Hello! And welcome to the latest edition of I Ate the State – Chelan County style!
My biggest takeaway from recent Chelan County adventures is I haven’t spent nearly enough time in the area. I’ve visited many times over the course of my life in Washington State, but now having focused more closely on the area, WOW – there is seemingly limitless possibility for adventure, beauty, deliciousness and more. Mmmmm…
Chelan County is located in the north central part of Washington and is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the state. Surrounded by the rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and packed with rivers, lakes and beautiful valleys, Chelan County has breathtaking beauty any direction you look. Add in 300 days of sunshine a year to the many unique, idyllic towns gracing the county and it’s absolutely reasonable to start making plans to run away permanently to the area. (Come on – VPN is a completely valid way to get the job done… Right??)
This journey actually played out over the course of two separate adventures as the area simply has way too much to pack into one day. (Or several days, for that matter) In fact, I think it’s fair to say one could visit every weekend for a year and still have places to see and cool things to check out. Granted, you’ll need trusty transportation if you’re traveling to the area over any of the mountain passes – or for general north central/eastern Washington winter driving. Just as western Washington gets a lot of rain in the fall and winter months, north central/eastern Washington gets a comparable amount of snow.
Heading from the greater Seattle area, we took US Route 2 towards the mountain pass, Stevens Pass. To be added to the ‘Wow – I didn’t realize that’ file, I was foolishly unaware that US Route 2 goes essentially all the way across the northern part of the United States. (Hence, the “US Route” designation. Duh, Dayna.) Along with swearing to finally drive the entire Cascade Loop, which sweeps gloriously through Chelan County and beyond, I will now be adding US Route 2 (in its entirety) to my road trip ‘to do’ bucket list. The more you know…
At the top of the pass, you’ll come to the beautiful Stevens Pass Ski Area. I will admit to not often stopping during the snowless months, which is sad as there are many excellent outdoor adventures to be had in the area. The ski resort is also open during the summer for mountain biking and often hosts fun summer events. On the hiking side, a section of the multi-state Pacific Crest Trail ambles through the area and scores of other beautiful backpacking, camping and hiking opportunities are close by. A few great options to check out:
If you happen to be in the area in the winter and are in need of some exciting vertical challenges, Stevens Pass is a great place to ski and snowboard. Additionally, they have a great Nordic ski and snowshoe area a little further east down the highway. Words of warning: Stevens Pass has a tendency to get incredibly busy on weekends and they have somewhat limited parking which fills up very early. It can be rather frustrating to arrive at 9am and still have to park in the overfill parking well down the road – and then wait a minimum 30 minutes for the shuttle to take you back up to the ski hill. OR – find that even the overfill parking is full and you have to turn around and go home… There are, however, a few ways to circumvent the parking madness:
- Leave at an insanely early hour of the morning and get to the hill no later than Glass half full, you’ll likely get in some first tracks.
- Take a ski bus or shuttle from either the Seattle/Bellevue area or Leavenworth. Several outdoor outfits offer the service as well as many Leavenworth hotels/lodges.
- Leave at a completely reasonable hour of the morning and get to the ski hill around noon. Some of the hard core, early bird skiers are starting to leave and you’ll very likely get good parking close to the lodge. Then – ski later in the day and into the night skiing hours. The day lodge and dining options are also much less crowded if you start your ski day while everyone else is trying to grab lunch. Same goes for leaving the hill to head home – you will inevitably hit MUCH less traffic the later you leave. As Highway 2 can get incredibly backed up in either direction, especially after a ski day, it’s worth its weight in gold to not get stuck in it. Bah.
- Ski during the week. Preferably Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Come on – take the day off – all the cool kids are doin’ it!
Heading further east on Highway 2, you’ll pass a few tiny towns with a couple of service options such as The Squirrel Tree lodge, restaurant and lounge in Coles Corner. (Conveniently next to a little market and gas station.) Largely, however, beautiful mountains and the gorgeous, sometimes treacherous Wenatchee River will be accompanying your travels.
The Wenatchee River is an incredibly popular river for rafting and fishing. There are many areas along the river showcasing calm, deep blue-green pools, but equal are the sweeping sections of dangerous rapids and precarious obstacles. Outfitters such as Alpine Adventures are good options to help guide one through the watery maze. I have yet to make the journey, but whitewater rafting down the Wenatchee River has always been on my bucket list. SOON!
