For the Backpacker: Washington’s Stehekin Valley and Rainbow Falls s

Stehekin Valley and Rainbow Falls, Washington© 2009 Courtesy of Michelle West-LoomisThis tiny and isolated village, accessible only by boat or floatplane, looks out over 50-mile-long Lake Chelan.

Accessible from Chelan, Washington

Stehekin is a Native American term for “the way through,” and it aptly describes the narrow fjord-like valley in which 50-mile-long Lake Chelan lies, providing a way through the almost impenetrable mountain barrier of the North Cascades. At the upper end of the lake is the quiet, isolated village of Stehekin; settled in 1885, it has fewer than 100 residents. Even today there are no roads to Stehekin, but it can be reached by a delightful four-hour cruise from Chelan on a diesel-powered boat. Floatplane trips are also available. A shuttle bus runs up the valley from the village to campsites, trailheads, and Rainbow Falls, which plunge 312 feet.

Stehekin is a popular starting point for backpacking into the North Cascades; horses and bikes can be rented here, and there are numerous trails to explore. Spring and fall are the best times to visit; summers are often crowded. Lodging is limited, and reservations are recommended. Boat operates year-round. Daily mid-Mar.–mid-Oct.; Mon., Wed., Fri. mid – Oct. – mid-Mar. Cruise fee charged. (for cruise info)

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