Located 188 kilometers or 117 miles east of Seattle, Leavenworth is a charming village in the Cascade Mountains at the center of Washington State. With its Bavarian-themed architecture, it feels like you’ve been transported to Germany. Add to that the breathtaking scenery as the backdrop, consisting of majestic mountains, glacial lakes and rivers, and dozens of wineries. It is hard to not fall in love with this idyllic setting. Leavenworth is a popular weekend getaway for Seattlites and is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Washington State. If you are not convinced yet, here are 5 good reasons why you should consider visiting Leavenworth!
Check out our video about Leavenworth to see what it’s like there
- 1. Leavenworth is THE Bavarian village in Washington
- 2. Leavenworth is the Northwest’s hottest wine region
- 3. Leavenworth is an All-Year-Round Destination
- 4. Leavenworth is an outdoor heaven
- 5. Leavenworth offers spectacular mountain scenery
1. Leavenworth is THE Bavarian village in Washington
Leavenworth has an unforgettable European-style atmosphere that is accentuated by German celebrations and festivals such as Maifest, the Autumn Leaf Festival, and of course Oktoberfest. The Alpine-style architecture, restaurants serving German beer, ‘Bratwurst’ and ‘Pretzels’, provide Leavenworth’s guests with a uniquely German experience. Our favorite places to explore the German cuisine in town include the “Rhein Haus” for its pretzels and German Beer, and the “München Haus” for its bratwurst. They’re located across the street from each other on Front Street in the town center.
However, this town wasn’t always called “the German town in Washington”. About a century ago, this little town was a thriving logging community connected by the railroad. When the railroad was forced to re-route its track due to avalanches and other natural disasters, the village quickly started to lose steam. To battle economic deprivation, visionaries who lived in the town came up with a brilliant idea: adopt the Bavarian style to draw tourism to the area. And guess what? …It worked! Soon after the architecture, building signs and street names began to imitate the German-style, the community started to revive and more visitors started flooding in. Today, the town is largely dependent on tourism while continually growing and expanding its possibilities! Because of the style of the buildings you have to walk downtown. Leavenworth is fairly small, but it’s so picturesque that you can easily spend a few hours roaming around. Most of the action takes place in Front Street, which is lined with souvenir shops, bars, wine testing rooms, and restaurants. You can also find two museums here: the Nutcracker museum and the Greater Leavenworth Museum. Here, you can learn about the community’s unique history in more detail.
Leavenworth main street
2. Leavenworth is the Northwest’s hottest wine region
The Leavenworth Valley Wine Country has an upcoming, vibrant wine scene. The mild and dry climate gives the wines a unique depth and complexity that is rarely found in young wine regions. Home to dozens of wineries hosting wine tasting rooms, Leavenworth is becoming an attractive destination to wine aficionados who want to taste the fruits and flavors of the region. You can take a winery tour or just enjoy the dramatic and beautiful vineyard landscapes around! Our favorite winery is the Icicle Ridge Winery, which has two tasting rooms in Leavenworth itself. But for a more idyllic setting, it’s also possible to taste wine at their log home tasting room in Peshastin.
Icicle Ridge Winery
3. Leavenworth is an All-Year-Round Destination
With four distinct seasons being suitable for different outdoor activities and festivities, Leavenworth receives tourists all-year-round.
Leavenworth in winter
During the winter and early spring season there is inevitable snow, which is ideal for various winter sports activities in the area. Visitors can ski or snowboard in the nearby Steven’s Pass area, or simply go snowshoeing and engage in other snowy activities around Leavenworth itself. Lake Wenatchee even has cross-country skiing in the winter months. There are also the winter’s incredibly popular Christmas-lighting ceremonies, that turn Leavenworth into an undeniably magical winter town.
Leavenworth in winter
Leavenworth in spring
When the snow finally starts to melt around late April or early May, blankets of wildflowers start to cover the mountainsides. This makes spring an enjoyable time for hiking and mountain biking. However, some areas are not snow-free until June! For example, the well-known Enchantments trail is only accessible from mid-June. We hiked up to Colchuck Lake at the end of May and the lake was still partly frozen!
