Known colloquially as Washington’s ‘German town,’ Leavenworth has much more to offer than bratwurst and beer gardens. There is an incredible range of things to do in Leavenworth, far beyond the wooden balconies and tiered roofs that this small town is so well known for. 

Many of these Leavenworth things to do on this list, are, I admit, outdoors. But there’s a very good reason for that.

Perched on the banks of the Wenatchee river and surrounded by mountains, Leavenworth naturally exudes outdoor activities from every valley. The town is also an ideal jumping off point for exploring the greater North Cascades area.

JR sat admiring the view from the Ski hill hike, overlooking the town of Leavenworth, surrounded by mountains

Blooming flowers next to a patio in downtown Leavenworth

Welcome to Leavenworth Bavarian themed sign

Bavarian architecture next to park in Leavenworth, Washington

So many things to do in Leavenworth, Washington

Whether your ideal of summer fun involves hiking on an alpine ridge, completing a tricky bouldering problem, floating down the river or simply spending a sunny afternoon on the patio with a cool drink in hand, Leavenworth has got you covered.

So, even if you only initially come to see Washington’s famous German town, be warned that this town may keep you a busy longer than planned. We were certainly surprised on our June visit and, as such, are planning a trip back to the area ASAP!

This post includes some affiliate links. If you click one of these links and then make a qualifying purchase, I may receive a small commission of the sale at no extra cost to you. 

Hiking

Whether you’ve got a full day or just an hour spare, Leavenworth has a wealth of hiking opportunities at town level and also in the surrounding peaks and valleys.

An ideal post dinner amble, we enjoyed exploring the trio of waterfront parks just south of downtown. Blackbird Island is particularly lovely, with cottonwood and pine trees, interpretive signs and views across the Wenatchee river.

The Icicle Ridge trail was another of our Leavenworth hiking highlights. This scenic switchback trail ascends (sometimes steeply) to a lookout over the town. Though exposed and a workout at times, the reward of this trail makes the effort absolutely worth it. Bring a hat and some sunscreen!

JR looking out onto the views of Leavenworth from the Icicle Ridge trail
Hiking the Icicle Ridge trail, Leavenworth
Tumwater canyon and river as seen from the Pipeline hike, one of the best things to do in Leavenworth in summer
Hiking the Old Tumwater Pipeline Trail, just outside of Leavenworth

Backpacking

The Enchantments trail is the best known backpacking route near Leavenworth and it is easy to see why. Soaring peaks, alpine meadows, pretty lakes and endless views are plentiful throughout the 18 mile route. 

The first thing to know, however, about this Leavenworth backpacking trail is that only 24 people are allowed to camp overnight in the Enchantments core area during the main hiking season.

16 spots allocated in an advanced lottery system (opening in mid-February each year) and the remaining eight are distributed in a daily lottery at the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office in Leavenworth. In 2018, just over 17,000 advance applications were submitted for the 708 available permits. 

Can’t get a permit? If you’re a strong hiker, it is possible to still complete the Enchantments trail as a thru-hike. Plan on hiking for at least 11 hours. An Enchantments thru-hike requires two cars or use of the Enchantments shuttle service

An alternative idea is to consider another Leavenworth backpacking destination such as Snow Lakes, Lake Stuart, Minotaur Lake, Lake August, Lake Caroline and Eightmile Lake. The competition is lower for permits for these destinations – check the 2018 statistics here

Bright glacial lake surrounded by cliffs and larch trees, in the Enchantments
Hiking the Enchantments

Climbing

Leavenworth is surrounded by seemingly endless high quality granite, perfect to climb. We took a tour with Leavenworth’s Northwest Mountain School and I was especially amazed at how many climbing routes are located so close to town.

With the help of our guide Olivia, we tried a multi-pitch route for the first time. The access was incredibly convenient (just off Highway 2) and the climbing itself was stellar. The approach was a little gnarly but the climbing options in Leavenworth are so numerous, that you can simply choose another nearby crag that suits.

If you’re looking to try climbing for the first time or simply need an orientation to Leavenworth’s climbing, I’d highly recommend the Northwest Mountain School team. They offer anchor, lead, rescue and crack climbing courses as well as mountaineering expeditions. 

