Chelan, Washington, is a far cry from the rainy and gloomy image that most people would associate with other places in the state.
The city is tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range and nestled in between Lake Chelan and the mighty Columbia River, making it a prime location for outdoor adventures.
It also has sunny skies and warm weather throughout most of the year, creating a balmy climate that’s perfect for vineyards and other agricultural practices.
So whether you want to go camping, boating, wine tasting, fishing, or hiking, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try the adventures you want.
A weekend really isn’t enough to appreciate all the hidden wonders of this summer getaway spot.
So when making your itinerary, plan your time wisely to make the most of your vacation.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Chelan, WA:
Explore the Wonders of Chelan Lake
Most people come to the city of Chelan to visit the body of water that shares its name, so it’s a no-brainer that this should be on the top of your itinerary.
Lake Chelan is a long lake that almost looks like a river, spanning more than 50 miles and going as deep as 1,500 feet, making it the largest natural lake in the whole state.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this attraction, aside from its disproportional length, is the steep mountain ranges that flank all sides.
These frame the narrow lake and create stunning vistas comparable to that of the fjords in Nordic countries.
Whether you want to try fishing, boating, kayaking, or swimming, there are many spots on the lake for water-related activities.
Lake Chelan also serves as the gateway to the other attractions along its lengthy banks.
One of which is the scenic Lake Chelan State Park.
Stay Awhile at Chelan Falls Park
Take a break from Chelan Lake by visiting the other side of the city, the one right next to the Columbia River.
The premier destination in this area is Chelan Falls Park, which sits right next to the aforementioned body of water.
It’s a 33-acre outdoor attraction ideal for the whole family, with lots of verdant grounds, woodland, and walking trails for explorations.
And since it’s next to a river, the park offers plenty of water-related activities like swimming and kayaking.
The most prominent feature here is the view of the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad Bridge, framed perfectly by the surrounding mountains and the river flowing underneath.
Visit the Remote Community of Stehekin
If you’re up for a rare experience, then a visit to the isolated community of Stehekin is an absolute must during your trip.
Inaccessible via land transport, this remote town can only be visited using boats, small aircraft, and by foot.
This remoteness has made the community an alluring attraction for those who want thrilling adventures.
Most people trek the trails along Chelan Lake to reach this town, traveling for days on end and camping on isolated spots before finally reaching Stehekin.
And for most, it’s the journey to this place that makes it all worth it, as you’d be treated to some of the best sceneries in this region of the Cascades.
Once you reach the town, you’d be welcomed by a tight-knit community that thrives in the wilderness.
It’s like stepping back into a much simpler time that’s devoid of modernity and all the worries that come with it.
Sample Fine Drinks at Tsillan Cellars
The winery industry in this region is often compared to the more prolific Wine Country in California, all thanks to the climate.
It also helps that the lands here are fertile and well-irrigated thanks to their proximity to Chelan Lake and Columbia River.
So it isn’t a surprise that many local wineries have sprouted all over the region.
One of the most visited winemaking businesses in Chelan is Tsillan Cellars, situated halfway between Lake Chelan State Park and Chelan’s city proper.
With the attraction’s sweeping lakeside views and Italian ambiance, you’d feel like you’re transported to some exotic Mediterranean island.
And within the facility, you’ll find exquisite terraces, dramatic architecture, and even a cascading waterfall!
The highlight is, of course, the high-quality wines manufactured from lush grapes grown right on the vineyards.
You’re welcome to sample some of their finest bottles, and you’d soon realize why there’s a rapidly growing wine tourism industry in Chelan.
Cruise the Currents of the Columbia River
The majestic Columbia River is a haven for thrill-seekers and nature lovers, especially the segment that passes right next to Chelan.
While most of the waters run calm and deep, there are some areas with turbulent rapids that are perfect for rafting or kayaking.
Some bends are more isolated, with hidden beaches where you can stop for a while and appreciate the peace.
And if you’re up for fishing, you can try catching the healthy salmon that swim the depths of the swift river.
Join a local charter for a few hours if you want a guide to the most bountiful fishing spots!
Make Camp at Lake Chelan State Park
This 127-acre park is one of the more accessible and family-friendly outdoor destinations near the city proper.
This proximity is one of the reasons why camping spots are already reserved months ahead before summer arrives.
So if you’re planning to visit here, make sure that you plan way ahead of time to guarantee a spot.
Once you arrive, you’d realize why it’s such as high-demand campground: beautiful lakeside and mountain views, convenient amenities, and a peaceful ambiance that takes away all your worries.
The park also provides easy access to the lake, with numerous boat launches on the sandy shores.
For those who want a more terrestrial adventure, the state park has hiking trails that bring you to some of the best spots on this side of the Cascades.
Go Hang Gliding at Chelan Butte State Wildlife Area
A few miles south of the city is Chelan Butte State Wildlife Area, a rugged and hilly outdoor attraction spanning more than 10,100 acres.
This large area is composed of small mountains, the highest reaching 2,400 feet above sea level.
Because of its isolation and undisturbed state, the attraction has become the favorite of backcountry explorers, hunters, and wildlife photographers.
In fact, the ponderosa pine and steppe habitats serve as homes to numerous bird species, making this place a haven for birdwatchers.
If you want to feel like a bird yourself, then visit the Chelan Butte Hang Glider Takeoff, located within the area.
It has become a favorite take-off spot in the region because of the great air currents that allow for a sustained and steady flight across the skies of Chelan.
