Beautiful trees and small houses on a background of mountains. Leavenworth Area, Central Cascades Region, USA
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Leavenworth: The Bavarian Village in Washington State


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Located in the heart of Washington state at the base of the Cascade Mountains lies the picturesque Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Although known for its' German architecture, it's essential to acknowledge that these are the beloved ancestral lands of the Yakima, Chinook, and Wenatchi nations that call this area home.

My favorite thing about Leavenworth is the location. If you're an avid nature lover like myself, Leavenworth is an absolute gem for outdoor recreation. I return to Leavenworth any chance I get, and hands down, my most favored way to get there is by driving the scenic Cascade Loop Highway into town.

Driving to Leavenworth, Washington

Rugged snow-capped peaks contrast with green evergreen trees along Highway 20 through the North Cascades in Washington State.

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The city of Leavenworth is just a two-hour drive from Seattle. The loop takes you directly through the North Cascade Mountain range, boasting jaw-dropping views along the entire route.

You will immerse yourself in endless mountain peaks, waterfalls, rich valleys, and deep lakes. The drive-in only adds to the magic that is the equally quaint and charming village of Leavenworth.

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Once you begin nearing town, find yourself winding along the beautiful Wenatchee River. I highly recommend pulling over at this point and jumping in for a refreshing dip in these cold, crystal-clear waters to jump-start your getaway.

Outdoor Lovers Rejoice

Aerial view of Leavenworth, Washington at twilight

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From here, you have access to some of the best hiking in the state and kayaking, boating, fishing, white-water rafting, skiing, snowshoeing, foraging, and mountain biking. Depending on the season you visit, you can explore whichever activity suits your fancy.

Wintertime brings all the nordic fun - with skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, and more at Ski Hill. In the summer, you'll find hundreds of miles of trails that offer incredible views, taking you through the forest, spiraling up mountain passes, and scrolling around emerald alpine lakes. In this little mountain town, summertime is my preferred time of year to visit. The snow begins melting, and the hillsides become sprinkled with wildflowers.

Best Hikes in Leavenworth

Colchuk Lake Trail, Stuart Lake Trail Signs, the Enchantment Lakes Trail in Leavenworth Washington USA.

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Leavenworth is the gateway to many must-do hikes and home to some of my most memorable experiences walking for miles among the natural world. I'll never forget my emotions when I first arrived at Colchuck Lake - a feeling of warmth and wonder that has since stuck with me even five years later.

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After many miles of switchbacks, through scree, and past mountain goats, you are delivered to a bright aquamarine lake nestled below towering peaks on the opposite end of the lake. The views make you feel as though you've stepped into a painting.

Sunset at Colchuck Lake in the Enchantments in Leavenworth, Washington, United States

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From here, you can continue to The Enchantments, so long as you've acquired a backpacking permit beforehand. If you're lucky enough to get a license, an alpine wonderland of granite peaks and pristine lakes await you. If not, there are many other hikes in the area like Icicle Ridge and Icicle Gorge. Both are located in the Icicle Creek area, making them easily accessible to campgrounds nearby or the village.

Leavenworth can get pretty busy on the weekends. If you're like me and desire to escape the crowds, I opt for solitude by utilizing the dispersed camping in the area. Some good National Forest dispersed camping sites are Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Dispersed Camping on Derby Rd NF7400 and Chumastick Mountain.

If you're looking for campgrounds offering basic amenities, I recommend checking out Johnny Creek Campground and Rock Island Campground. Both are located on Icicle Creek, and both are close to a wide array of trails for hiking and biking. Suppose you're a forager like me or are interested in learning more about native plants and fungi in the area. In that case, I recommend getting a guidebook on Pacific Northwest edible plants and mushrooms.

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There is nothing like an afternoon stroll around the campground forest looking out for earth-provided delicacies. You'd be amazed at what you may find, and this is an excellent way to get more connected to the land you are on (wow-ing you're campmates isn't bad either).

RELATED: The 7 Best Winter Hiking Boots for Men, Women, & Kids

Post-Hike Icicle Creek Floats

Icicle creek running swiftly with Spring runoff near Leavenworth, Washington

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The best after-hike activity for visitors and locals is taking a float down the refreshing Icicle Creek. I even brought my dog with me, and we had such a blast! There are many access points along the way with the option to make a day out of it or simply an hour or two.

Nothing beats the feeling of taking your boots off after a long day of hiking, followed by a relaxing tube float under the summer sun. Icicle Creek is also perfect for paddleboarding and white water rafting if you feel extra adventurous.

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Downtown Leavenworth

Enjoy the view of downtown Leavenworth in Washington State.

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Thirsty after all that adventuring? If you too like to reward yourself with a nice brew or wine after a long hike, you've come to the right place. The Leavenworth Valley has the perfect climate for giving grapes unique depth and complexity, a rare find in young wine regions!

You'll discover dozens of wineries in the area, such as Icicle Ridge Winery, Silvara Vineyards, and Eagle Creek Winery. Enjoy the beautiful vineyard landscapes with a winery tour, or pour yourself a glass at a tasting room in town.

Or perhaps you're feeling up for a famous German boot-sized beer and a giant pretzel while you watch the sun fall behind the mountains on an outdoor patio? If so, I highly recommend checking out Rhein Haus for an after-hike cooldown. This is one of my go-to places. Whether it's in the heat of the summer or surrounded by snow in the winter, the views and patio vibes can't be beaten.

Some other breweries worth mentioning are Blewett Brewing, Icicle Brewing, and Doghaus Brewing - you guessed it, super dog-friendly! Bring your pup to socialize with other dogs while sipping a beer. No matter your reason for visiting this captivating little town in Leavenworth, there will be adventure around every corner.

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Wynn?" Weddell is a proud member of the Ihanktonwan (Yankton Sioux) nation who lived in the Pacific Northwest. She is on the team at Diversify Vanlife, a platform dedicated to amplifying BIPOC voices in outdoor spaces and advocating for environmental consciousness within the nomadic community. Instagram: @rainbowmountain_

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