Home » 2013 Pacific Northwest

Leavenworth, WA

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 7:30pm by Lolo
350 miles and 7 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Lolo and Tom on route to Colchuk LakeLolo and Tom on route to Colchuk LakeAfter Astoria, it was pretty much a straight drive up I5 to Seattle and over to Microsoft Building 35, where we would pick Tommy up from work at 5:00 before heading out to Leavenworth in the Cascades for the weekend. The Microsoft Campus was huge and very impressive. There are more than 30,000 employees at this location alone. When he walked out of his office, I barely recognized him. He looked so professional and grownup. I wanted to cry.

I originally planned to take scenic Route 2 through the Cascades to get to Leavenworth, but the traffic on I405 North just to get to Route 2 was reportedly practically standing still, as it often is on Fridays after work. Instead we decided it was worth adding some extra miles to avoid traffic, so we headed a short distance south to get on I90 East, where we would then take Route 97 north into Leavenworth.

The drive was beautiful—and to think this wasn’t even considered the scenic route. By the time we got to the Pine Village KOA in Leavenworth it was dark and late. Thank goodness I had made reservations, because this place was hopping.

Viewpoint on Colchuk Lake HikeViewpoint on Colchuk Lake HikeThe next morning we arose to sunny skies and the promise of an outstanding hiking day. Tommy and I had each done research on hiking trails in the area, but we thought it would be a good idea to stop at the Forest Ranger Station right in town to gain some local knowledge. When we told the ranger we were looking for a physically challenging 6 to 9 mile hike with excellent views, she immediately suggested the 8.4 mile round trip hike to Colchuk Lake along Icicle Ridge.

Getting to the trailhead was a bit of an adventure in itself – 8.4 miles along Icicle Creek Road, left on Eightmile Road, and then another 3.8 miles on a washboard dirt road to the trailhead. We were far, however, from being the only ones in the parking lot for this very popular hike.

Final Approach to Colchuk LakeFinal Approach to Colchuk LakeThe trail began easily enough, tracing Mountaineer Creek through a cool, dark forest before transitioning into an open lodgepole pine forest. After about 1 ¾ miles, we crossed a log bridge over the tumbling waters of the Creek to what appeared to be a giant boulder field with no trail in sight. However, the trail did go on and much more steeply now as we climbed up, around, and over this boulder field and around granite ledges before being getting our first view of the beautiful, snow-covered Enchantment peaks.

At about 2 ½ miles we came to a trail junction, and went left towards Colchuk Lake, continuing our steep ascent through more boulder fields and forests, crisscrossing the creek several times. I was getting a bit tired by now, but was spurred on by Tommy’s enthusiasm and the increasingly tremendous views of the surrounding peaks and valley below.

Lolo and Tom at Colchuck LakeLolo and Tom at Colchuck LakeFinally, we caught our first glimpse of the lake through the trees and descended the short 0.1 mile spur trail down to a rocky ledge above what had to be one of the most beautiful alpine lakes I have ever seen. Its glacial waters were the bluest of blues, and also probably the coldest of colds, as its name implies—“Colchuk” is Chinook for “cold water.” It was easy to see why this lake is considered to be one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in all of Washington, which is saying quite a lot.

Equally stunning is the lake’s surroundings. Along the northern shore, the Colchuk Glacier sits nestled between a pair of rocky spires, known as Dragontail and Colchuk peaks, gradually feeding this lake with its frigid ice melt.

We ate lunch out on the ledge enjoying the views, before retracing out steps through forests, across creeks, and over boulders back to the parking lot.

Tom and Lolo Enjoying Munchen Haus BeersTom and Lolo Enjoying Munchen Haus BeersWhat I was really looking forward to after the hike was spending time in the town of Leavenworth itself, which we had gotten a brief glimpse on our drive to the hike. The town was adorable. It was as if a Bavarian Village had been lifted out of the Alps and transported to the Cascades. Everything about the town was German, even down to the fonts on every building in town. We were especially amused by the giant Bavarian “M” rising above a McDonalds. There were nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and beer gardens as far as the eye could see. Ahhh…the beer gardens. The perfect place to relax after a long hike in the Alps—or Cascades I mean.

For all our traveling experiences, I am embarrassed to say that I have never been to Europe. So far I have pretended to be in France when visiting Quebec City, and now, as far as I was concerned, I was in Bavaria and it was Octoberfest. Bring on the oompah band.

Visconti's at DuskVisconti's at DuskWe found the perfect spot to enhance our Bavarian experience—the Munchen Haus Bavarian Grill and Beer Garden, where we sat on the outdoor patio overlooking the mountains. Herb and Tom ordered the largest mugs of beer I have ever seen in my life, while I ordered a more respectable mug. After we were done with them, we were even more convinced that we were in the Alps. It was wonderful—a definite trip highlight. I even bought a mug to keep in the RV. To this day, I smile every time I look at it.

After a brief stop at the campground to shower, we headed back to town to find a place to eat. I was still in full Bavarian mode—in fact, if I had a dirndl I would have worn it—so I was pushing for a place with live accordion music. Herb and Tom, however, were not interested in seeing someone in lederhosen playing oompah music. They won and we found ourselves back at the Munchen Haus outdoor patio, this time to try some of their mouthwatering sausages.

Peshastin Pinnacles State ParkPeshastin Pinnacles State ParkAfter dinner, we strolled around the town and were drawn to the sound of live music (not of the accordion variety) coming from the patio of the Leavenworth Sausage Garden. I had definitely had enough beer, so I got a coffee, and Herb and Tom got a token beer as we sat and listened to the music for awhile. I was practically glowing. It had been such an absolutely incredible day.

The next morning, before heading back to Seattle, we drove east on Route 2 for about 4 miles to Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, a park that is primarily a rock climbing destination. Although we had no time or intention of climbing that day, we thought it would be good to check out for the future, as Herb and the boys are very avid rock climbers.

Hiking at Peshastin Pinnacles State ParkHiking at Peshastin Pinnacles State ParkThe park was beautiful, with 34 acres of sandstone slabs and spires that could be climbed, some of them rising as high as 200 feet. We hiked for a bit along the trails at the base of the pinnacles, admiring the views of the surrounding fruit orchards below and the Enchantment Mountain Range in the distance.

Our visit to Leavenworth had been amazing, and it is definitely a place we will return to on our future visits to the Pacific Northwest. It has so much of what we look for in a destination – beautiful scenery, great hikes, rock climbing, and of course the sausage and beer gardens.


Leavenworth StorefrontsLeavenworth StorefrontsLeavenworth is a lovely Bavarian-themed village located along scenic Route 2, about 2 ½ hours east of Seattle.

Back in the 60s when this town was facing economic difficulties, someone got the idea of taking advantage of its beautiful mountain setting and transforming it into an imitation of a Bavarian Village in the Alps. Everything about the town is German. Nearly every commercial building has alpine architecture with their names displayed in Bavarian fonts. There are Bavarian souvenir shops where one can buy cuckoo clocks, Hummel figurines, and nutcrackers, as well as numerous Bavarian sausage and beer gardens.

And those beautiful mountains are not just for gazing at over a beer. The nearby Alpine Lakes Wilderness has some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the state to hike and backpack through.

Leavenworth did it right and today it has become one of Washington State’s most popular tourist destinations.

Leavenworth location map in "high definition"

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