Explore a Washington state mountain town that might as well be situated in the Alps. Between the Bavarian Village town center in Leavenworth that offers authentic European dining and shopping and the soaring granite peaks and pristine backcountry lakes, you’ll wonder if you took a wrong turn at Kansas (in a good way). This year-round destination comprises a best-of record for mountain towns everywhere — five ski areas, whitewater rafting, hiking and climbing, mountain biking, steelhead, chinook, and sturgeon fishing and plenty more.
Take a scenic two-hour drive from the Puget Sound and the traffic mess of Seattle and you’ll find yourself in a mountain village you couldn’t have imagined at the coastline. While most people drive to Leavenworth in their own car or a rental, you can also reach the utopia on Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger train from as far away as Seattle to the West or Chicago to the East. Once in town, local transit or tours can get you around to a certain extent, but you may just want to take strolls or bike rides around the small mountain town in a scenic mountain valley.
Things to Do
Lake Wenatchee: Hike, swim, camp, ride horses, and more at a clear mountain lake that acts as a gateway to the Cascades. The nearly 500-acre state park has easy access to horse rentals for day rides or pack trips, and people come here year-round to enjoy a scenic wonder. Try fall for particularly explosive color.
Ski Resorts: Leavenworth is a quintessential ski town with one small ski area in-town and four others within a 90-minute drive. Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge, Leavenworth Ski Hill, Echo Valley, and Badger Mountain are all within striking distance, and many of the ski areas have plenty of summer activities like lift-accessed mountain biking too.
Stevens Pass: Shred 460 inches of annual snowfall a year at a stunning ski area with 1,100 acres of terrain in the Cascades. A short morning drive from Leavenworth will take you to the ski hill, which also offers lift-accessed mountain biking and a variety of summer activities.
Bavarian Village: Wander the streets of Europe without leaving the U.S. Downtown Leavenworth has embraced its mountain-town aesthetic, building up as a Bavarian Village that is one part Germany right down to the dining and shops, and two parts charming. Prepare to be enchanted by the heart of this lovely mountain town.
Orchards & Wineries: Get your fix of fresh fruit in Washington’s heart of orchard and wine country. Want cherries? Come in June. Apricots, plums, or pluots? July. Peaches ripen in late July and early August, nectarines ready up in August, apples start to keep the doctor away in August and bleed into September, and pears round out the harvest in September and October. The eight orchards in town keep company with another eight wineries that offer unpretentious, but often award-winning wine.
Rocky Reach Dam: Watch the salmon run at a dam visitor center with viewable fish ladders, a museum, public parks, a playground, a reservoir, and plenty of Columbia River scenery. The free visitor center is open year-round, so don’t be shy!
Wenatchee River: Fish for steelhead salmon and chinook in a gorgeous setting, or use the river for more … wet and wild means. Whitewater rafting on the Wenatchee River will also treat you to huge Class III+ rapids, take you past scenic waterfalls, and even let you explore a river cave.
Fishing: The Wenatchee has no monopoly on great fishing in the Leavenworth area. Spring fishing is great on the Icicle River when the local fishery releases salmon. Fish Lake has a name that is self-explanatory. And if you really want to test your fishing mettle, try sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River to try and hook a 10-foot trophy that looks straight out of Jurassic Park.
Hike the Cascades: The Cascades offer plenty of waterfalls as their name hints, including the 1,270-foot Drury Falls outside Leavenworth. But disappear into the mountains and you’ll see there’s more to the mountain range. Other hiking and backpacking attractions include Colchuck Lake, a turquoise lake against a stunning backdrop of vibrant greens and massive peaks.