Shortly before entering Leavenworth, look for an Alpen-style building just off the side of Highway 2. Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, the Alps Candy store is a great place to stop for local specialties, sauces, mustards, pickles, etc. It’s been there since the 60s and is always an interesting place to stop for a snack or just to use the restroom and stretch your legs.
Just as you’re heading into Leavenworth (from the West), you’ll see Icicle Road off to the right. Down this road are great options for lodging, camping, hiking, biking and more. It’s a beautiful road with cool campsites right along the creek. This is also a great road for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months. Some great options in the Icicle Road area:
- Sleeping Lady Resort and Kingfisher Restaurant – Quaint mountain resort with spa and restaurant
- Eight Mile Campground – Fairly large, comfortable campsite alongside Icicle Creek
- Bridge Creek Campground – Decently sized campground and a great jumping-off point for local area hikes
It’s hard not to be charmed as you’re driving into Leavenworth proper. Especially if it’s a sunny day and you’ve just ventured over from a grey, western Washington day. Home to bright blue skies and surrounded by beautiful mountains and the Wenatchee River, Leavenworth is one of the most unique destinations in the state. Leavenworth has been an established town since the early 1900s, but didn’t come into its current, Bavarian-themed incarnation until the mid-60s. Resurrecting the timber town proved a great success and Leavenworth has become an incredibly popular and charming tourist destination year-round.
I’ve visited Leavenworth many times over the years and have enjoyed more than a couple raucous Oktoberfest undertakings. For this excursion, however, I was joined by a true Leavenworth aficionado, one of whom I like to refer to as the mayor of Leavenworth. (He’s not really the mayor, but plays one on TV.) (Not really, but maybe he should.) There was definitely an enduring consumption of wine and beer, joined by delicious meats and accompaniments, but this outing was perhaps a little more civilized than past adventures. (Adventures which may or may not have involved my family, ridiculous amounts of beer and a very lethargic, super majestic RV named ‘Lethargo’)
The first point of action on our very civilized adventure was that of meat procurement. For the record, I’ve taken to bringing a mini-cooler and ice-packs along with me on my escapades. Too many times have I come across goods I’d like to bring home which require refrigeration… My trusty cooler did indeed come in handy that day and we returned home with bacon, Currywurst, chocolate, etc. A fine haul for the day! If you’re looking for items to fill your cooler, I highly recommend the following establishments:
- Cured – Home to all things meat with a nice side of sauces and condiments to help out the party. I love their Currywurst and was happy to take home a tasty package of it. Suffice to say, it’s long gone… I also grabbed a package of their buckboard bacon and am presently formulating recipe plans…
- Schocolat – Set in the back of the lovely gift shop Ganz Klasse, local chocolatier, Schocolat offers delicious chocolate treats and beyond. (And they give samples!) The chocolates are a great pairing to local wine-tasting endeavors, but do also try their caramel sauces. I took home the Pear Cinnamon Caramel and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t eat with a spoon, late at night in the kitchen. With the lights off. Don’t judge me.
- The Cheesemonger’s Shop – A longtime favorite stop in Leavenworth, The Cheesemonger’s Shop is a must if a) you like cheese (it’s in the name), b) like mustard and c), like good German beer. (Or real-deal German gummy candy – In the form of Smurfs!) They also have great sausage (Currywurst!) and various cuts of meat. And a cheese of the month club! (Shipped to you direct!)
Continuing with the meat procurement theme, it was time for a stop at the delicious München Haus Bavarian Grill & Beer Garden for a quick beer and sausage. This place is insanely busy all day and night, but it’s well worth the wait. They have a good variety of sausages, excellent toppings and cold, local beer. There are two levels of covered seating and the whole place is filled with beautiful, hanging flower planters. An absolutely lovely spot to take a break… This was a great stop as we perhaps needed a bit of fortifying before embarking upon an afternoon of visiting the plentiful wine-tasting opportunities around the downtown area.
Wine tasting in in Leavenworth is a fine way to spend the day – or better yet, several days. There are far too many places to check out in a day and it is very worthwhile to imbibe in all the town has to offer. Chelan County, along with Washington State in general, is world-renowned for its contributions to the wine world. Leavenworth, in particular, is an excellent place to sample a wonderful cross-section of not only Chelan County offerings, but of the greater Washington State. Several wineries based across the eastern part of Washington host tasting rooms in downtown Leavenworth. If you’re looking for a convenient spot to check out Washington vintners, Leavenworth is the place for you. Some of the tasting rooms we visited:
- Ryan Patrick – The Woodinville location is very conveniently located for me, but a trip to the Leavenworth location is an excellent idea. In the summer months I lean towards the lighter wines and their Rosé is a particular favorite. But who am I kidding, I’d drink it year-round… Their Rock Island Red and 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon are also delicious.
