Autumn in the Stehekin Valley, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14259A, Lodge


  • Hike Washington’s remote Stehekin Valley
  • Explore breathtaking gorges, waterfalls, and subalpine basins
  • Relax at night in a comfy ranch lodge


  • All on-trip meals
  • Stay at a ranch lodge
  • Boat up Lake Chelan to Stehekin
  • All transportation


DatesSep 21–27, 2014
StaffAnn Daigle

Trip Overview

The Trip

The Stehekin Valley provided the area's earliest inhabitants with a passage through the North Cascade Mountains. To reach this remote place, you'll travel along glacier-carved Lake Chelan, the largest natural lake in Washington and the second deepest in the country. (From ridgetop to lake bed, this is the deepest gorge in the country.)

The mountainous region surrounding the Stehekin Valley and the north end of Lake Chelan is so outstanding that it merits three wilderness areas, two national recreation areas, and North Cascade National Park. The valley is only accessible by foot, boat, or floatplane, which keeps it both peaceful and barely developed.

We will stay in tent cabins at the Courtney family's Stehekin Valley Ranch, a rustic resort located nine miles up-valley near the Stehekin River. The trip is timed to coincide with the arrival of fall colors. In late-September, the heather and vine willows turn vibrant red and orange. The Stehekin River is bright with the orange of Kokanee, an unusual species of inland salmon found in the North Cascades that spawns in September. Black bears, rummaging around for the last season's berries or fishing along the Stehekin River, are a common sight, as are black-tailed deer, picas, and marmots.


The trip begins early on the morning of Sunday, September 21 at the boat landing at Field's Point, which is 11 miles or a 17-minute drive up-lake from the town of Chelan, WA. There is secured parking at the landing. The leaders will be at the dock to check in participants and distribute the boat tickets for the trip up Lake Chelan. Our boat will leave at 9:45 a.m. We will boat up Lake Chelan, the longest inland fjord in the USA.  We will arrive at Stehekin Landing around 12:30 p.m. and take the shuttle to Stehekin Valley Ranch for lunch.

Each day we will take a valley shuttle to a different trailhead for a day hike. Hikes will include trips to Rainbow Falls and Rainbow Loop, the chasm of Agnes Gorge, High Bridge Trail, the trail to North Fork, Coon Lake, and the Shoreline Trail.  Hikes range in length from 6-12 miles. Other activities that are not part of our trip, but are available, include mountain biking and kayaking. Each day the leaders will determine which hikes to do, taking the weather and the needs of the participants into account.

The last meals of the trip will be breakfast and our sack lunch for the boat trip down-lake on the last day, Saturday, September 27th. Our down-lake boat will leave at 2:00 p.m. and reach Field's Point at 4:45 p.m.



Getting There

The meeting place for the trip is Field's Point Landing, which is 11 miles up lake from the town of Chelan. Chelan is located in the middle-north of the state and is equidistant from Seattle and Spokane. It is a 3.5-hour drive by car from the two major airports. You should plan to stay overnight in the Chelan vicinity the night before the trip. The trip leaders can help with travel and lodging suggestions. In addition, the leaders will provide information about other participants who are interested in carpools from Seattle or Spokane.

Accommodations and Food

We will be staying in tent cabins at the Stehekin Valley Ranch. The cabins vary in size, sleeping two, three, or four people. Showers and flush toilets are available at the ranch’s main building near the cabins. Linens and towels are provided.

Meals are served buffet-style in the ranch dining hall. The food is homemade, ample, and delicious. The homemade pies alone are worth the journey to the ranch! Lunch makings will be set out right after breakfast so we can make our sack lunches to take on our day hike. We will also have the opportunity to stop at the famous Stehekin Bakery on our adventures. Vegetarian and special diets can be accommodated if you let us know in advance.

All meals, accommodations, and transportation within the valley to our day hikes are included in the trip price.

Trip Difficulty

Trails in the area range from flat to gently rolling terrain to an ascent of up to 2,500-foot elevation gains. All hikes are geared to the moderate hiker and are generally on maintained trails. The day hikes will be determined by the leaders, depending on the interests of the group and the weather. All hikes will be optional. Please let the leaders know if you have any medical problems, serious allergies, or dietary restrictions.

You should be in good physical condition and able to hike all day while carrying a daypack. The principal criteria for acceptance on this trip are physical and cardiovascular fitness and an open attitude toward moderately challenging group hikes. A regular fitness program, including hiking with some degree of hill climbing, is beneficial.

Equipment and Clothing

Each cabin has beds with linens and blankets. The weather in the middle of September can be variable -- warm and pleasant, or cool and rainy with some snow at the higher elevations. Daytime temperatures usually range from the low 50s to the high 70s. Night temperatures can dip into the 30s. You will need a sturdy day pack to carry lunch, water, personal first aid, rain gear, and clothing to layer. Very important are quality, broken-in hiking boots. Two hiking sticks are highly recommended. The leaders will provide a detailed packing list to registered participants.



  • Trails Illustrated 1:100,000 topographic map (metric): "North Cascades National Park Complex." An excellent map of the area; available from Trails Illustrated, Box 4357, Evergreen, CO 80437-4357; (800) 962-1643 or (303) 670-3457.
  • Green Trails maps: " McGregor Mountain #81," and "Stehekin #80."


  • Darvill, Fred T., A Guide to the Enchanted Valley.
  • McConnell, Grant, Stehekin: A Valley in Time. A nice remembrance of life in Stehekin, post-World War II.
  • Darvill, Fred T., Hiking the North Cascades.
  • Spring, Ira, and Harvey Manning, 101 Hikes in the North Cascades.


Sierra Club outings were started by John Muir in 1901. Muir wrote "If people could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish." Our wish is that on this outing you share our belief in the need to protect our wild areas. We will be practicing Leave No Trace wilderness etiquette throughout our trip in order to minimize our impact on the environment.

The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from North Cascades National Park.



Ann Daigle has led outings for many years in the Northwest, Southwest and Rocky Mountains. Leading several trips a year, she is an avid hiker and backpacker and loves sharing her passion of the wilderness trails with all who will join her. Ann and her family live in the Pacific Northwest on a small ranch. When not on the trails she spends her time out of doors caring for their many adopted animal pets, trails, and gardens. Please contact her if you have questions about this trip at:


Ron Daigle has often joined with Ann to lead trips in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies. He enjoys exploring new places and challenging hikes. His interests include most science topics, especially biology, geology, and astronomy. He is also somewhat of a gadget freak, and likes discussing GPS navigation tools, digital cameras, and smart phones. At the same time, he has a deep appreciation of nature, and is strongly interested in preservation of the environment.

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