Explore the Pacific Northwest

Leavenworth, Washington

Explore the Pacific Northwest

Washington's Slice of Bavaria Comes with Heaping Sides of Outdoor Fun

Summer in Leavenworth, WA

As we shoved off from a rocky ledge in a narrow chute, canyon walls towering high above, our raft was caught by the current and off for the races. Rocketing down the Wenatchee River, we flashed past the village of Leavenworth, riding waves like a bucking bronco, before settling into a less heart-pounding section, where my perma-grin relaxed into a smile of contentment as I enjoyed the serenity of the pine-cloaked scenery.

We all think we know Leavenworth—the Bavarian-themed town that overflows with flowers and flowered dirndls, along with Black Florest decor, dining and oompah music. Certainly all this is true of this picturesque mountain town wedged into a deep valley between Cascade peaks. Yet Leavenworth offers so much more. Those with an adventurous spirit will find it an ideal basecamp for outdoors adventures, and a sweet spot to return to for delicious meals and comfortable, even luxurious, lodging, after a day spent in the out of doors.

A Recreational Mecca

Whitewater rafting in Leavenworth

Surrounded by the beauty of Cascade Range peaks and the seemingly endless carpet of the Wenatchee National Forest, and with the enviable sunny days of the east side of the mountains, Leavenworth is a world-class recreational mecca. More than 700 miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails can be found here, as well as whitewater rafting. While most of the hiking is straight up (to amazing spectacles such as the famous Enchantments—well worth the effort if you’re in top shape), one of the best hiking spots is relatively flat and family friendly, with gorgeous views of rapids and small waterfalls: The Icicle Gorge Trail is a loop that parallels the Icicle River for 4 miles. Shaded by forest, it’s ideal for a hot day, but gorgeous for spring blossoms and fall colors, too.

While you dream of summertime hikes, there are a number of great early-spring outdoors options, including Nordic skiing on the Icicle River Trail, a 5-mile trail through woods and meadows along the Icicle River, or on the Leavenworth Golf Course Trail, with speedy hills and sweeping curves. Less than a half-hour north, the Plain Valley Nordic Ski Trails offers more than 60 miles of groomed trails, and five entire trail systems. If you plan a day of skiing, treat yourself and your family, after, to a nostalgic sleigh ride, complete with jingling sleigh bells and snuggly blankets, at Mountain Springs Lodge. April through October, the Zipline Park at Mountain Springs Lodge offers speedy thrills, and daredevils can meet their match at the new Bike Pump Park at Enchantment Park, with the only paved track on the West Coast.

Dining Choices

München Haus in Leavenworth

After a day spent in the fresh air, you can satisfy your hunger at a surprising range of restaurants for a town of its size. If you love schnitzel and goulash you’re in luck in Leavenworth. Mozart’s not only has delicious, hearty food, but it has a delightfully cozy ambiance, and München Haus, with its lively outdoor patio and German music to accompany brats and sauerkraut, is fun.) But if you’re looking for more-sophisticated fare, you’re in luck, too. Visconti’s, with continental fare and a well-curated wine list, offers Italian food in a fine-dining atmosphere. For a special occasion for those with sophisticated palates, a visit to Mana rivals any top-level city dining destination. With 3-hour, 8-course dinners, Mana is known for its inventively fashioned, hyper-local dishes that draw from nearby farms and vineyards.

Festivals and the arts

Festival in Leavenworth

At its core, downtown Leavenworth is a highly entertaining place for those of any adventure level to spend time. Its Front Street shops, filled with Bavarian knickknacks and outdoors gear, are fun to wander through for gifts and eye candy. Front Street Park, with its vintage gazebo, is the centerpiece of year-round festivals in this town known nationally for its remarkable slate of festivals. Check out Wine and Chocolates, Valentine’s Day weekend; Taste of Leavenworth, with local flavors, the first weekend in April; or the Autumn Leaf Festival, the fourth weekend of September.

The area is also haven for artists, and you can reap the benefit of their creativity at the summertime Icicle Creek Chamber Music Festival and Leavenworth Summer Theater.

In other words, whether you are rolling down rapids or hefting a tankard of beer to the lyrics “Roll Out the Barrel,” Leavenworth has got you covered.

—Written by Leslie Forsberg

Getting there

Leavenworth is about 120 miles east of Seattle and about 180 miles west of Spokane via U.S. Hwy. 2. The driving distances are slightly longer on routes following I-90 to Cle Elum (from the west, to highways 970 and 97 N.) or George (from the east, to highways 28 W. and 2 W.). Amtrak's Empire Builder (AAA member discounts available) serves Leavenworth's Icicle Station, about 1.5 miles northeast of downtown. Shuttle service between the station and area hotels is available through Leavenworth Shuttle. A variety of AAA Diamond rated hotels and inns are available. Call or visit your nearest AAA store for maps, guides and other resources including expert assistance from one of our expert Member Travel Counselors. Map it.