Nearly in the dead center of the state of Washington sits the Lake Wenatchee State Park, a wonderful location to escape the rushed and hurried city life, or a return to the comforts of nature from the rural farm life. Just a mere two-hour car ride from the constant buzzing of Seattle’s excitement, and a little further at four and a half hours from Portland, Oregon, you can get back to nature by getting out of the cities and enjoy a little downtime away from it all.
Or, if you’re in the eastern portion of the state, from the Spokane Valley region the Lake Wenatchee State Park is a quick three and a half-hour drive, a short jaunt away from your daily routine. Far enough away that you can truly detach from the mundane, but close enough that you can visit on a weekend, or spend a week away while remaining close enough to home that you’re not having to book airline tickets.
Getting to Lake Wenatchee State Park
Once you enter the lush forest the Pacific Northwest is known for, Lake Wenatchee State Park is located on the eastern slopes of the Cascades in the Okanogan-Wanatchee National Forest. Just a short spur off of US Route 2, the main road that cuts through the mountainous forest which is one of the properly maintained roads year-round. This makes Lake Wenatchee State Park easily accessible in both summer and winter.
If you’re picking up supplies while on the road, there are small stores and communities along the way. However, the closest town with what some would consider “civilization” and not a corner market catering to tourists is Leavenworth, Washington, a little more than twenty miles to the south of Lake Wenatchee State Park.
Whether you are packing your cooler at home or planning a “potty break and supply run” at the last stop before entering the park, prepare to enjoy the bounty of one of Washington’s favorite state parks.
Where Is This Park? What Can I Do?
Lake Wenatchee State Park sits, unsurprisingly due to the name, on the shore of Lake Wenatchee. At the far east side where the five-mile-long crystal blue lake gives way to the Wenatchee River, the Lake Wenatchee State Park campgrounds sit on either side of the river, offering activities and recreation to guests seeking some time on the water.
Because the lake is fed by glaciers and melted snow runoff, the cold and clear water is always pristine and immaculate, making it the perfect body of water for a multitude of activities, from adrenaline-pumping watersports to relaxed atmospheres and experiences.
Looking to get away from the lake? Here, you won’t have to look very far. Lake Wenatchee State Park officially has a footprint of 492 acres, but of course, there are no fences, so you can wander far and wide in the forested lands surrounding the park.
Lace your hiking boots and get ready to take in some of the best nature trails you’ll find in the area. If you aren’t up to hiking, there are horseback riding facilities available as well, so you can take in the beauty of the natural forest from a fresh perspective while enjoying a new activity.
Why Lake Wenatchee State Park?
The summer vacation has been an important time for many families throughout the years. Children are out of school and it presents a wonderful excuse for mom and dad to take some time off work and escape the drudgery of their jobs, get away from the heat of the city streets and take the family up into the mountains and down by the lake for a week.
This departure from routine serves as a break away from the “normal” and can serve as a coming together of a family that may otherwise have been caught up in their daily cycle of routine activity.
A week with the family at Lake Wenatchee State Park can make this summer a fond memory that will last forever and bring forth cherished thoughts later in life when remembered by all. As a sub-alpine climate park, the summer months are always refreshingly cool when compared to the heat baking into the concrete and asphalt cities.
High temperatures in the peak of the summer will fluctuate between the high 70’s and low 80’s, a comfortable range of temperature that allows you to enjoy the summer sun but also has you sleeping comfortably at night when the sun goes down and the temperatures fall to the low 50’s.
Things to Do At Lake Wenatchee State Park
When that sun comes up in the morning, hit the lake with all your energy, take in the refreshing clear water, and enjoy your time on this glacier-fed water wonder. At its deepest point, the cool blue water dips down to 240’ deep and offers some fine fishing. Sockeye and Chinook Salmon are common in these waters as are a dozen other species. Just remember if you’re visiting from out of the area, you’ll need to have a recreational license before fishing or harvesting shellfish on the lake.
You’re not stuck on the plentiful 12623’ of shoreline Lake Wenatchee State Park offers, the 16’ dock and boat launch allows the boaters and other watercraft to get out on the five miles of open water to enjoy time on the lake. There is plenty of room for pleasure boating and water-skiing, and enough room for the kayakers and sailboaters to enjoy the lake as well.
Try your hand at windsurfing or paddleboarding with rentals on site. Maybe you aren’t into boating, and just want to take a swim. The sandy beachfront is kept clean and beautiful for those looking to lounge in the sun and dip in the water to cool off.
Just off the beach are the volleyball courts and an amazing staged amphitheater for productions and presentations in the south campgrounds.
Hiking And Riding Opportunities
Take to the hills and enjoy a nice eight-mile hike on the well-marked hiking trail or start and finish in Lake Wenatchee State Park by journeying around the entire lake on a longer twelve-mile excursion along Chiwawa Loop Road.
