Stehekin is a numbers game, the numbers being the cost and time ratio compared to the solitude and beauty.
The numbers definitely work out in the players favor if you are willing to play the game.
Breaking down the numbers

    A 50 mile boat trip from Chelan.


    A very expensive hop on a seaplane courtesy of NW Seaplanes.


    A 25 mile backpack from the Rainy Pass parking lot off of Highway 20 in North Cascades National Park. 19 miles to High Bridge, then a bunch more to get into town.

Money plus time, money, or time and energy.
Pick what you have the most of, and you have your number.

We both absolutely love being on the water, so we opted for the fast ferry from Chelan.
Back to numbers:
Less than 10 lodging options, all of which book out months and months in advance.
2 places to eat.
0 bars of cell service, regardless of carrier.
100% worth the effort to get here.

Stehekin Bound

Stehekin Bound
A 50 mile boat ride isn’t so bad when the scenery looks like this!

On the inbound boat ride, we noticed wildfire smoke in the mountains to the east.
It turns out that the Pioneer Fire is burning in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness on the east side of the lake, and there’s a bunch of wildland firefighting teams out here trying to get things under control. The current estimate is that it won’t be contained until OCTOBER! Insane.
Gave us both a quick flashback to the Cameron Peak fire that burned so much of the Rockies around our place in Estes Park. A crazy experience, great stories, and great photos, but not something we’d like to revisit anytime soon.

The Hills Are Burning

The Hills Are Burning
The Pioneer Fire brought a lot of smoke and a lot of firefighters to the area.

We opted to stay at the North Cascades Lodge based on – ummmm – availability.
There’s that "books out months and months in advance" part. We only booked this SIX months ago and had to sleep in the broom closet while helping the janitor out in the morning since that’s what we could get.

Don’t daytrip this one.
We learned a long time ago that the best time in maritime tourist areas is right after the boat leaves. Silence is bliss. Life slows down, the locals are back to being local, things are quieter, the smells change, the colors deepen.
We also acknowledge that we’re not stuck in traffic, we ARE traffic… It’s a double-edged sword so we try to minimize our footprint and enjoy the off-peak hours.

Welcome to Stehekin

Welcome to Stehekin
The mandatory sign photo

For day-trippers heading in and out on a same-day ferry from Chelan, the only real option to see things is to hop on the Red or Blue buses at the dock and do the tourist shuffle.
Opting to rent bicycles when you’re not day-trippers, you are able to experience all of the tourist highlights that the bus would take you to – but without the bus, the tourists, the timetable, all while getting some great exercise.
Well worth the forty bucks, and good to prove that once you learn to ride a bike the muscle memory is always there.


The downhills are easy

Getting Around

Getting Around Stehekin by bicycle
Renting a bicycle is the best way to get around Stehekin! Colette demonstrates that you never lose the skill.

The must-do tourist spots:
The Garden
Stehekin Pastry Company
Rainbow Falls
Buckner Orchard
Stehekin Old School
Harlequin Bridge.
Check Check Check. Easy-peasy with a bike, a bit of energy, and a bit of time.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Stehekin
Rainbow Falls is a must-do on any visit to Stehekin, even if you only do the day trip bus tour.

Bridge Sitter

Bridge Sitter over the Stehekin River
Taking a break on the Harlequin Bridge looking at the Stehekin River.

Tune-Up Time

Tune-Up Time
A quick tuneup and this old truck will be as good as new.

Farm Equipment

Farm Equipment
An old flatbed truck sitting in the weeds at Buckner Orchard.

There’s really not that much out here, and you can see the tourist highlights in a really short timeframe.
The draw here is the exclusivity and the work it takes to get here. It really is an absolutely beautiful place, Tahoe without the Tahoe crowds.

Worth The Effort

Worth The Effort
This view makes the effort of getting here totally worth it.

Soaking It In

Soaking It In
A nice little ponder point to do some pondering.


The occasional selfie sneaks in…

Rugged Ridges

Rugged Ridges
Everything out here is steep, and a lot of it is rugged.

Empty Slips

Empty Slips in Stehekin Marina
The Stehekin marina would have a lot more boats if it was easier to get to

Heading To Work

Heading To Work
The postmaster parking spot contains a bicycle and a kayak, but no car. It’s a different pace of life out here.

We walked the 4 mile roundtrip the morning of our departure to pick up sandwiches from the Stehekin Pastry Company for the boat ride back, and I honestly think that it was the best sandwich I have ever had in my life (sorry, Mom).
You can tell by looking at me that I don’t miss a lot of sandwiches, so this says something. Must-must-must-do if you visit.
Neither of our huge sandwiches lasted long enough to even make it onto the boat, but they were so big that we were stuffed for the ride.

Stehekin Pastry Company

Stehekin Pastry Company
One of the highlights on any Stehekin trip.

We travel nonstop and we have an obscene amount of places on our Go-See-Do map.
There are places from travel articles, random news feeds, recommendations from friends and other travelers we meet, and good ol’ Atlas Obscura.
Then add in a bunch of other places that neither of us even remember adding to the map – but now we need to see them anyway.

Stehekin is one of our more unique finds.

I found a Nalgene jammed in a boulderfield down a hillside when climbing a Colorado 14er a few years back, and there was a Stehekin sticker on the side. Googled it when I got home and promptly added Stehekin to the go-see-do list.
It took a couple years since it’s not easy to get here, but it’s 100% worth the wait!
If we made a return trip, it would be late in life since our list is long.
We would opt to book one of the few waterfront cabins (like a year in advance) for several weeks, and we would sit and enjoy the nothingness without making too much of an effort to revisit the tourist highlights due to … tourists.
Unfortunately there’s a lot of nothingness out there that’s much easier to get to, so this is probably a one-and-done adventure.

Bike-Through Gumballs

Stehekin Bike-Through Gumballs
Very clever marketing – I would have bought a gumball if I had a quarter.

Tahoe Twin

Stehekin is a Tahoe Twin
This really looks like Lake Tahoe!

Disassembly Line

Disassembly Line
The La Grande Interagency Hotshots are down with their turn firefighting and are offloading all of their gear from the ferry boat at Fields Point.

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