your paddlesports destination

Lake Chelan in Washington

Trip Overview

In the heat of summer, the breezes at Lake Chelan keep things comfortable. Just keep in mind that those breezes may also work against you at this very long, skinny lake with cold, clean water. Based on what a marina worker told me, wind can make things hellacious in some spots while being fairly mild at others--and she was talking about powerboats, not kayaks. I noted that the descriptions of the boat-in campsites included info about whether the site had shelter from particular wind directions.

We were lucky to be paddling when winds were light, so I rated this "moderate" only because we covered about 16 (statute) miles. Caveat emptor!

We started from the upper state park launch, where we had car-camped. The lake drew us up its narrow path with mountain views and sparkling water. After a long spell of "monsoonal" weather back home, knowing we had all day to savor clear blue sky and not a hint of storm came as a welcome relief. Despite its length, the lake felt cozy due to the narrow proportions and steep sides.

Now, about those steep sides:

As we paddled, one nagging thought remained in my head : where to get out for a pee break? The shoreline of this lake is steeply wooded. I do not remember seeing a single "beach" or flat area anywhere on our jaunt after we left the launch area. When it came time for such a break, we found a small spot with a flattish boulder under the water, providing a narrow shelf. We rafted up. Husband had room to carefully step out and hold his bow and mine while I slid onto the back deck and scooched off over the stern (so those turning-around-inside-the-cockpit-and-playing-on-the-deck exercises really did prove useful here). When we had to get back in the kayaks, I slid off the "shelf", did a cowboy re-entry, then drew my boat alongside his to hold it so he could get in as usual.

What I'm saying is that you'd better plan on either peeing inside the boat or looking for a suitable spot well ahead of time, like we did. And practice your alternative entry methods.

Despite the presence of powerboats, they never seemed intrusive because they got widely dispersed on the long lake.

Overall, this location makes a refreshingly quiet day trip(s) and is big enough that you could create a multiday paddle-camping trip out of it. NOAA weather radio does NOT work at the upper state park campground, so use common sense times 2. At least a shorty wetsuit recommended due to cold water.


State park system operates two road-accessible campgrounds near the southern end of Lake Chelan. Lake Chelan also has designated boat-in campsites, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.


State day-use fee now in effect: $10/day or $30 annual Discover Pass; if camping, the day-use fee is included.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip