What’s the best way to get to Stehekin?

Thank you very much for choosing to stay at Stehekin Valley Ranch!

You have several options on ways to get here, and most folks choose to arrive by one of the passenger ferries. However, we are finding that even folks who have visited here several times are confused about how to make the best boat choice now that options have been significantly expanded.

We want you to have a choice in how you arrive, but we also want your travel to be pleasant. Based on both our own experience and also feedback we have received from those utilizing the new options, we have compiled information to help you with your travel plans. The Stehekin Ferry has become the most popular with our guests and works well with our schedule, and is thus featured at the top of the list.

There are two big factors that have made boat choices complex, even for experienced Stehekin travelers.

  1. Recently, TWO smaller catamarans options have been added to Lake Chelan. Many folks have been confused as to which is which.
    • One is operated by the Stehekin Ferry – designed with a schedule that works better for overnight guests. This is a separate business from the long standing boat company.
    • The other is the Lady Liberty (previously the Lady Cat) which is being run mostly for day trips by the historical Lake Chelan Boat Company.
  2. The Lake Chelan Boat Company sold recently, and the new owners are trying a lot of different (often good) ideas quickly, which means what was the norm in the past is not necessarily true now. They have also re-named some of their boats, which can be confusing for people that know the old names.

A quick note about where to park your car:

We recommend parking at Field’s Point Landing, for several reasons. Overnight parking is less expensive than in Chelan, and it will keep all of your boat travel options open, as it is the only dock serviced by BOTH boat companies. It also means you will spend less time on the boats, and more time at your vacation destination.

Learn more about: Field’s Point Landing

Why your choice matters when staying at the Ranch:

Because Stehekin Valley Ranch is located 9 miles up Valley from the boat landing, we must combine bus runs and make them as efficient and enjoyable as possible. With so many different boat options and varied arrival/departure times, it is impossible to meet every single boat perfectly with our scheduled bus. We have done our best to keep the wait time as minimal as possible for the options we see as the best for our customers.

So what IS the best boat option?

Here’s a list of your boat options in order of what we think are the best for your enjoyment and ease of travel connections. If you want more details of why we put them in this order, read on below the list.

 1. The Stehekin Ferry – Book Now

  • The Ranch Bus meets this boat both coming and going.
  • This boat coordinates perfectly with the Ranch’s 3pm check-in time.
  • You have plenty of time to settle in at the Ranch before dinner.
  • Best schedule if you have a long drive to get to Lake Chelan.

2. The Lady Express

  • The Ranch Bus meets this coming, but you have a wait at the dock before departure.
  • You have the whole afternoon in Stehekin on your first day.
  • You do have to get up EARLY to catch this boat to Stehekin, and will get home late if departing on it.
  • This boat has been running late, due to extra stops along the lake. Expect to depart later than scheduled if taking this boat, making for a long day to get home.

3. Lady of the Lake (previously the Lady II)

  • Not ideal for overnight visitors to Stehekin.
  • This boat has been operating on a varied daily schedule, and some days does not run at all. Buses  do not meet it coming or going.
  • This boat is great if you are in it for the scenery and a long boat ride. Excellent for those interested in a day trip. Not so great if you are wanting to spend your vacation time in Stehekin.

4. Lady Liberty (previously the Lady Cat)

  • Designed for Day Trips based in Chelan.
  • Very fast speed, but still takes the same amount of travel time on the lake as the Stehekin Ferry because the Liberty does not pick up at Field’s Point Landing and thus has to travel the entire length of the lake.
  • Uses a different dock in Stehekin, which complicates connections with the bus.
  • Running different schedules based on the day of the week and time of year, so much more complicated to coordinate with.

Stehekin Boat & Bus Scheduling Details:

Still not sure? Read on…

The Stehekin Ferry departs 20 minutes before the Lady Express is scheduled to arrive, so our first bus run of the day works great for those departing on the Ferry, or arriving on the Express. Our bus leaves the Ranch at 9am and heads down the road, stopping at several places along the way if folks have not seen all of the sites yet. The bus arrives at the boat dock at about 10:25am.

This is perfect for folks riding the Stehekin Ferry since it departs at 10:40am. With this option you are back in your car and on the road right around noon. This has been an incredible boon for folks that have a long drive ahead of them. Before you depart the Ranch, you are given the chance to pack a sack lunch as well.

Our bus is then scheduled leave the dock at 11am heading back to the Ranch. However, it is often behind schedule because while the Lady Express still leaves Chelan at 8:30am, that boat no longer does an “express” run. Instead of coming straight uplake to Stehekin from Field’s Point, it now makes several stops dropping off hikers and thus is often late. If we have guests on the Lady Express, we will always wait for it to arrive before departing with our bus.

If you have elected to depart on the Lady Express, you will have a longer wait at the Landing (boat dock area), as their scheduled departure is 12:30 pm (down lake) this year. They added 30 minutes to their Stehekin layover, so it is departing later than it used to. Adding that to its tendency to be 30 minutes late, your actual departure may be after 1pm. Keep in mind that to catch this boat you must still depart the Ranch on the 9am bus because there is no way to run another bus down efficiently for both boats.

Our second bus run leaves the ranch at 1:20pm and arrives at The Landing before 2:30, which is great for those arriving on the Stehekin Ferry. After a short stop at the Bakery, it brings you to the Ranch with lots of time to get oriented and settled in before dinner. Folks arriving on this boat only needed to get to Fields Point Landing by around 12:30 pm to get ready for a 1:00 pm departure for Stehekin. They have had all morning to drive during daylight hours from their home or plane.

The old Lady II (Now called “Lady of the Lake”) is running a summer schedule that varies based on time of year and day of the week. Some days it does not run at all and during the days it does run there are different departure/arrival times. If you ride this boat, know that you will have long waits to be picked up. There are also some departure times that are too early for us to get you to the dock on time for, so be very careful when booking a ride on this boat.

The Lady Cat has been renamed “Lady Liberty”. It is scheduled mostly for folks doing a day trip from the Chelan end of the lake. Like the big boat, the Liberty also has a varied schedule based on time of year and day of the week. It sometimes has a run arriving at 2:30pm, which technically will work, but it comes in to a different dock, making catching the bus much more complicated. There is also sometimes a 10:30am departure – again at a different dock – which on paper will work, but in reality is a very tight connection for our bus, leading to a stressful departure for our guests. All other arrival/departure times for this boat require a long wait at the dock.