Lake Chelan is serious about spring, with short-sleeve highs averaging in the 60s and sunny days overhead.
Sometimes it feels like April Fools is going on forever in Seattle, with “spring” consisting of muddled skies and cold temps. But Lake Chelan is serious about spring, with short-sleeve highs averaging in the 60s and sunny days overhead. Here’s an escape plan for a weekend getaway featuring the area’s two spring highlights, including outdoor fun and tasting rooms, a preview of sorts to the upcoming Northwest summer.
Winter melts quickly here, so the valley’s surrounding hills throw off their white blankets by spring. Put away the skis and lace up the hiking boots – you’re ready to head out on the Echo Ridge trails, which become family-friendly hiking paths that wind for 25 miles. Bring along a plant guide to ID wildflowers on a day hike, but always check conditions before going out, and dress for surprises – throughout the Pacific Northwest, spring can be unpredictable, although a bit less so here.
For an early-spring excursion, the Washington Trails Association suggests the 17-mile Chelan Lakeshore Trail. It’s accessible via the Lady of the Lake Ferry, which takes visitors from Chelan into small lakeside hamlets only reachable by water or plane. Photo opportunities of lupines and mountains abound, along with gentle hiking picks along forks in the trail, and more strenuous options – one sure path for swimsuit season readiness.
Golfers can tee up on one of seven courses in the Chelan area, from a municipal golf course to a resort designed around golf experiences, many with gorgeous views of surrounding Cascade mountains, grassy valleys, the Columbia Gorge River or Lake Chelan. For example, play 18 holes highlighting panoramic viewpoints at Alta Lake Golf Resort, or tee up at Gamble Sands, named “Best New Course” in America by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
If you’re looking for something a bit less ambitious, try mini-golf at The Green at Don Morse Park. Opening on Memorial Day weekend, you’ll find a course with a stream, waterfalls, sand bunkers, bright floral gardens and a great view of the lake.
Spring surprises also lead to wondrously warm days – and an opportunity to get out on the water. Lakeside rental shops offer everything from boats to scuba gear to stand-up paddleboards to kayaks. With the right equipment, even mild spring days could see you out on the lake, sunglasses (and sunscreen) on.
The lakeside strolls are free, easy and suitable for all ages, and spring is still within Lake Chelan’s “low season” – the water level drops 10 feet in late fall through spring. Pore over pebbled and sandy beaches for unusual rocks, smoothed glass and other riches with kids or alone. But even if nothing is found, quiet lakeside walks are one of spring’s finest treasures.
Spring’s thaw sees the opening of the area’s tasting rooms for some wineries, and expanded hours for others. While grapes have been grown here for more than 100 years, recent decades have seen a boom of whites, reds and roses. And spring is the perfect time to check out this year’s vintages and chat with vintners – before summer’s throngs descend.
Around 30 wineries and tasting rooms dot the Lake Chelan American Viticulture Area (AVA); an AVA notes an area with unique climate, soil and physical features that distinguish it from surrounding areas. In other words, Lake Chelan’s wines couldn’t be found anywhere else. The region’s volcanic pumice-enriched soils nurture vines during summer’s hot days and cool nights. Mild temperatures year round are due to the “lake effect,” which creates a long-lasting growing season and decreased frost risk.
Bottles are popped open for a first taste of new-to-the-table white and rose wines for the Lake Chelan Spring Release, during the last two weekends of April (April 21-22 and April 28-29). Tickets to the April 21 Rosé Soiree evening include tastings from 14 wineries, hors d’oeuvres and a Riedel wine glass.
Not much is better than wine – other than jazz and wine. This coming spring brings the first annual Lake Chelan Wine and Jazz Festival from May 17-20, which is attracting internationally acclaimed jazz artists to the valley’s wineries and tasting rooms, including Siren Song Vineyard Estate and Winery and Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards.
The four-day festival sees 15 jazz bands in 10 venues, along with a VIP Winery Shuttle (for an additional fee) whisking visitors away to venues. When not attending events, dine at upscale restaurants and shop in Chelan’s historic downtown district or drop into Manson area shops and restaurants.
This event is paired with an event sure to please the palate – Barrel Tasting Weekend. On May 19-20, wine connoisseurs have an opportunity to taste the next season’s releases straight from the barrel, with a freshness akin to eating apples right off the tree. You may choose a favorite (or five) to brag about to friends. But don’t tell too many about spring in Chelan – it’s one of the Northwest’s best-kept secrets. No fooling.
In Lake Chelan you’ll find four seasons of wine, sun, stunning natural beauty and adventures you can tune to your own tastes.