For a complete guide to 1700+ Leavenworth climbing routes, check out the 4th edition of Leavenworth Rock. Mountain Project is another excellent resource. 

Gemma and JR scaling a granite cliff - climbing is one of the best things to do in Leavenworth, Washington
Climbing in Tumwater Canyon – photo by Olivia Race, Northwest Mountain School
Gemma and JR sat on rock in the middle of climbing, Leavenworth
Photo by Olivia Race, Northwest Mountain School

Bouldering

Deserving of its own category here, the bouldering scene in Leavenworth is huge. I had always known Leavenworth for climbing, but it is actually bouldering that has the most attention in Leavenworth right now.

Icicle Creek is the hotspot, with dozens of bouldering areas easily (and quickly) accessible from the main road. There are multiple trailheads, which makes having a local bouldering guide imperative to finding where to go. The variety and location of routes means that there’s usually more than enough boulders to go around, even on weekends. 

There are also bouldering opportunities in nearby Tumwater Canyon. I’d recommend getting a copy of Leavenworth Bouldering in advance, or picking one up at the Der Sportsmann outdoor store in town before heading out. 

Rafting

The Wenatchee River is the most popular rafting destination in Washington and I can totally see why. Our four hour rafting trip with Osprey Rafting was exciting and also relaxing at times, with scenic views of mountains, caves, orchards, eagles, pinnacles and more. 

Sat in the front of the boat, I had the best vantage point on the trip and also got very, very wet. It was my first experience rafting and I loved the thrill! When JR and I paddle, we usually avoid rapids and waves so it was unnatural (but also super fun) to actually aim for them.

Unlike other rafting companies in the area, Osprey has a private take-out point on the Wenatchee river. After a quick landing on shore, there’s a barbeque, changing rooms and campfire waiting.

Osprey offer a host of other rafting trips around Leavenworth, with seasonal conditions in mind. We went on the ‘Main Event’ tour, which included `15 miles of Class II and Class III whitewater. During high water, it is possible to raft local Class IV rapids Triple Shot and Tinley Falls. I can only imagine how wild that must be!

Rafting the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth with Osprey Rafting
White water rafting with Osprey on the Wenatchee River

Other fun things to do in Leavenworth

Need some more ideas of things to do in Leavenworth in summer? Keep on reading!

Tubing

Floating down the river in an inner tube has to be one of the most relaxing outdoor summer activities, ever. Tubing in Leavenworth is a special experience, with the Wenatchee offering a surprisingly leisurely as it passes town and carves into the valley beyond. 

There are a few different outfitters offering tube rentals, shuttle services and other Leavenworth tubing accessories. Osprey Rafting offers an exciting adventure tubing experience that includes a couple of Class II waves. 

It is a good idea to book shuttles and tube rentals in advance, especially on sunny weekends!

Rippling Wenatchee River with mountain scenery surrounding
The Wenatchee River

Ziplining

Fly through the air at Leavenworth Ziplines, located a short drive north of town in the community of Plain. Choose between 5 and 9 lines, with the longer trip including a suspension bridge. Ziplining trips happen in Leavenworth rain or shine, so this is a great option for those occasional days when the summer weather is a little disappointing! 

Wine tasting

For a town so relatively small, Leavenworth has a surprising amount of wine tasting rooms. There are more than a dozen clustered around Front Street. Try one, try a couple or head out to one of the local wineries to taste amongst the vineyards.

We tried a trio of wines at Icicle Ridge Winery’s main downtown tasting room, yet the winery is less than five miles away in Peshastin.

Three glasses of wine in focus in front of Leavenworth Bavarian buildings
Wine tasting at Icicle Ridge Winery, Leavenworth

Cider and beer tasting

Wine not your thing? There are plenty of opportunities to try local beer and hard cider too! Our top pick was the Bushel & Bee Taproom in the quaint Mottler Building on Front Street. It’s a cider centric taproom but there’s a good choice of beer too, plus a sunny patio, game nights and live music. 

Taps behind the bar at Bushel and Bee
Bushel & Bee Taproom, Leavenworth

Nutcracker Museum

Take an hour or two and fully embrace Leavenworth’s Bavarian theme with a trip to the Nutcracker Museum. It is the life work of Arlene Wagner, who has collected thousands (and thousands!) of nutcrackers from all over the world. The result is much more intriguing than you may initially think.