If you’ve brought along your bicycles, there is a great seven-mile mountain bike trail dedicated to allowing you to enjoy the scenery from the seat of your bicycle while getting in a little adrenaline and exercise time.
If you’re feeling a bit “equestrian”, Lake Wenatchee State Park has a dedicated staff on-site that houses, grooms, and cares for a stable of horses that they will engage to take you on a five-mile ride and guided tour. On horseback, you will spot the variety of wildlife in Lake Wenatchee State Park from the diverse bird population to perhaps even some of the larger fauna like deer, moose, or even a bear.
Though the park rangers keep an eye out for encroaching bear populations to keep guests (and the bears) safe from an encounter, it is always wise to remember that Lake Wenatchee State Park is in the wild mountains and spotting a bear always possible.
Weather at Lake Wenatchee State Park
Winter season comes in hard and fast in the great Pacific Northwest. The falling snow and mountain backdrop often beckons the winter sportsperson within us to get outdoors and partake in some wintry activity. The romance of the scenery and angelic grace of a pristine winter mountain view is a vision you will take deep into your heart and feel deep within your soul.
Autumn has closed out, the snow is falling, and the rebirth of spring is still months away. Rather than stay cooped up in the house, grab the family and take a weekend trip to Lake Wenatchee State Park.
Dress warmly and dress appropriately for the activity you are planning to enjoy. It gets cold in town but up in the mountains, you can expect temperatures to keep you on your toes at all times, or at the very least, wiggling your toes to keep them warm!
The diminished sunshine warms the area to a modest low to mid 30’s meaning when it goes just above freezing, that’s as warm as you’re going to be for the day! At night the temperatures often dip into the low 20’s and teens so make absolutely certain you are prepared against this fierce weather.
During the long and cold winter months, Lake Wenatchee freezes over sufficiently enough that the snowshoe trails hike over the frozen lake. You can get out on the ice and enjoy walking on the frozen water for a new perspective with the lake acting as cleared ground for many yards in all directions you can spin, slide and swoosh around to your heart’s content without a barrier in sight.
The frozen lake is a common spot for those looking to dance about on the ice. With the area receiving an average of twelve and a half feet of snowfall per year, they don’t keep the ice plowed for hockey, but you can always start up your own friendly field game as long as you don’t mind the absence of a Zamboni.
Take along your auger and fishing pole because there is excellent ice fishing out on the lake in the winter months. You can’t drive out on the lake and there are no portable structures available so bring an extra blanket while you huddle around that hole hoping to putt out the big one for dinner! If the windswept lake becomes too harsh to stay out on, there are more than enough activities on land to enjoy as well.
Skiing, Climbing, and Hiking
Lake Wenatchee State Park is a great winter destination for those willing to brave the cold weather for outdoor activities. The park grooms their trails and keeps on top of them making sure you have a clear path to enjoy the great white outdoors. There is a website connection so you can check the latest grooming report before heading up to the site.
More than thirty miles of impressive cross-country skiing, snowshoe trails, and dedicated snowmobile tacks that keep the speedy machines safely away from the pedestrians trekking the snow on ski or by foot. If you’re there at the right time, you may see some of the trail participants using all FOUR of their feet as the park also supports local dog-sledding teams.
Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like a good rock climbing course or a mountain summit and Lake Wenatchee State Park offers plenty of that in the summer, but when the snow and ice comes in during the winter, these ambitious courses turn treacherous with ice climbing skill now in use. Hike the nine-mile trail to Dirtyface peak and marvel at the skilled adventurers mounting the summit, a strenuous task in summer, a near Herculean feat in winter.
Camping in Lake Wenatchee State Park
Can you think of anything more refreshing, romantic, or fulfilling than waking up with the dawning sun in a tent pitched in the middle of the mountain woods? Perhaps the smell of cooking bacon on the campfire, hopefully you can convince your campmates to wake up a little earlier than you to get that bacon cooking? Perhaps some eggs too…
Lake Wenatchee State Park has one of the finest camping facilities in the Washington state park record. The site is split into two halves, the north and the south, separated by the Wenatchee River and each of them with their own personality tailored to your choice of camping style.
The South campground encompasses campsites number 1-100 and is the hub of activity at Lake Wenatchee State Park. There are 155 standard campsites on the grounds and two that are dedicated to those who may need special assistance and are ADA approved locations.
Campsites are laid out with dedicated fire rings and elevated tent pads to protect the surrounding vegetation from overuse or from a stray ember from your campfire. Tent camping is only available from spring to autumn, generally from mid-April to mid-October, though local weather systems have been known to close the season a little early.
Here on the south campground of Lake Wenatchee State Park, you’ll be surrounded by outdoor camping activity everywhere you look. The horse stables are along the trail to the southeast, the beach is directly west, boat launch is northwest into the Wenatchee River at the head of the lake, and there are 54 picnic tables dotting the landscape.
