Comprising the southernmost tip of the North Cascades National Park Complex, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area serves as many hikers’ jumping-off point for big and small adventures in the region. No roads access this recreation area and the small unincorporated community of Stehekin that operates within the space (including the Stehekin Pastry Company), so explorers either need to catch a ferry across Lake Chelan or charter a seaplane, making for a scenic adventure just to start hiking.
Once you land in Stehekin, there are many trails branching from the charming community, and a good place to start is the 4.4-mile Rainbow Loop trail. It consists of two different trailheads, both located on the Stehekin Valley Road two miles apart, making it easy to connect the loop by either walking on the road or catching the shuttle bus back to where you started. Along the trail itself, hikers are exposed to stunning views of the Stehekin River Valley and the head of Lake Chelan, and the trail also offers access to multi-day hikes along the Rainbow Creek or Boulder Creek trail.