As well as many variations of the traditional Nutcracker model, there are historical nutcrackers on display dating back thousands of years. The collection is constantly growing, with Arlene still travelling around the globe to find new nutcrackers to add. In turn, the museum is expanding too.

Traditional carved Nutcracker figures at the Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, Washington
The Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth

Leavenworth patios

I don’t know about you, but enjoying a cool drink on a sunny patio is an essential element to my summer. And it tastes even better after a day of outdoor adventure! By happenstance, it seems that almost every eatery and drinking spot in Leavenworth has a patio. Here are our top picks:

  • Yodelin Broth Co & Beer Garden
  • Sulla Vita
  • Munchen Haus
  • South Leavenworth
  • Blewett Brewing Company
  • O’Grady’s Pantry at Sleeping Lady (just south of town)
One of Leavenworth’s beautiful patios
Margaritas at South Leavenworth with salsas ready for dipping!

Where to stay in Leavenworth, Washington

As an outdoor enthusiast, I can’t help but encourage you to take the opportunity and make the most of the beautiful surroundings when choosing where to stay in Leavenworth. Sure, you could stay in a hotel (and there are plenty of options), but why not stay somewhere a little more unique?

Cabins in Leavenworth

Just a short walk from downtown Leavenworth is LOGE, a unique accommodation concept offering both riverside cabins and hostel beds. LOGE stands for ‘live outside, go explore’ and if you love the outdoors (and I’m assuming most readers of this post are!), LOGE is a perfect match. 

We loved the attention to detail in these Leavenworth cabins – the boot warmers, mountain art, trail maps on the coffee table, environmentally kind cleaning products, stainless steel flasks in the kitchenette and more. In the hostel, the couches are secured with climbing webbing.

Outside, there is a covered outdoor kitchen with campfire area, plus a projector for movie nights and hammocks for lazy post-hike evenings. There are free bike rentals on site too. 

LOGE accommodation is also available in Westport (WA), Breckenridge (CO), Bend (OR) and Mt. Shasta (CA). As you may guess, the distribution of LOGE locations is certainly no coincidence, with these being some of the best outdoor adventure destinations in the USA. 

Click here to reserve a stay at LOGE Leavenworth via Booking.com. 

Side view of five LOGE cabins, next to the river in Leavenworth
LOGE cabins in Leavenworth
Bed looking out to patio next to river at LOGE cabin in Leavenworth - a great place to stay!
Inside our LOGE cabin in Leavenworth
Grey pillows on white linen bed with mountain images, at LOGE Leavenworth
Pillow details at LOGE Leavenworth
Sitting area and firepit at LOGE, one of the best places to stay in Leavenworth
Communal area at LOGE Leavenworth

Camping in Leavenworth

For traditional camping options, head to Icicle Gorge Road. There are a number of organised Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest campgrounds here, with a high percentage of first come, first serve spots.

Some of the sites are directly on Icicle Creek, with views of surrounding peaks. Facilities include outhouses, potable water, picnic tables and trash cans. Prices range from $20 to $24 per party, per night. 

Campgrounds along Icicle Creek include Rock Island, Bridge Creek, Johnny Creek and Chatter Creek. 

Picnic bench and firepit at Rock Island Campground, Leavenworth
One of the campsites at Rock Island Campground on Icicle Road, near Leavenworth
Rushing river below wooden bridge in Icicle Gorge near Leavenworth
Icicle Creek

Thank you to the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce who assisted with our visit to this beautiful area of Washington, USA. 

Offering much more than your average small town in Washington, USA, there's a wide range of things to do in Leavenworth in summer - here's our top picks! offtracktravel.ca Anyone who only stops to grab a bratwurst, drink a beer and admire the wooden balconies and tiered roofs, would be missing out on the incredible range of things to do in Leavenworth. Here's a complete list! offtracktravel.ca Perched on the banks of the Wenatchee river and surrounded by mountains, the small town of Leavenworth (Washington, USA) naturally exudes outdoor activities from every valley. Click here to discover the best things to do! offtracktravel.ca

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in British Columbia, Canada. Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure.

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