Binge driving from Spokane to Seattle and back in a weekend can desensitize us to the beauty of central Washington and the I-90 corridor. But once a year it’s worth tapping the brakes on the east-west blitz. Adding a day or two to accommodate a more leisurely pace means more chances to explore scenic landscapes with unbeatably easy freeway access. The following adventure detours can be a remedy for the hurried traveler and a reminder of how lucky we are to have spectacular landscapes so close to home.
Crag at Leavenworth
It’s always a good idea to get an early start in the summer, but Good Mood Food’s affordable breakfast burrito with side salad distracts many a dedicated climber from the alpine start. The classic joint is the best place to observe Leavenworth’s cast of characters: river rats, cyclists, runners, climbers, and town-loving tourists. It’s a two-minute drive from the café to the well-loved February Buttress, a three pitch classic climb on the west end of town. The route is cruisy and gear abounds. The rappel is easiest with a 70m rope, but a variety of slings and trees facilitate the 60m rope descent. Then it’s back to the car to scope out a calm section of Icicle Creek that escapes the guard of private property signs.
Hike to Snow Lake
Snow Lake Trail 1013 offers some of the most accessible alpine scenery from I-90, making it the perfect hike for I-90 travelers with a few hours to spare. The 6.5 mile out and back is often busy on the weekends, but come fall the crowds thin. Some eager souls pack in inflatable paddleboards and kayaks, and their watercrafts gliding on windless waters seem dream-like under the craggy face of Roosevelt Peak. A dip in the frigid lake rewards the sweaty hiker with shocking relief.
Twelve miles off I-90 between George and Quincy, this hike is 12 miles round-trip and is a great spot for viewing the effects of the Missoula floods.
Ginko Petrified Forrest
Three miles off I-90 near Vantage, this interpretive trail loop is only a quarter mile long, but the Washington Trails Association suggests a 3-mile gravel loop that takes you to the edge of the state park.
Wild Horses Monument
A few hundred yards off I-90 as you descend towards the Columbia River west of Gorge, make the quick jaunt up the well-worn hill at the far end of the parking lot that leads to a up-close interaction with the horses and an inspiring view of the Columbia River. //