Note: We've just started a forum for outdoor sports in Central Washington called, surprise, WenatcheeOutdoorsForum.org. Ray Birks will be the main administrator of the forum and he wrote this trip report which we have also placed in the WenatcheeOutdoors guidebook because this description has all the details needed to complete this route.
Chelan Butte Mountain Biking
by Ray Birks
A ride I've always stared at in the WenatcheeOutdoors guidebook
but never gotten around to riding was Chelan Butte. A summer day finally
arrived when I found time and dragged two buddies along for the
ride. We started at a cabin about three miles away from Chelan Butte
Rd. so the GPS report may be a bit deceiving. There are a few places
you could start this ride and know that eventually it will spit you out
on the corner of Chelan Falls Road and E. Iowa Avenue where there is a big
parking lot (see topo map of the area).
You could also park at
Lakeside Park and cross the highway and hit Millard Avenue, which quickly
turns into Chelan Butte Road. If you have a downhill mountain bike or do not like
to climb, the dirt road to the top can be easily shuttled, as the road is nicely graded (a low-clearance vehicle can make it to the top).
This is a healthy climb. It's about 6 miles of 9 percent
average grade with some parts pushing higher into the double digits, so
early morning is best because you'll be sweating. To compare it to one
of the hills around Wenatchee, I would say it's similar to Burch Mountain, but
without as many flat spots to rest as Burch. The ride up the road
starts on pavement and, after about a mile, turns to dirt. The steepness
doesn't ramp up until about the third mile, but then it stays pretty
consistent all the way to the top. The whole way up you can see the
towers at the top beckoning you onward, almost teasing you as they never
quite seem to get closer, as the road zigs and zags its way upward.
The views that unravel of the lake and surrounding peaks make this climb
much more bearable and eventually you'll come to a junction with a road
to the right, about a mile from the top, and views of the lower valley,
Columbia River, and Waterville Plateau appear down the other side of
the butte. Going right here starts to descend and could be another
route. If you wanted to climb from a different direction. You could
start on Downey Road off of Highway 97a, about a mile past the tunnel, or
down on Stayman Flats Road, climbing either Pear Orchard Road, or Chelan
Butte Road. But you'll stay left and continue up the last few switchbacks
on what is now Butte Lookout Road.
Just before you reach the towers at the top, there is a spur to the
right, with two porta potties, presumably for the paragliders who launch
from the summit. Stay left until you hit the towers. The views are
great but somewhat disrupted by the multitude of towers. The single
track down starts on the backside of the leftmost tower. Go around it
counterclockwise until you see the trail heading down. The top part of
the trail is great for the first few miles, then it gets a bit rocky and
steeper, but all rideable. The views along the way are stunning and
the ones I appreciated the most were looking back up the trail at the
trees and sloping hills.
Eventually you'll hit a saddle and the trail
will take a 90 degree turn to the left. From here it traverses gently
downward for about a mile and hits a double track. There is a homemade
trail sign that said Elephant Butte and Chelan Butte at this junction.
The double track goes up to the left and down to the right. Turn right
and take it all the way down to the trailhead parking mentioned earlier.
From here make your way back to your car or find a beach and jump in
- This trip report is described as a mountain bike ride but trail runners would enjoy the same circuit. Hikers, meanwhile, can use the parking area near the end of Iowa Street (shown on the map), and can walk up and down the route we descended on mountain bikes. This eliminates walking on paved or dirt roads being used by motorized vehicles. Walking up and down our descent route, makes for a 7.5- to 8-mile round trip hike. No permits are needed to park at the trailhead shown on the map.
- GPS Report
- Mileage: about 12-15 miles depending on where you park
- Elevation: about 2,500 feet of gain
- See a topo map of the route.