Updated: 10/21/2023 | Leavenworth Travel Guide
What is Leavenworth?
Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town located in the eastern foothills of the Cascades in Washington State. It’s about about 120 miles east of Seattle and 22 miles northwest of Wenatchee.
The combination of unparalleled access to outdoor activities ranging from hiking to water sports, the bounty of farm-fresh produce (mainly apples) growing in the fertile valley nearby, and the charming, uniform Bavarian-style (ish) architecture create a magical ambiance.
There’s a great story behind the small Bavarian village at the foot of the Cascade Mountains that we love so much.
Leavenworth was once a failing logging town. As the jobs left and the economy fell, the town hired a PR firm to save it from turning into a ghost town. They all worked together, refaced most of the buildings with stereotypical Bavarian façades, added lots of fun character touches, changed many business approaches, and created a new destination: Little Bavaria.
It’s amazing. The town is adorable and had you not known the history, you might think that it was historically an actual Bavarian settlement.
It’s a perfect weekend getaway from Seattle (or a day trip), and we’ve found ourselves in Leavenworth multiple times over the past several years. On our latest trip, we had already started scheming about our next trip – this time in the winter – before we had even left, if that tells you anything about how we feel about Leavenworth.
In this guide, we’re going to take you through all of our favorite things to do in Leavenworth, Washington, plus our recommendations on where to eat, drink, and stay.
Best Time to Visit Leavenworth
Summer, fall, and winter (Thanksgiving to New Years Day) are all great times to visit Leavenworth. Each season has a distinct set of pros and cons, which we’ll go through below.
Summer is our favorite time to visit, but that’s because we love hiking, and the Enchantments is one of our favorite hikes of all time. The full Enchantments hike is a 20+ mile adventure, but you can hike a portion of it to Colchuck Lake, which is gorgeous.
That hike is accessible in the summer and early fall, and is a must-do if you’re willing and able to cover the 9 miles and 2,400 feet of climbing.
The long daylight hours are great for wandering around town in the evening, soaking in the festive atmosphere and enjoying a nice cold beverage out on one of the many patios in town. Prices and crowds are both high.
Fall is also a good time to visit, both because the weather is still pretty good through mid-September, and because Oktoberfest turns Leavenworth into a playground for beer lovers.
Fall color starts to show up along the river and in the Enchantments (including Colchuck Lake) sometime in October, but the exact timing varies by year.
Winter – specifically between Thanksgiving and Christmas – is also a fantastic time to head over to Leavenworth. Having visited Berlin in the winter specifically to experience the Christmas Markets in Germany, I am wholeheartedly in favor of anything that resembles a German Christmas Market.
Snow-covered buildings, Christmas lights, and the tree-lighting ceremony are highlights of a winter visit, and prices will be high on those precious winter weekends between the two major holidays.
Between January and March, Leavenworth turns into a different sort of outdoor recreation hub, with Stevens Pass and Mission Ridge, two of Washington’s best ski resorts (plus the smaller but more convenient Leavenworth Ski Hill) both accessible as day trips from Leavenworth. Plus lots of snowshoeing nearby.
Spring is a shoulder season where it’s still too cold and too early to do some of the summer outdoor activities, which means it’s going to be a cheaper time to visit if you don’t really care too much about being outdoors.
You’ll still be able to snowshoe, and skiing is probably on the table into April, depending on the year.
How to Get to Leavenworth
- Driving: From Seattle, you’ll take the I-90 east out of Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass and make your way to US-97 over to Blewett Pass and then Highway 2. The drive should take anywhere between 2 to 2.5 hours depending on traffic and weather conditions.
