but there are charges for the ferry, bus, and backcountry campsites.
No roads, so you will be walking or paying to take the red jammer-style bus out of Stehekin.
Purple Point and Harlequin Campgrounds are off the main road north of Stehekin, but since you have to pack in all of your gear on the ferry you may as well camp at one of the backcountry sites (permit required) along the many trails in the area.
Explore More – How far below sea level is the bottom of Lake Chelan?
In 1976, Platt National Park was combined with the nearby reservoir at Arbuckle National Recreation Area to form Chickasaw National Recreation Area, named for the neighboring Chickasaw Nation of central Oklahoma. The trails and infrastructure in the park were predominantly built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Natural springs, bison herd, Lincoln Bridge, reservoir
Visitors should start at the Travertine Nature Center, then visit the bison pasture and “take the waters” at Vendome Well. Other diverse recreational opportunities include camping and water sports on the Lake of the Arbuckles.
Take the trail from the Travertine Nature Center to Antelope Springs and photogenic Buffalo Springs. There is also loop trail around the bison pasture.
The U.S. Mint quarter (see photo below) for Oklahoma depicts the Lincoln Bridge built by the CCC, but it can be difficult to photograph through the trees.