Chad and I have been wanting to visit Lake Chelan (the 52 mile long lake nestled in the Northern Cascade mountains) for a while now. Coming from Chicago, we know a thing or two about big lakes. Considering the 3-hour drive from Seattle, we figured we would make our trip there over a long weekend. This past President’s Day weekend offered just the opportunity.
Many Seattleites flock to Lake Chelan in the summer, but there is plenty to do there in the winter months. In fact, we found the lack of crowds nice.
9:00 am – We drove up Saturday morning – up I-90 not hitting snow until Cle Elum. By the time we got to Blewett Pass, the snow was coming down hard and continued to do so through the rest of our drive. So when we arrived in Chelan, we took in the beauty of the big lake, but didn’t see many of the surrounding mountains which were hiding in the snow clouds.
12:30 pm – We checked in to Campbell’s Resort on the shores of Lake Chelan. Campbell’s is an institution – first opening their doors in 1901 and continuing to dominate as the leading hotel to this day. The hotel staff at check-in (Michael and Christy) were extremely friendly and helpful.
1:00 pm – We had lunch at Marcela’s Cocina Mexicana. It was delicious!
2:30 pm – 5:00 pm – We hit the road to tour some of the wineries participating in the weekend’s “Red Wine and Chocolate” event.
Of the twenty-some wineries in the Lake Chelan area, sixteen participated – offering wine tastings paired with specific chocolates to bring out the flavors of the wine. You had me at wine….you sealed the deal with chocolate!
Our first stop was The Blending Room by WineGirls Wines.
Despite the plummeting snow outside, many people came out for the tasting event. WineGirls paired four chocolates with four red wines – each uniquely delicious.
They also offered strawberries you could dip in chocolate and they had a contest for the “best decorated” strawberry (the prize – a bottle of wine, of course).
After The Blending Room, we moved on to A Hard Row to Hoe, an adorable winery with a funny story behind its name. (The name celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of a man who ran a row-boat taxi service on Lake Chelan in the 1930’s ferrying miners by rowboat to a brothel located at Point Lovely).
The winery plays up this colorful history with interesting themed wall-paper on their walls and wines called “Burning Desire Petit Verdot”, “Shameless Hussy Viognier” and “Nauti Buoy Riesling.”
The winery was crowded with tasters on this blizzardy day – obviously people wanted a bit of steam and heat with their wine!
Other wineries we tasted at on this day were Tildio Winery, Chelan Ridge Winery, and Lake Chelan Winery (which also sells cheese (Lake Chelan Creamery) and various home decor and food stuffs – a bit overwhelming, but we enjoyed the wine.
7:00 pm – As the day drew to a close, so did the wineries, so we decided to head back to Campbell’s Resort for dinner.
Campbell’s Pub was packed that Saturday evening (Campbell’s touts the Pub as the local gathering spot and they weren’t kidding). We were able to get a table and enjoy a lovely meal. Perhaps inspired by the red wine I had been sampling, I had the prime rib. Chad enjoyed the fish with wild rice and asparagus.
9:30 pm – After the delicious meal, we walked the snowy streets of Chelan to take in the town and burn off dinner. On our walk we encountered this bear statue and couldn’t resist a funny photo or two.
We missed the show at the Ruby Theater (a wonderful 100-year old movie theater, located in downtown Chelan). We were sad to have missed the show, because we were curious to see the inside of the theater.
Chad saw the theater staff inside cleaning up, so he knocked on the door and they let us in! They were very nice to let us take a peak inside this historic theater and you could tell they were full of pride to work in such a great place. If you are ever in Chelan, you must check out the Ruby Theater.
The next day, the sun was shining and the mountains were out. It was lovely to see the views from our hotel balcony!
8:00 am – We drove over to Blueberry Hills Farm for breakfast.
We had read that the place has lines out the door in the summer, so we were sure to get there early. I think we were the first couple there this Sunday, although the place was packed when we left. Blueberry Hills Farm was originally an apple orchard. But during one particularly rough season, the Sorenson family (owners of the farm) pulled up their apple trees and planted 13+ acres full of 16 different types of blueberries.
The restaurant soon followed, to great success. The 5th generation of Sorensons started the restaurant, decorating it with anything (and everything) that was stored in their grandpa’s shed. Apparently no one in the Sorenson family ever threw anything away, because there have to be over 100 pairs of sunglasses, 50 records, 20 some fishing rods and more “100-year old junk” hanging from the rafters of the restaurant.
Chad and I sat at the “fun” table – which is a table filled with many of the “treasures” the family never threw away (hair curlers, chalk, pencil erasers, etc.) covered in glass. The owners smartly added game cards allowing patrons to play “I-Spy” with all the items in the table.
Aside from the kitsch factor, the food was delicious. I had the waffles with blueberry syrup (when in Rome…) and Chad had the eggs benedict.
10:00 am – After breakfast, we had to burn off some of the many calories consumed, so we drove up to the Echo Valley Ski Area.
We had read there was skiing, tubing, and cross-country skiing at Echo Valley, so we thought we would check it out. The ski hill is small by Wisconsin standards (the only place in the midwest I’ve been skiing), but it is a great place to teach kids how to ski and is run solely by volunteers. Since the snow had only recently arrived at Echo Valley, the upper run was not open, so we decided to go cross-country skiing instead.
We rented skis at Echo Valley and drove up the switchbacked road to Echo Ridge. Echo Ridge offers some of the best trails in Washington State – with more than 25 miles of groomed skate and classic cross-country trails. And, the views from the upper trails are phenomenal!
We were truly spoiled by the great skiing conditions and epic views Echo Ridge offered us.
The trail was not very crowded and for several stretches, we had the trail completely to ourselves. We stopped every once in a while to take in the breathtaking views. We skied the Nuthatch trail from the upper trailhead to Chaos Corner and then looped back on the Chikadee trail. It was perfect for a relatively new skier like me.
1:00 pm – After a few hours of skiing, we headed in to the town of Manson for lunch. Manson is on the north side of Lake Chelan and is a really quaint town (and home to many of the wineries in the region). We had a great light lunch at Fromaggio.
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm – Our afternoon was free, so we decided to hit a few of the remaining participating wineries in the Red Wine and Chocolate event.
We drove over to Karma, which features a wine cellar – almost a tunnel – dining area.
From there, we went to Chelan Estate Winery, Nefarious just up the road, and Tunnel Hill Winery, which all offered delectable chocolates to pair with the wine. Once again, I was in heaven.
8:00 am – On Presidents Day, we grabbed a delicious breakfast at the Pub at Campbell’s. We were going to go tubing at Echo Valley – the people we saw tubing the day before looked like they were having a blast! – but we heard news that the Snoqualmie Pass was closed due to intense snowfall and Stevens Pass was only open to cars with chains and AWD. We decided not to push our luck by waiting to leave later in the day, so we skipped tubing (next time!) and hit the road. The drive back, while slow-going and at times a touch hairy, was beyond beautiful.
We look forward to returning to Lake Chelan in the late summer/early fall, to catch this resort area in a different season.