Great Lakes of North Central Washington

Hike, bike or just relax and enjoy some of the world's most beautiful lakes in North Central Washington.
Washington State Vacation
Washington State Vacation

Land and water dance stunning duets in Washington, even inland. Explore serene bodies of water that glaciers and Ice Age floods gouged among the badlands, sagebrush hills, and pine-fringed mountains of the North Central region.

Sunny Chelan tends to sweep Washington’s "best lake" awards. Cruise 50.5 miles of clear water on the Lady of the Lake, or sample more than two dozen wineries by floatplane, helicopter, or electric bike. Work off that wine with a convenient Yogachelan session.

Southeast 75 miles, Soap Lake also pampers travelers. The Healing Waters Spa offers 30 treatments, from salt scrubs to mud wraps. The tradition dates back to Native medicine, which taught settlers to doctor away sores and infections with soft-mineral sips and soaks.

Drink in scenery instead at Steamboat Rock State Park, 50 miles northeast. An 800-foot-high butte rises—starkly beautiful—against the blue of Banks Lake. Continue onto the Grand Coulee Dam. Completed in 1941 and hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", it stands a mile wide and 550 feet tall. NASA reports seeing the vast concrete structure, girdling the Columbia River, from space. Its reservoir, Lake Roosevelt, forms a 151-mile aquatic playground for swimmers, fishers, and boaters. Lake Wenatchee State Park also beckons with a glacier-fed lake, plus boating and horseback riding.

Hardcore hikers gravitate to the Pasayten Wilderness, skirting the Canadian border. Pierced by the Pacific Crest Trail, it fades from jagged western ridges to pine-fringed open plateaus to the east. Watch for moose, gray wolves, and the largest lynx population in the continental US. The 44.7-mile Cathedral Pass loop showcases the most breathtaking alpine scenery. Try to catch dawn or dusk at Upper Cathedral Lake, which reflects the furrowed, snow-streaked sweep of the 8,358-foot Amphitheater Mountain. And don’t forget—here or at other Washington lakes—to look up and let the stars make a splash, too.  

 -- Amanda Castleman