Tucked into the North Cascades in Chelan County is an unparalleled outdoor playground: Leavenworth. That’s right—the town best known for relentless Bavarian kitsch is actually a portal to a world of epic natural beauty, with some of the Northwest’s most venerated hiking trails, thrilling whitewater rafting, best-in-class birding and a zip line that will leave you breathless. This ain’t your grandma’s Leavenworth.
Declare a polka-free zone at your home base at Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, or try the affordable, well-appointed fireplace suites at the Icicle Village Resort. Either way, you’re at the gateway to a network of stunningly beautiful mountain trails, including one that leads to the trek through The Enchantments, a revered, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful system of lakes, tarns and ridges in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
To hike The Enchantments, you need to win a lottery for an overnight camping permit (or do the grueling 18 miles in a single day), but you can experience entry-level Enchantments—no permit needed—by making the 8-mile round-trip to one of the most glorious mountain lakes in the state, Colchuck Lake. Or take a chill stroll along the Icicle Gorge Nature Loop; most of the 4-mile ramble is level, with lovely views. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for all of these hikes.
Water babies will thrill to the Class III river rafting on the Wenatchee River (which runs by Leavenworth), tubing or splashing at the swimming beach at Blackbird Island just behind town. Leavenworth is a birder’s paradise, and the Bird Fest in May features spotting by boat and on foot, and even a shivery after-dark owl prowl. Cap it off by flying like a bird down the zip line at Mountain Springs Lodge.
Pass on the brats und bier and reward yourself with a green enchilada on the sweet back patio at South, or try the inspired Mana Restaurant for locally sourced cuisine with organic and foraged tendencies.
Insider tip: Pick up any outdoorsy gear you may require—from hiking pants to bike rentals, maps, flip-flops and more—at Der Sportsmann (837 Front St.; dersportsmann.com).
Sleeping Lady Resort, from $355 sleepinglady.com
Icicle Village Resort, from $159 iciclevillage.com
Mana Restaurant manamountain.com
Colchuck Lake, (no permit required) wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/colchuck-lake
River rafting Visit leavenworth.org/experience for a list of outfitters
Bird Fest, May 18–21 leavenworthspringbirdfest.org
Zip line at Mountain Springs Lodge mtsprings.com