- Take the Train: Take the Amtrak Empire Builder route to get from Seattle to Leavenworth in just under four hours. There is only one train per day in either direction. This means that if you’re anticipating a day trip, you should drive to Leavenworth. Taking the train requires you to stay over for the evening. The exception, and part of the reason I say it’s a little tricky, is in the winter between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when there’s a separate train journey that leaves Seattle early, drops you in Leavenworth for the day, and returns back to Seattle late, after the famous tree lighting ceremony in Leavenworth. It’s expensive because it includes a continental breakfast and a full-plated dinner, but it’s a good way to see Leavenworth in the winter if you don’t want to deal with driving over the pass.
Where to Stay in Leavenworth
Leavenworth has so many lodging options! If you have a vehicle during your stay, we recommend staying a bit further from town at an amazing resort.
We stayed at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort here and the experience was magical! There is so much to do onsite and around town. We also saw wild deer each day and spent a lot of time at the hot tub surrounded by mountain views. There are also restaurants and a spa onsite so you don’t have to step foot off the resort if you don’t have to.
Their rooms are super cozy and you can book the entire resort for large parties and events.
What we loved most about the resort was that 100% of profits go towards the Icicle Fund which supports local art, education, and Native American causes. We love it when our travel spending goes back into supporting the local community.
Best Things to Do in Leavenworth
Leavenworth and the surrounding region are home to some great hiking destinations.
The Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one of the premier hiking destinations in Washington and probably the entire Pacific Northwest, is right on Leavenworth’s doorstep. Here a few hikes to add to your list while you’re in town.
- Colchuk Lake: Most people who come this way hike Colchuck Lake. This is one of our favorite hikes in Washington and serves as the gateway to the Enchantments. If you’re not familiar with the Enchantments, it’s about a 20-mile backpacking trail up Aasgard Pass and through a rocky wilderness with a string of gorgeous alpine lakes that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Colchuck Lake Trail in Washington is an out-and-back trail that’s 8–9 miles long and has an elevation gain of 2,316 feet. The trail is considered moderately challenging to hard and has a gradual but steady incline. It takes most people 2–4 hours to reach the lake and another 1.5–3 hours to make the descent back out. The best time to hike to Colchuck Lake is in the summer and fall, roughly July to mid-October, when the trail and roads to the trailhead are clear of snow. It is doable in the winter as a snowshoeing adventure. The trail is heavy with traffic and dogs are not welcome. You also need an Alpine Lake Wilderness Permit to hike the trail.
- Icicle Ridge, which is less crowded than Colchuck Lake, and the easier (mostly flat)
- Icicle Gorge Trail
- Eightmile Lake
- Lake Valhalla.
The Reindeer Farm is a super fun activity for the entire family. Here you can go inside a reindeer enclosure to pet and interact with the animals. They also offer themed events during the holidays.
Book tickets ahead of time if you decide to visit.
Adventure Park is a great destination for kids and adults. They have an alpine coaster that takes you into the sky to view Leavenworth from above. We recommend riding twice and looking up and around to see how gorgeous Leavenworth is from the top of the hill.
Book tickets ahead of time here.
Best Places to Eat in Leavenworth
- Munchen Haus – We are obsessed with the sausages at Munchen Haus! They also offer a ton of mustard options, sauces, and apple cider sauerkraut to dress up your sausage and buns. Their food is a must every time we visit.
- Mana – A James Bear award-recognized restaurant located in Leavenworth town. Reservations are highly recommended.
- Rhein Haus – A Leavenworth destination for those who love to experience traditional German beers and food.
Best Places to Drink in Leavenworth
- Blue Spirits Distilling – We are obsessed with their cocktail samplers! You can choose from a set of 3 mini cocktails for only $21!
- Bushel & Bee Tap Room
- The Grotto – Located at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort, this unassuming resto-bar serves some amazing craft cocktails alongside salads and pizzas.
- Icicle Brewing Company – Come enjoy beer made from the water in Icicle Creek. They offer canned beers along brews that you can only find in the taproom.
- Leavenworth Cider House
- The Loft Bar & Grill
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Leavenworth Travel Guide Map
Use our travel guide map to get around Leavenworth.
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