September 4, 2009 in Awayfinder destinations

Escape to Chelan Valley

Renee Sande Awayfinder Correspondent
 
The Spokesman-Review photo


(Full-size photo)

Need an escape this fall or a break from your traditional routine? Add a trip to the sunny Chelan Valley to your to-do list of fun.

Boasting over 300 days of sunshine a year, this charming, historic resort community just three hours west of Spokane, is nestled where the Cascade Mountains meet the Eastern Washington desert and where the views are always breathtaking.

With a population of roughly 10,000, the Chelan Valley includes the towns of Chelan, Stehekin, and Manson, and spans the beautiful 55-mile Lake Chelan—fed by more than 100 glaciers from the Cascades and known for crystal clear, blue water.

From hiking the Cascades to strolling through the vineyards, golfing at one of six area courses or visiting the ultimate family-friendly Banjo Creek Farms, there’s something to be said for this playground for all ages.

Kick off your getaway with the world-renowned Lady of the Lake excursion, and boat to the head of Lake Chelan and into the pristine landscape of North Cascades National Park.

First stop, Stehekin —one of the few year-round villages in the state you can’t access by car. Here you can enjoy a self-guided bike tour to points of interest including Rainbow Falls, a historic one-room schoolhouse, and the well-loved Stehekin Pastry Company.

Other options include rafting the 50.5 mile ride down the Stehekin River, or packing a picnic and enjoying the scenic views of the fjord-like gorges and jagged mountain peaks.

Next stop—Holden Village. Formerly a copper mine, Holden is a year-round ecumenical renewal and educational center, rooted in Lutheran tradition. During the summer, daily programs include basket weaving, pottery, the environment, theology, and more.

For a more intimate boating option, hop aboard Dean Martin’s famous Hollywood-era Salon Yacht, the “Innamorata.” Available for dinner cruises or private charter, this famous, classic vessel is a great opportunity to experience an exquisite dinner, and just possibly a Blue Moon, while sailing Lake Chelan.

Want to hit the trails? Lake Chelan offers a variety of hiking and mountain biking trails at all skill levels, curving around the lake and through the mountains.

A virtually undiscovered “fat tire” paradise, Echo Ridge Trails is 8 miles north of Chelan, and satisfies a wide variety of skill levels, from the slow, easy ride for the family with young children to the more adventurous singletrack and hammer back trails. These trails are also great for hiking.

If biking or hiking don’t interest you, how about horseback riding? Head up the mountain for a scenic 2 ½ hour ride from Cascade Corrals to Coon Lake. No experience necessary here but riders must be at least 8 years old.

Don’t forget the vineyards! Thirteen boutique wineries with a combined 150-plus acres of wine grapes make for a good time in the Chelan Valley.

Only a few years old, the Chelan wine industry is booming as the warm, sunny days and cool nights of the region are prime growing conditions for premium grapes.

Tour the vineyards, meet the winemaker and bask in the atmosphere. Call Lakeside Limousine to arrange for a tour and/or plan to attend many autumn events such as the Crush Festival, Oct. 3-11, for a grape-stomping good time. Some of the varieties that flourish in the valley include Syrah, Sangioves, Malbec and Gewurztraminer.

If fishing is more your style, you may like to know more about one of the top fisheries in the Northwest. Lake Chelan’s stocking programs release 100,000 Chinook salmon, 60,000 lake trout, 100,000 Rainbow trout and 600,000 Kokanee into the lake each year. Fishermen can also head to nearby Antilon, Roses Lake and Wapato lakes, and the Stehekin and Columbia rivers which yield bluegill, catfish, crappie, German brown trout and largemouth bass.

However, if you’d rather buy a fish than catch it, there’s great shopping to be done in historic downtown Chelan. Dating back to the 1800s, this town features galleries, retail shops, dining options and the crowned jewel, Ruby Theatre, offering visitors a look back into the history of small-town America.

Homespun fall fun for the whole family awaits you at Banjo Creek Farms in Manson. Offering gold panning, wagon rides, a petting zoo, corn maze, great food and unique shops, Banjo Creek is open seven days a week, and is a good place for keeping the little ones happy.

If golf is your game, you’re in luck as there are several options for swinging your clubs here.

Visit Bear Mountain Ranch, “One of the Top New Golf Courses in the Country,” as named by PGA Professionals. This “18-hole masterpiece” and private residence club boasts the atmosphere of the “enduring quality of rustic elegance,” surrounding guests with 6,000 pristine acres and panoramic views of the lake and mountains at every hole.

There’s also Desert Canyon, named by Golf Digest as the “Second Best Golf Course in Washington.” This picturesque desert course features 18-holes of championship golf, plus an 18-hole putting course.

In town you’ll find Lake Chelan Municipal Golf Course, an 18-hole, par 72 course, as well as another championship putting course—The Green at Don Morse Park.

And there’s so much more! It’s no wonder their economy is strong and residents’ spirits are as bright as the warm desert sun that shines on them most of the year.

From car shows to art shows, regattas to marathons, things are in motion in the Chelan Valley this fall.

Here are other highlights:

Fall In Lake Chelan Car Show: Sept. 11-13

Wolfman Jack is back! Enjoy a five-card poker tour, downtown walk-about, wine tasting tour, and show and shine. Compete in or cheer on the “Dead Car Drags,” listen to the “Lake Boys”—Chelan’s answer to the Beach Boys, and dance the night away on the bridge.

Lake Chelan Sailing Regatta, Sept. 12-13

Serious sailors need not apply! That is, those who don’t know how to have fun. Open to all sail boats and skill levels, this is not a points race for most classes so it’s a great event for beginning sailors.

Lake Chelan Shore-to-Shore, Sept. 19

One of the most scenic races in all of the Pacific Northwest, the 9th Annual Shore to Shore Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K have been certified by USA Track & Field. Official qualifier for the 2010 Boston Marathon.

Rhythms on the Lake: Music Fest & Wine Walk, Sept. 25-26

Set against the backdrop of Lake Chelan, this all-ages, two-day music festival features favorites Gin Betty and Star Anna and the Laughing Dogs, as well as other emerging artists on multiple outdoor stages in downtown Chelan and select winery and merchant locations.

Lake Chelan Hydrofest, Sept. 26-27

Set in Chelan’s Don Morse City Park, compete in or just watch 12 classes of limited hydroplanes race, as well as enjoy local food and hang out in their beer garden.

For more information on any of the events and/or places mentioned here go to http://www.cometothelake.com/home.html or call 1-877-440-7933.


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