There’s more to Chelan County: A Winter Adventure in Plain and Entiat

If Chelan County is not enchantment, where is it to be found?

Jake, Larissa, and Sullivan (aka “Sully”) take a family selfie above downtown Plain from the lookout point on Rock Pile Trail – a secret local favorite.

“There’s something particularly enchanting about the first snow of the year. It’s a fresh perspective on the familiar and offers a sense of optimism for the season ahead. We arrived in Plain, WA as the first layer of winter powder was setting in. It was magical and turned our short weekend adventure into a winter wonderland immersion.”

– Jake Gafner, an avid adventurer from Chicago, IL

Winter adventure runs wild in Chelan County – a welcoming community nestled on the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and in the depths of the Wenatchee National Forest. Just 2.5 hours East of downtown Seattle, adventurers traveling from near and far will find an abundance of wilderness to explore in the outdoor recreation hubs of Plain and Entiat.

For the perfect outdoor escape and to experience the charm, peace, and enchantment of winter, find adventure in these lesser-known gems in Chelan County.

Day 1: Hardware, hike, and hot tub

On the way to your home base cabin near Plain, pit-stop at Plain Hardware, the Swiss Army Knife of hardware stores. Inside you’ll find a ski shop, a café, home goods and gifts, and some friendly locals behind the counter. Rob, Josiah, and the whole team will treat you more like longtime friends than strangers – helping you gear up for a Nordic ski outing, equipping you with local knowledge, or pulling you arguably one of the best espresso shots in the region. They rent skis, snowshoes, and even a pulk for your little adventurers. They’ll also have plenty of intel on the best local ski trails and nearby hikes (including a local favorite in Plain – which we spill the beans on below).

Next door you’ll find Just Plain Grocery and Plain Cellars around the corner. Check these local spots out to stock up for your cabin stay at NW Comfy Cabins in Plain.

Picture-perfect view from Entiat City Park across Lake Entiat, on the edge of the Cascade Mountain range.

En route to hike up to Steliko Lookout, follow U.S. Route 2 alongside the Wenatchee River while taking in gorgeous mountain views from the valley. You’ll find it’s an eclectic corridor of local businesses and visitor interests, like a retro taco truck (near Peshastin), multiple wineries (like Icicle Ridge Winery), and live glass-blowing (at Boulder Bend Glassworks).

Grab some pastries or lunch at Anjou Bakery in Cashmere and make a scenic stop at Entiat City Park near downtown Entiat on the way. (Pro tip: time your trip in mid-November to experience the Entiat Holiday Bazaar.) The scenic drive continues north along the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, to the trailhead at Steliko Canyon to the Steliko Lookout tower.

Safe to say Sully thoroughly enjoyed the ride to the summit of the 2,586-foot Steliko Point.

While accessible via forest road, this route gets very icy in the winter. It’s recommended to walk up the route to the top instead of driving. But don’t worry, the view at the summit (especially at sunset) makes the uphill battle worth the effort. Follow the road along a fairly steep incline, 2 miles out and 2 miles back, with panoramic views of the surrounding Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Waterville Plateau, and Tyee and Stormy Mountains along the way.

Cotton candy sunset hues across the Cascade Mountains in Entiat.

Refuel post-hike with dinner at the Milepost 111 Brewing in Cashmere. You can’t beat a cold pint of Grapefruit Pinnacle IPA, a Mini Milepost Burger (which isn’t that mini), and a side of crispy truffle fries and clam strips. Head home for a warm soak in the hot tub and a nightcap by the fireplace at your cabin, but first, pass through the charming Christmas-light-adorned downtown main streets of Plain.

Sunset view of the surrounding Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near the Steliko Lookout tower in Entiat.

Day 2: Explore like a local, then Nordic ski

“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, where is it to be found?” – J.B. Priestley

When November rolls around, you’ll likely wake up to fresh snowfall in Chelan County. Quiet and cozy mornings tucked in the trees, surrounded by glistening powdery snow, showcase the true essence of winter here.

After coffee and breakfast at the cabin, consider taking Plain Hardware owner Rob Whitten’s local recommendation to hike an unmarked, local favorite trail near downtown Plain. Or, if you prefer a more traditional trail, hike the 2.5-mile Hidden Lake Loop in Lake Wenatchee State Park, just 10 minutes north in Leavenworth.

Snowy morning outside the ‘105 Lazy Days Lane’ cabin at the NW Comfy Cabins in Plain.

To hike the secret unmarked Rock Pile Trail (used by Plain’s Nordic ski team for training runs up and down the mountain), head south from downtown Plain towards Leavenworth on Beaver Valley Road (also known as Chumstick Highway). You’ll find a gravel pull-off around ~1.5 miles and an unmarked trailhead on the edge of the forest.

There’s not much better than the crunch of fresh snow and the scent of winter pine.

The steep 1.1-mile out-and-back hike leads you to a stunning view of downtown Plain and the surrounding Plain Valley. It’s not for the faint of heart, but well worth the effort if you’re looking for a secluded journey with quintessential winter wonderland vibes.

The family at the turnaround on the Beaver Creek nordic trail.

Post-hike, warm up with breakfast at Old Mill Cafe. Their face-sized cinnamon roll paired with a hot apple cider or classic mocha comes highly recommended.

Save the bulk of your adventure for an afternoon of Nordic skiing on the pristine Plain Valley Ski Trails. Beginners and seasoned cross-country and Nordic skiers alike will fall in love with the over 14 miles of perfectly-groomed trails. (Pro tip: check out the local trail reports before you go.)

Purchase a required trail permit ($20 for a season pass) and/or rent ski or snowshoe gear at Plain Hardware before hitting the trails. You can start your journey right in downtown Plain across from the store or drive 5 minutes north to the popular Beaver Creek Trailhead.

Ski or sleep? How about both. Larissa pulls a snoozing Sully by sled while Nordic skiing on the Plain Valley Ski Trails.

For an ~1-hour long trip, glide up and down the hills along Shotgun Meadow trail (0.6 km) to the Swamp Creek Loop (1.6 km) and back. Or, if you’re more into snowshoeing, you’ll explore over 3 miles of packed trails across the street from Plain Hardware. (Warning: these trails are so much fun, you probably won’t want to take your skis off.) No matter where you explore, rest assured you’ll be surrounded by swaths of dense forests, miles and miles of snow-covered hills, and whisper-quiet wilderness.

Nordic skiers barreling full speed ahead on the Plain Valley Ski Trails.

End your adventure with a lunch stop at the Squirrel Tree Resort, a log cabin restaurant, adorned with natural wood accents and woodsy decor in every direction. You won’t regret ordering the jalapeño cheddar burger with a side of gooey mozzarella sticks. It’s the perfect place to refuel post-skiing before heading back to your cozy cabin or returning home from an epic winter escape in Chelan County.

A wild Sully playing in the ‘Winter Wonderland’ of Chelan County.