Book a tour with one of the hang gliding businesses in the city and ready yourself for a thrilling and unforgettable experience.
Immerse in History at Lake Chelan Museum
Before becoming this charming summer destination, Chelan served as the home to indigenous tribes and European settlers.
Much of their history is preserved and showcased at the Lake Chelan Museum, an educational facility set in a 1907 building.
During your tour, you’ll see lots of Indian artifacts perfectly preserved on shelves, such as baskets, arrowheads, tools, and clothing.
You’d also find photographs, newspaper clippings, and reading material that talk about life in Chelan in more recent history.
It’s a great way to see how much has changed in the city from bygone eras.
Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to grab a souvenir to remind you of your trip to this charming city!
Play a Few Rounds at Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course
For those who want to test their golfing skills during their visit to the city, then Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course is a must-visit location.
There are other golfing facilities surrounding the lake, but this one is the most accessible to the general public.
But that doesn’t mean that the gameplay is subpar—it’s far from that.
With the well-maintained fairways and greens, challenging layout, and magnificent views of the lake and surrounding mountains, this golf course offers a treat for all players.
Golfers of any age and skill are welcome to try their course management, putting, and club control abilities here.
Make sure to visit the club's full-service restaurant if you need to refuel in between your rounds!
Marvel at the Views of Chelan Riverwalk Park
To get up close and personal with the edge of Chelan Lake and the beginning of Chelan River, visit the point where these two bodies of water meet: Chelan Riverwalk Park.
This well-maintained and serene destination is located in the city's northern half, and it offers magnificent urban views accentuated by natural features.
It’s an ideal spot for those who simply want a relaxing afternoon, as there are many shady and grassy areas all over the park.
And when late afternoon comes, golden light bathes the whole place, turning it into a small yet quaint paradise.
Of course, it wouldn’t be called a “riverwalk” if not for the paved path that spans most of the park’s riverfront.
Make sure to visit this route to treat yourself to gorgeous waterside views and a relaxing ambiance.
Shop Fresh Fruits and Veggies at Sunshine Farm Market
For those who want a taste of the high-quality produce farmed from the fertile soils of Chelan, make a stopover at the Sunshine Farm Market.
There are other farmers’ markets in the city, but Sunshine Farm Market is open every day, so you can just drop by whenever it’s convenient for you.
It’s located near Tsillan Cellars, making it one of the first things you’d see as your travel the highway into Chelan.
Here, you’d find a carefully curated selection of the region’s finest fruits, vegetables, and other crops.
There are also handmade products such as preserves, roasted coffee beans, oils, tablecloths, and Chelan-themed merchandise.
Best of all, these are all local and organic products, so quality is already a guarantee.
Stay Overnight at Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park
Compared to Lake Chelan State Park, the Twenty-Five Mile Creek State Park is much farther from the city, so you can expect wilder adventures here.
It’s located near the midpoint of the lake, so it’s already deep into the Cascades.
The relative isolation and key position have made this outdoor attraction a favorite camping site, serving as a good base for other adventures into the mountain range.
The creek, from which the state park is named, is not big enough for kayaking or canoeing, but the rushing water is perfect for cooling dips.
In addition, it serves as a guide into the mountains surrounding the state park.
You’re welcome to explore the trails and try activities like mountain biking, birdwatching, and landscape photography.
But the center of activity here is, unexpectedly, Lake Chelan itself.
The waters surrounding this state park are perfect for swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing.
Jump Into the Clouds With Skydive Chelan
Seeing the views of Chelan from the ground is already an experience on its own, but why not take it to a whole new level by booking a skydiving tour?
Skydive Chelan is a reputable and established business in the city that offers jumps into key areas of the region, such as the wineries and meadows.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll pair with a licensed professional who will ensure a safe and exhilarating dive.
You’ll enjoy stunning bird’s-eye views of Lake Chelan and the surrounding mountains, all the way to the snow-capped peaks near the isolated community of Stehekin.
It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience that can serve as the highlight of your Chelan adventure!
Catch a Show at Ruby Theatre
If you need a break from nature, visit the historic Ruby Theatre, which is considered to be one of the oldest movie theaters in the whole of Washington state.
Located in Chelan's central business district, this attraction has become a local institution frequented by residents for the latest blockbusters.
It seats more than 300 people at a time, with the main floor and a balcony that offers an elevated watching experience—literally.
And while it’s old, it has undergone many renovations in order to fit new technologies that enhance the movie-watching experience.
Enjoy the Beach at Don Morse Memorial Park
Located on the northern side of the lake, Don Morse Memorial Park is one of the outdoor attractions that are still within the city proper.
This makes the park an ideal family destination, especially if the kids are still too inexperienced with wilderness.
It’s a lakeside attraction that offers similar views to Lake Chelan State Park but with more modern amenities and facilities.
One of these is an 18-hole golf course with well-maintained fairways and a gentle layout—a great course for beginners and professionals alike.
For those who want to try something more active, visit the skatepark, tennis and basketball courts, and walking trails.
You can also stay for a while on the sandy beach for some fun under the sun!
Chelan is the ultimate summer getaway with its beautiful bodies of water, scenic mountains, sunny skies, and a welcoming community.
So whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, backcountry camper, or simply someone who wants to escape from a busy life, you’ll have a grand time exploring all the wonders of this city.
Check out this list to get an idea of the things waiting for you!