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.
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!
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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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Other fun things to do in Leavenworth
Need some more ideas of things to do in Leavenworth in summer? Keep on reading!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Thank you to the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce who assisted with our visit to this beautiful area of Washington, USA.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada