If you are planning on visiting the idyllic town of Stehekin for the day and wonder if you have time for a hike while waiting for the boat to take you back down the lake, the Imus Creek Trail that runs behind the landing is the perfect choice for sampling the terrain of the North Cascades National Park. You can start either by the Golden West Visitor Center or by Purple Point Campground but starting by the visitor center allows you to stop in for current conditions and a map.
From the landing, wander around to the back of the national park visitor center and follow the service road, looking ahead for a weathered wooden sign marked for Purple and Imus Trails. The Imus Creek Trail is a self-guided nature walk, look for a informational booklet you can borrow in the box on top of the sign and drop off at the other side.
Here the wide trail makes its way past rugged ponderosa pines and gentle vine maple as it gains 140 feet of elevation. A cement water storage tank covered with a coat of brown moss is nestled on the right and you will soon cross a small wooden bridge over Purple Creek tucked away beneath viridescent saplings of birch and maple. From here the trail narrows, climbing another 20 feet gently to a junction with the trail to Purple Pass at the high point of the trail at 1340 feet and about a quarter mile into your stroll.
Continue past the junction as the trail follows the contoured slope decorated with Cascade Oregon Grape and sword ferns gently down to a viewpoint on a rock outcropping in .2 miles. A perfect wooden bench is placed to take in the surrounding summits of Castle Rock and Tupshin Peak to the left and MacGregor and Rainbow Mountain to your right. From this vantage point it is easy to see why this valley was named Stehekin, meaning “the way through”, by the indigenous people who used Lake Chelan to travel south from Cascade Pass.
From your perch you can still hear the muted laughter of visitors relaxing on the deck chairs at the lodge and locals picking up their packages off the ferry but keep an ear open for the rustle of forest grouse resting in the pines nearby or crickets in the dry grass at your feet.
Enjoy a tranquil moment with the regal views and then saunter back up onto the trail and continue gradually downhill. In .1 of a mile you cross a new sturdy bridge over Imus Creek, the old one washed away in significant flooding that occurred in the area in 2013. Water cascades down over rugged layers of rock speckled with bright green moss. Large maple leaves forming a low canopy over the littered boulders line the sheltered drainage.
From here, the trail descends through thimbleberry over rocks and crisp fallen leaves to loop behind and to the right of the Purple Point Campground. You will find yourself shortly at the main road through town making the total trail distance just shy of .7 miles. Turning left, the road will take you back to the landing in a little over a quarter mile for a final trip length of one mile. You will have plenty of time to enjoy lunch on the deck in town or have an al fresco meal with what you have carried in your pack at one of the three lakeside picnic areas you will pass on your return. Either way, savor what remains of your time before reluctantly taking your seat on the boat headed back down the lake, already making plans for your next visit to explore more of the secluded paradise that is Stehekin.