With a nice mix of both fancy and rugged activities – from wine tasting and outdoor art shows to hiking and mountain biking – I’ve never been disappointed by Leavenworth. Only a 3-hour drive from Spokane, this Bavarian village-themed town in central Washington is a great choice for a family-friendly destination or a couples-getaway. As of late August, Leavenworth had avoided the large wildfires that have plagued other areas of Eastern Washington.
Some of the most scenic hiking can be found in the Icicle Creek Canyon area, located south of town off Icicle Road, within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The Icicle Gorge Trail is an easy, mostly flat and popular 4-mile loop that is best enjoyed in a clockwise direction. Enjoy wildflowers, occasional wildlife and great views of Icicle Creek.
If you’re looking for more difficult hiking routes, consider Icicle Ridge (4 miles, 1,800 elevation gain), Icicle Ridge Lookout (11 miles, 4,700 elevation gain), or even Enchantment Lakes (18 miles, 4,500 elevation gain) for a challenging day hike or backpack trip. These are just a few of the many hikes in the area. Evidence of the massive Hatchery Complex wildfires that occurred during the summer of 1994 – three separate wildfires that surrounded Leavenworth and burned more than 17,000 acres – can still be seen. Most of the trails require a use-permit, such as the USFS National Forest Recreation Pass. Self-validating day passes are $5 and can be purchased at the ranger station in Leavenworth and other local stores and even at some trailhead kiosks. They can also be purchased online or in-person locally in Spokane at REI or Big 5 Sporting Goods. Trail reports from last fall indicate that the upper section of Icicle Road, to access most trailheads, has potholes and washboard conditions. Also, be aware that this is bear country.
Closer to town is the easy Icicle River Nature Trail, near the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, which hosts the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival on September 19. And don’t miss the treed riverbank trails of Enchantment Park and Waterfront Park’s Blackbird Island, near downtown Leavenworth. (My family actually prefers to bike these easy, fun trails.) Take along swimming gear if you’re inclined to cool off in the Wenatchee River at any of the small beach inlets.
There is also great hiking on the trails within Lake Wenatchee State Park, located about 30 minutes west of Leavenworth, off State Route 207 via Highway 2. Be sure you check updates on any central Cascades wildfires before you leave home (Inciweb.nwcg.gov). Leavenworth is often impacted when regional wildfires are burning – a smoky haze settles into town and roads and highways sometimes close due to firefighting activities.
The guidebook “Day Hiking: Central Cascades” by Craig Romano is a good resource to have on-hand for your trip. Otherwise, websites for the Washington Trails Association (Wta.org) and Leavenworth tourism office (Leavenworth.org/trails) provide detailed information to help plan your hiking adventures.
Before you leave town, be sure to stop by the family-and-pet-friendly München Haus Bavarian Grill and Beer Garden for some traditional brats, German potato salad, pretzels and its own Icicle Brewing Company beers. And if you want to partake in what Leavenworth does best – lively seasonal festivals that attract visitors from across the state – the annual Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival takes place Sept. 25-27. //