Spring season with wildflowers – Lake Chelan
Leavenworth in summer
That being said, the summer in Leavenworth is the perfect time to go camping and do multiple-day hiking in the surrounding mountains. A must-do hike is the Icicle Ridge Trail. It takes roughly 90 minutes to reach the beautiful lookout point, with views of the town and surrounding peaks. The trail is about 6 miles total and is mainly switchbacks until you reach the ridge. Be aware that this trail gets very busy during the weekend.
The Icicle Ridge Hike view from the ridge
The endless sunshine and high temperature also encourage paddle boarding or tubing in the calm waters of Icicle Creek, or white-water rafting for the adventurous souls. You can also go river tubing and rafting at Leavenworth’s waterfront park. If you’re not a water fan you can also explore the waterfront by foot. There are many trails that wind through the park, offering beautiful vistas of both the river and the mountains.
Leavenworth in fall
When the fall finally comes around, the leaves become colorful, the air crisp, and the famous Oktoberfest brings plenty of beer and joy! Oktoberfest is usually celebrated across 3 weekends in October. With four entertainment venues, live music, traditional food, and delicious beer, this is a highlight in Washington State and the West Coast!
4. Leavenworth is an outdoor heaven
Located in the midst of the Cascade Mountain Range, Leavenworth is a jewel for outdoor recreation. The area provides easy access to outstanding skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, boating, fishing, white-water rafting, and mountain biking opportunities. Adventure-seekers are especially attracted to the surrounding wild glacial waters, three sublime ski passes, and the hundreds of miles of (often challenging) hiking and biking trails that weave through the forest, mountains, and pass gorgeous emerald lakes. One of our favorite things to do around Leavenworth is watching the sunset from the Peshastin Pinnacles. This small park is about a 15 minute drive from Leavenworth. A grouping of tooth-like sandstone rocks stand tall here against the vineyards and golden hills of the Wenatchee Valley. You can hike the switchback trails to the top, where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and wine country around. During sunset, you can see the valley turn a beautiful golden color.
Pechastin Pinnacles Hike
The Enchantments is probably the most popular hike in the area. This hike is extremely tough if done in a day as it is more than 20 miles end-to-end with an elevation change of 11,000 feet. However, getting to these awe-inspiring alpine lakes is absolutely worth it. You can also break up your journey by camping, but must get lucky in the lottery system if you want to stay overnight in the Enchantments area. We hiked the Enchantments last summer and it took us over 15 hours to complete as a day hike. Check out our day hiking video below for more information so you can hike the Enchantments with confidence and good preparation. You can also do the Colchuck day hike. Colchuck is known as the most beautiful lake near Leavenworth, if not in all of Washington State. The Colchuck Lake is also part of the Enchantments. The hike is about 8 miles round trip with 2280 feet of elevation gain, and takes between 4.5 to 6 hours total. And while the final ascent to the lake is steep and rough in places, the majority of the trail is moderate and just spectacular.
Breathtaking Colchuck Lake
5. Leavenworth offers spectacular mountain scenery
It cannot be emphasized enough how spectacular Leavenworth’s surrounding scenery is. Driving to and around Leavenworth is a wonderful experience. The scenic Cascades Loop is a perfect opportunity to explore the natural wonders by car. The roads take you through the North Cascade Mountains along hundreds of waterfalls, the rugged Wenatchee river, miles of vineyards, peaceful river valleys, and pristine lakes. Make sure to stop at Lake Chelan, a gorgeous emerald lake outside of Leavenworth. The town itself is cute and the waters are inviting for boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking. The mountain scenery and vineyards around it make for beautiful views.
Lake Wenatchee is about 30 minutes away from Leavenworth and is also a fun place to explore. During the winter, you can go cross-country skiing around the lake. In summertime, it’s a great place to go for a swim or relax at the beach. It also makes for a great stop on your way in from Seattle before you enter Leavenworth or on your way out of town at the end of your trip.