5 Best hikes near Lake Chelan

Lake Chelan is a popular year round destination for Washingtonians and is known for summer fun swimming and playing in the water under the seemingly endless sun. In winter, cross country skiing is a popular activity. While most famous for it’s water fun, there are lots of wonderful hikes near Lake Chelan too! There are plenty of options, these five are my personal favorites and the ones I most recommend.

These are all trails that can be enjoyed most of the year, though my favorite time for Lake Chelan hiking is in the spring. The days are generally warm and dry but not extremely hot, and there are some gorgeous wildflowers!

The Lake Chelan area is the homeland of the Chelan, Okanagan and Yakama People.

When is the best time of year for hikes near Lake Chelan?

These hikes are all enjoyable all or most of the year. For the most part, I love hikes near Lake Chelan in late spring and early summer because of the beautiful wildflowers! Silver Falls also has more water and is more impressive in early summer.

Echo Ridge is a fantastic place to cross country ski and has amazing views, so that one I actually recommend most for winter.

RelatedWhat to wear for a hike in the Pacific NorthwestWhat to bring for a hike in the Pacific Northwest

Elephant Head or Chelan Butte

A hiker approaching the camera coming up a steep trail. The hillside and trail are visible below as well as the town of Chelan, Lake Chelan and the mountains beyond
A hiker approaching Elephant Head on the Chelan Butte Trail
  • Best For: Elephant Head is my favorite of the hikes near Lake Chelan with its big views and awesome wildflowers in spring. It’s on the Chelan Butte Trail which continues on further to Chelan Butte for those looking for a harder hike.
  • Distance: 4 miles round trip (Elephant Head), 8 miles round trip (Chelan Butte)
  • Elevation Gain: 1200 feet (Elephant Head), 2500 feet (Chelan Butte)
  • Directions and Parking: The trailhead is just outside of the town of Chelan. Head south on Farnham Road until it becomes Saunders Street and then left on Iowa which takes you strait to the trailhead.
  • Parking Pass Required: None
  • Cell phone service: Good
  • Restrooms: Portapotty in parking area
  • Accessibility: This is a steep trail. It does have some flatter sections but for the most part you are definitely climbing and then descending on the way back. The trail is mostly free of any rocks or roots, though there are some rocks in a couple places. There are several benches to rest on along the way.

Riverwalk and Chelan River

A city park with a paved trail and blue lightpoles and handrails. The park is lined with trees and next to a river in Lake Chelan
The Riverwalk in Chelan
  • Best For: This is a great option for stretching your legs and exploring right in the town of Chelan. The Chelan Riverwalk is a one mile loop that can be paired with the Chelan River (Reach 1) trail for a longer adventure along the lake and river. There’s also a Planet Walk around Chelan that starts near the bridge and gives a fun perspective on distance (find the sun near the bridge and go from there).
  • Distance: Up to 4 miles with both trails put together
  • Elevation Gain: Mostly flat
  • Directions and Parking: Various places to start, including the Chelan Butte Trailhead and the middle of downtown Chelan (behind The Landing)
  • Parking Pass Required: None
  • Cell phone service: Good
  • Restrooms: There are a few along the route
  • Accessibility: The trail is mostly wide and flat and shared between bikes , walkers and hikers

Beebe Springs Wildlife Area

Beebe Springs Natural Area, one of the hikes near Lake Chelan. There are lush green plants near the river and dry hills in the background
Lush green plants grow by the river in this very dry climate
  • Best For: Bird lovers and those who enjoy exploring river landscapes.
  • Distance: Up to 2 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Directions and Parking: Beebe Springs is just north of the Beebe Bridge just outside the town of Chelan on the Columbia River. It’s well marked from the highway.
  • Parking Pass Required: Washington State Discover Pass
  • Cell phone service: Good
  • Restrooms: Pit toilets
  • Accessibility: These trails are advertised as wheelchair accessible and they are free of barriers. The gravel surface is a bit soft in places and pushing a standard wheelchair takes a lot of strength (or multiple people to help, which is what I recommend).

Echo Ridge Trails

A few from a high mountain looking down and forests and distant mountains in the snow on a cloudy winter day
View from the Echo Ridge Trail system on a winter day
  • Best For: While the Echo Ridge Trails can be accessed year round, this is one of my favorite places for cross country skiing! The season is relatively short (mostly January and February) but there are 25 miles of trails and the views are incredible! You can also hike these trails in the summer.
  • Distance: 25 miles of trails, but many different short loops you can add together
  • Elevation Gain: Varies based on how far you go
  • Directions and Parking: Take the marked road up the mountain from the road between Chelan and Manson (watch out it can get very icy in winter and there are lots of sharp curves). There are a couple of different parking areas.
  • Parking Pass Required: In winter, bring $15 cash for a parking pass to help support grooming. In summer, a Northwest Forest Pass
  • Cell phone service: Some service here and there, don’t count on it though
  • Restrooms: Portapotty in parking area
  • Accessibility: This area is groomed for cross country skiing in winter. In summer, the trails are wide tracks shared with bikes and horses.

Silver Falls

A waterfall going over a rock face in a forest near Lake Chelan
Silver Falls
  • Best For: Silver Falls is a gorgeous waterfall and the mist is super refreshing on a hot day. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Chelan, but it’s so beautiful as is the drive to get there, it has to be on any list of hikes near Lake Chelan!
  • Distance: 1.7 mile loop
  • Elevation Gain: 600 feet
  • Directions and Parking: From Highway 97 between Wenatchee and Chelan, take the beautiful Entiat Road for about 30 miles to the trailhead.
  • Parking Pass Required: Northwest Forest Pass
  • Cell phone service: None
  • Restrooms: Pit toilet
  • Accessibility: This trail is steep in places and there are areas of wet rocks.

Bonus – Stehekin

The Stehekin ferry landing at the head of Lake Chelan. A few boats are moored and the lake is surrounded by forested hills and snow capped mountains on a cloudy day
Arriving by boat in Stehekin at the head of Lake Chelan

Stehekin is geographically close to the town of Chelan, but since you need to take a boat to get there it’s definitely more of a commitment to get there. It’s also a remote area with no cell service and very limited services so you need to be fairly self sufficient to hike here.

If you’re a hiker and in the Lake Chelan area, in my opinion a trip to Stehekin is a must do! There are a ton of amazing hikes here.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!