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Little Bear Trail at Lake Chelan State Park

Our Hiking Time: 1h
Total Ascent: 250ft
Highest Point: 1350ft
Total Distance: 2.3 miles
Location: N 47° 52.325, W 120° 11.851
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's Photo
A few months ago we spent a weekend checking out a handful of hikes around Lake Chelan. Our tour included everything from creekside trails, windswept mountain tops to quiet state park walks. Our visit to the Little Bear Trail in Lake Chelan State Park was easily the most sedate of the trip, but this family-friendly walk managed to pack a variety of landscapes into just a few miles of hiking.

The 127-acre Lake Chelan State Park is situated on the shores of Lake Chelan and is divided by the South Lakeshore Road.  For generations, Native Americans called this area home and the park contains a few archeological sites from that era. The park is also host to a cabin once owned by John Stevenson, one of the area’s earliest homesteaders. According to the Washington Parks Commission, most of the land that now makes up the park was acquired as a result of a court settlement in 1943. The issue involved a real estate scheme that involved selling investors “lakeshore” property that was in reality nowhere near the lake. While the park’s focus has long been on Lake Chelan, in recently years other areas of the park have been developed including the Little Bear Trail. The trail is named after the bear cub that was spotted by rangers as they surveyed a route for the trail.  After that encounter, the cub became something of an unofficial mascot during the trail’s construction and the trail was eventually named in honor of the cub.

From the parking area, the trail sets off into the woods and quickly into a short tunnel beneath South Lakeshore Road. Once through, start wandering under a pine forest that has remained largely untouched since the park's creation in the 1940s. After a few minutes of walking, you will find yourself at a junction. Heading right will take you down the Forest Loop, whereas heading left will take you down the Bitterbrush Loop. You can go either way, though we suggest heading left and making a wide loop that includes both trails.

After you head left, you will soon will pass another junction.  This is the turn off for Forest Loop that leads to the upper reaches of the trail. Ignore it and continue onward. As you progress, the trail  leaves the shelter of the forest to trek through Eastern Washington Ponderosa pine savanna.  Here you'll find grassy areas punctuated with Ponderosas and bitterbrush, as well as decent views of the lake. Eventually you’ll hook back toward the woods and spend time wandering under the Forest Loop’s canopy before finding yourself back at the first junction.

Short, easy, and close to Chelan, this hike works well if you’re looking to break up a weekend at the lake. Complete with a number of interpretive signs, this is also a nice choice if you have youngsters in tow. While not a destination unto itself, if you find yourself with a little extra time in Chelan, a short hike might be a great way to stretch the legs before a long car trip home.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 85 to Cle Elum/Leavenworth. Cross the freeway and head right on WA 970 toward Leavenworth as it merges into WA 97. As WA 97 ends, merge on US 2 toward Wenatchee following signs for US 2 and WA 97. In West Wenatchee, follow signs for WA 97 ALT. Once on WA 97 ALT, continue 23.5 to WA 971, taking a left and following to South Lakeshore Road after 9.1 miles. Take right and immediately find the park entrance on the left. Turn and find parking near the trailhead. -Nathan

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Little Bear Trail


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