Leavenworth, Washington is variously known as “The Alps of the United States,” “The Bavarian Village,” and “The Heart of the Northern Cascades.” But I have the privilege of calling it home. Not because I live there, but because my mother does.
Situated on the southeast side of the Northern Cascades, Leavenworth is modeled after a Bavarian village. Leavenworth charms visitors with year-round outdoor and indoor activities to satisfy every stein-drinking, wine-loving, sausage-eating climber, mountain biker, hiker, rafter, or shopper…all the people, all the time.
Although I’ve visited multiple times across all seasons, here I’ll share a 72-hour “100 percent experiences” itinerary for the spring season – most of which occur outside and incur little cost.
Be warned: Leavenworth is a gateway drug to a life-long addiction to easily accessible and stunning hikes. A backpacker’s haven, just a few miles outside of town, you’ll find the Enchantments living up to their name as a nationally recognized alpine paradise made up of glaciers, tranquil lakes, stunning peaks – complete with wise-looking mountain goats. Staying the night requires a permit but don’t worry, you can still enjoy the beauty with some booty-burning day trips.
On this particular trip, I invited two of my favorite alpine babes, Emily, coach and owner of Love Life Be Fit, and her sister Amy. We stayed with my family and chose day hikes to cover as much ground as possible while also experiencing the nightlife in town.
Our recommendations are as follows:
Day 1: Sauer’s Mountain and Icicle Ridge Winery
Length: 6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Highest Point: 3,116 feet
The best part of Sauer’s Mountain hike is its proximity to Icicle Ridge Winery. If you are looking for a hike that is close to town and will give you adequate time to drink, rest and be merry afterwards, this hike is for you!
Sauer’s Mountain actually starts on private land and ascends into National Forest land. In May, you can expect a myriad of colorful wildflowers as well as stunning views of the Wenatchee River, Icicle Ridge, Stuart Mountain and the Enchantments. When you reach the summit, continue on the trail to find a perfect spot to relieve your snack attack before returning to the trailhead.
100 Percent Tip: Make sure to bring hiking poles. The trail is very steep and slippery on the return.
Icicle Ridge Winery
Located on the left-hand side as you journey back to Highway 2, you can’t miss Icicle Ridge Winery. Stop for a bottle of wine, cheese plates and al fresco dining on the wraparound deck overlooking a small pond. We enjoyed a couple bottles as we rested our legs and filled our glasses.
Evening Dining Recommendation: South serves up fresh recipes from Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Make sure to order the grilled street corn.
Day 2: The Enchantments: Colchuck Lake and München Haus
Length: 8 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,280 feet
Highest Point: 5,580 feet
This hike in one word? Superlative. This was the second time I hiked Colchuck Lake and even though I knew what to expect coming over the last hill, I still got chills when I caught first sight of the aquamarine lake glistening between the trees. You’ll want to start your day early to allow for plenty of time to cash in the reward that lies past the trees when you reach the top. This hike is difficult but manageable for most hiking levels. We spent the afternoon eating lunch and being awe struck. Trail details can be found at Washington Trail Association. Pictures more accurately communicate the beauty of this magical hike.
München Haus ‘All bratwurst are not created equal’
Not all bratwursts are created equal. There is no shortage of sausage-dealing eateries in Leavenworth, but one stands out among the rest – trust me I have tried them all. München Haus is the stairway to vegetarian sausage heaven. Yes, they have plenty of meat options too, ranging from the Dirtyface Beer Wurst to Curt’s Currywurst.
Not only are the sausages out of this world, they are accompanied by a mustard bar that is second to none and topnotch sauerkraut. München Haus woos guests with open air year-round courtyard seating, a beer garden and live music on the weekends. Check the Leavenworth event calendar for a complete live music listing.
To continue your 100 Percent Day, we recommend visiting München Haus after a full day of hiking for a lively scene plus equally cheap and delicious eats.
After dinner, head to Icicle Brewing Company for a nightcap and some more live music. If you still have energy and are looking for a dance venue, The Loft has recently been renovated and sets out to drop the hippest beats a small town has to offer. You can expect to see bachelor/bachelorette parties carving up the dance floor. If this has you wanting more, check out Ducks and Drakes which has dancing to none other than hip hop karaoke – it’s sure to be a solid close to any evening.
Day 3: Eightmile Lake and Journey Home
Length: 6.6 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
Highest Point: 4,650 feet
I chose this Alpine Lakes Wilderness hike on the last day because its elevation gain is manageable to complete before we embarked on our five-hour drive back to Portland.
Don’t let the casual climb fool you, the reward at the top of this hike is almost as breathtaking as Colchuck and not as crowded. Note, there is a small marsh lake in the middle of the hike – this is NOT your final destination; continue on the trail another half-mile until you reach the actual lake. You will know when you get there (see pics below). If you have a map, you can locate Eightmile Mountain. On the hike you should also be able to spot Dragontail Peak, Colchuck Peak and Colchuck Glacier.
100 Percent Tip: Wear or bring your bathing suit. The crystal clear water on a hot day will make you glad you did.
After the hike, we headed back to Leavenworth to sneak in one more bratwurst from München Haus and some gelato before making the journey home to Portland.
In need of further recommendations in Leavenworth or Alpine Lakes Wilderness hiking? Email firstname.lastname@example.org