There are shower facilities and a concession stand up by the beach for you to enjoy. Right in the middle of the south camp is the “group camp” sites and the amphitheater, making this a perfect location to set up a large gathering of friends and family for a weekend together.
The North Camping grounds is more subdued and relaxed. If you are looking to get away from the action and excitement and spend a few days in the relative solitude and silence of the Pacific Northwest woods, the north side of the campground is for you. Just slightly more rural than the pleasant commotion of the south side of the river, campsites 101-197 offer a quieter camping experience with fewer activities flying in your face from moment to moment.
You can always partake in the activities by crossing the bridge and joining the south side of the campground but if you want to enjoy a mild bit of seclusion, the north is where you’ll want to set up camp.
It’s not like the north campground is completely devoid of facilities, however. They are constantly maintained and clean restrooms down by the southwest corner of Lake Loop Trail and a ranger station up by the main road. The Lake Wenatchee State Park welcome center is on the north side of the campground as well so you won’t have far to go once you check-in and get your camp assigned. The North campground is also the only side that allows camping in your RV.
RV Camping at Lake Wenatchee State Park
Sometimes you can’t leave your pets behind for a week at camp, or maybe it’s just that sleeping in a tent doesn’t appeal to you but you still want to get out and enjoy the camp life. So you have a recreational vehicle and now you can enjoy the best of both worlds, “roughing it” at camp while enjoying a nice bedding situation at night.
Lake Wenatchee State Park can accommodate forty-two RVs on the north campground. Your RV can be up to 42’ long which is plenty of room to have a warm bed and private bathroom while on vacation. This side of the grounds also maintains an RV dump station for your convenience.
Fido and Fifi can come along and enjoy the camp life as well, as long as they stay leashed when outside of your recreational vehicle. RV campers enjoy the same benefits of the rest of the campers, only they have the option of closing their door and enjoying a little more privacy and seclusion that those in tents. Tent walls don’t keep sounds and smell out very well, insulated RVs do.
That said, there is a limit on your electrical power generator. You can’t start up that generator before 8 am and you have to turn it off by 9 pm as a courtesy to other campers observing the quiet hours while camping. There is no regulation on running power from battery…
Trek across the Wenatchee River bridge and join in the activities on the south campgrounds. Watch the children enjoy themselves on the playground equipment or take a dip in the refreshing lake. The Nason Ridge trail heads south to the Kahler Glen golf course so if you brought along your clubs in that RV, lug them over to the course and take in eighteen holes on their par 70 design or just get in some practice on the driving range.
Lake Wenatchee State Park allows RV camping during the winter months and even then only by permit. It is possible to tent-camp in the winter, but you won’t be doing it here in the park… Your RV is a toasty warm respite from the cold but don’t let it become your only view while here.
Get outdoors and enjoy those amazing winter activities Lake Wenatchee State Park has to offer. The absence of many campers opens up the trails and gives you the run of the land for much of the early morning. By midmorning, the day trekkers and hotel lodgers show up and the park is once again a buzzing hive of winter wonder and fun.
Snowmobile trails, skiing trails, winter hikes, all along the north campgrounds, more trails to the south side, and a dedicated sledding hill right beside the amphitheater. There are heated shelters put in place for the winter guests so you won’t have to escape into your recreational vehicle to get out of the cold and thaw out.
The restroom facilities are also heated which is a great advantage as some RV campers prefer not to use the on-board bathroom if they don’t have to. Makes for an easier time cleaning up after a long camping trip.
All this activity is going to work up an appetite. You may be setting up camp with tents and a modest folding table with roasting hot dogs over the open fire, or you may be relaxing in your recreational vehicle enjoying the benefits of a full kitchenette, but one thing is certain, there is nothing as satisfying as enjoying an open picnic st the park. Lake Wenatchee State Park has two kitchen shelters in addition to the dozens of regular picnic tables scattered around the campgrounds.
One kitchen shelter has a fire pit and two grills centered around a picnic table under a pavilion. This shelter is available much like the open tables, whoever gets there first gets to use it. Most guests are accommodating and keep their “kitchen” time short when other guests are waiting to use the facilities, but if you absolutely must have the kitchen pavilion for your event, you’re better off making a reservation for the larger day-use facility.
The larger kitchen facility has six tables, four grills, fire pits, and running water. Neither of the kitchen pavilions has electricity but this larger and more robust kitchen is great camp kitchen for centering your gathering activity around. Lunch for a group camp or celebrating a birthday at the lake, reserve the large pavilion to make sure you have use of the facility.
Our Final Thoughts
Whether you’re camping in a tent or from the comforts of a large recreational vehicle, whether you’re here visiting Lake Wenatchee State Park during the delightful summer or in the magical winter, you are sure to find a connection to nature in this beautiful state park.
A gem in the emerald forest of Washington’s Cascade mountains, Lake Wenatchee State Park will enchant you on your very first visit, and delight you on each and every return trip you make.