Go From Bavarian Kitsch to Outdoor Haven in a Visit to Leavenworth
Choose your adventure for this mountain getaway
By Leslie Kelly April 26, 2018
Visitors to Leavenworth still pack shops and restaurants in the distinctive downtown, which, in the 1960s, morphed into an Alps-style experience, saving the languishing community from becoming a ghost town. But in recent years, the majestic wilderness areas surrounding Leavenworth have become a beloved destination for world-class rock climbers, river rafters, hikers and stand-up paddleboarders, too. It also draws wine lovers and food fans. Here’s how to make the most of the three distinctive sides of this beautiful spot in the Cascade Mountains.
Drive up scenic Icicle Road, and look skyward. You’re likely to see the delicate dance of rope-hauling climbers getting their vertical fix on massive granite formations, including along a famous route called Outer Space, just 4 miles up the road, near the Snow Lakes parking lot. If you feel more comfortable keeping those hiking boots on solid ground, the 8-mile round-trip to Colchuck Lake offers spectacular beauty at every turn. If you need gear or guidance, you’ll find it at Leavenworth Mountain Sports.
Spend the night with like-minded outdoorsy types at the new Loge Leavenworth which offers hostel-like accommodations along with private cabins overlooking the Wenatchee River. Or hit up the first-come, first-served sites in U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, such as the scenic Johnny Creek Campground along Icicle Creek. (They’re packed on weekends.)
Enjoy outdoor dining at Mana (Photographs by Dzhan Wiley Photography); Patterson Cellars is one of the wineries represented in The Wine Cellar tasting room (Photo by Patterson Cellars); the pools at the new high-end Posthotel focus on wellness (Photo by Posthotel); and a locally sourced dish from Mana
Next day, get your liquid rush at Osprey Rafting Company, which has been giving thrill seekers their money’s worth on Wenatchee River rafting trips for decades. When the rapids calm down after the spring runoff, staff will also help you get onto a stand-up paddleboard for a major core-strengthening workout. Or, take the super-chill DIY approach and bring your floatie for a cruise down a lazy stretch of Icicle Creek, putting in near the fish hatchery and hopping out about 3 miles downriver at Boyce’s Landing. You won’t be alone; this popular pastime is on everyone’s summer to-do list. At times, it feels like a rowdy party with flotillas dragging coolers of cold ones. Pass a frosty Rainier, please!
You’ll want to devour a German-style sausage at München Haus and the crispy schnitzel at Mozart’s, but the culinary landscape in the restaurant-dense downtown goes in some surprisingly global directions. (A word of advice: Make reservations at all of these spots if possible, especially on weekends.)
Sulla Vita’s wood-fired flatbreads are deeply delicious, especially when eaten on the popular patio made just for people watching. South-of-the-border staples like tacos and enchiladas get an upscale spin at South, while newcomer Stein offers a staggering number of imports and domestic brews on state-of-the-art taps, along with an eclectic menu that includes rotisserie chicken tacos. Former Seattleites Amber Tande and Colin Patterson (they ran Sutra for nearly 10 years) are now offering a menu with locally sourced ingredients at Mana. (They also occasionally offer yoga retreats at nearby Sleeping Lady Resort.)
Sunday suppers here feel like special-occasion dining. A handful of winery tasting rooms are within an easy walking distance downtown, but the biggest splash belongs to The Wine Cellar, which opened last fall. The subterranean spot is home to stylish satellite tasting rooms for Basel Cellars, Sigillo Cellars, Isenhower Cellars, Patterson Cellars, Napeequa Vintners and Obelisco Estate. Some offer discounted happy hour glass pours. Hit one or sip at all six. You can also venture out of town to sip at several nearby producers, including Icicle Ridge Winery, which features live music a couple of nights a week at its Peshastin tasting room during July and August.
Take a ride on the Wenatchee River with the Osprey Rafting Company (Photograph by Osprey Rafting Company); Leavenworth’s Bavarian architecture stands out against a mountain backdrop.
For decades, Sleeping Lady Resort, about 3 miles from downtown, owned the high-end accommodations crowd by offering comfy, eco-friendly cabins on forested grounds. Now, there’s another option for pleasure seekers. The 55-room Posthotel, just a block off Leavenworth’s main street, was many years in the making. The owners were inspired by travels through wellness centers in the Alps, and there’s a laser-sharp focus on creating a world-class spa experience. The exclusive, castle-like structure keeps its front doors secure, so guests can feel relaxed enough to wander around in their plush bathrobes. Just off the indoor pool, steam room, sauna, cold plunge and spa treatment areas, there’s a space for napping. Rooms feature custom marble tubs, California king beds and a sitting area with a fireplace. Much of the detailed ironwork throughout was designed and forged by owner Rob Johnson at his workshop right in Leavenworth. (It’s a true family effort, as his daughter, Robin, took charge of this incredible project from start to finish.) The price of the room includes breakfast, lunch and evening desserts, all featuring lots of local ingredients. Reservations are available only on Friday and Saturday nights through May.
Getting there: Leavenworth is about 120 miles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Seattle.
Sun meter: On average, Leavenworth gets 202 sunny days annually.
Eat and drink
Mana, 1033 Commercial St.; 509.548.1662
Mozart’s, 829 Front St.; 509.548.0600
München Haus, 709 Front St.; 509.548.1158
South, 913 Front St.; 509.888.4328
Stein, 801 Front St.; 509.888.0220
Sulla Vita, 931 Front St.; 509.888.3440
The Wine Cellar, 217 Ninth St.; 509.888.5629
Loge Leavenworth, 11798 U.S. Highway 2; 509.690.4106. Hostel beds, $45–$55; cabins, $135–$185.
Posthotel, 309 Eighth St.; 509.548.7678. From $355.
Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, 7375 Icicle Road; 800.574.2123. From $235.