- Kestrel Vintners – Okay, there was a decent amount of wine involved, but our stop at Kestrel was pretty entertaining. Excellent wine, well-informed hosts and some rather amusing conversation – it was definitely time well-spent. Of equal importance, they have a wine named SUPER YAKIMA. It is indeed super and it has Yakima in the name – how can you go wrong? (Yakima: City of my birth. Represent.) Additional note – they also have a lovely Woodinville tasting room.
- Kasia Winery – A cozy tasting room located on the second floor of a classic Leavenworth building on the corner of Front Street. I particularly enjoyed the Wander More 2016 Sauvignon Blanc and the excellent view of the downtown area. They also have a tasting room in Snohomish.
- Obelisco Estate – Spendy, but tasty, Obelisco wines are easy to enjoy in their well-appointed tasting room. Lovely art, deep-set sofas and an elegant atmosphere all add to the experience. They also have a tasting room in the Woodinville warehouse district.
There are many other wine tasting opportunities to be had in the area. If you’re looking for more of a one-stop location, be sure to head downstairs from Obelisco’s tasting room to the Wine Cellar & Tasting Rooms. Home to wineries such as Patterson Cellars and Walla Walla’s Basel Cellars, you won’t have to walk far to enjoy a good assortment of vintner expertise. (Both wineries mentioned also have Woodinville tasting rooms)
Our sausage stop was initially filling, but wasn’t enough to sustain a full afternoon of wine-tasting shenanigans. Along with the chocolate we procured at Schocolat, another stop found us enjoying delicious fried pickles at the Bären Haus Restaurant across the street from Kasia Winery. (So convenient!) Anyone who knows me, is aware of my undying love of fried pickles. I’ll of course take the pickle chip variety, but Bären Haus features the coveted pickle-spear version. (Just like the People’s Pub in Seattle. RIP.) Fried pickles, you say? I’m in!
Rounding off a great day of wine-tasting, food and sunshine, we enjoyed a rather delicious, northwest-inspired dinner at the Watershed Café on 8th Street, near the river. Featuring locally-sourced ingredients, the Watershed does an excellent job of combining a fusion of techniques and cuisine as well as elevating comfort classics such as the humble meatloaf. From starters to dessert, the meal was delicious – and the bread… I’d happily eat a meal of just the bread and butter. With some Washington wine, of course.
Looking for a more classic, Bavarian-themed meal in Leavenworth? Check out these options:
- Andreas Keller Restaurant – Andreas Keller has been a part of the Leavenworth scene for many years. Schnitzels, sausages and even Schweinshaxe are featured on the menu. I particularly enjoy their cream of weinkraut soup.
- Rhein Haus – A favorite Seattle and Tacoma destination, now in Leavenworth! (Although, I’m sad to see they don’t have Bocce Ball like they do at the Seattle/Tacoma locations.) But they do have Currywurst and schnitzels, so I’m gonna let it slide… (Related note: They have schnitzel sliders.)
If you’re up for shopping, checking out the Arts scene or enjoying one of the many events occurring in the area, here’s a (very brief) list of highlights: (Leavenworth really does have something cool happening every week!)
- Village Art in the Park – Runs early May through mid-October. Local artists’ market in the center of downtown Leavenworth. Meet the artists and stop to listen to the music featured regularly on the town stage. (Often Bavarian-themed – Bring on the accordion!)
- The Hat Shop (and the Wood Shop) – One of my favorite stops in town. It’s fair to say I’ve purchased quite a few hats at this shop over the years. (Do I really need that many hats? Yes.)
- Simply Found Boutique – I particularly love this shop for their quirky shoe and boot offering. They carry the Jafa brand which I absolutely love.
- Leavenworth Community Farmers Market – Thursdays, June – Oct, 4-8pm. Located near the community pool, check out the local vendors and farmers. Create your own farm-to-table scene!
- Oktoberfest – I could write an entire article about Oktoberfest. Not quite as extensive as events taking place in Germany, but they do a pretty good job of channeling the vibe. And the beer. And the sausage. Two important notes: If you plan on staying the night during Oktoberfest, plan well in advance. If you plan on parking downtown during Oktoberfest, arrive early.
- Christkindlmarkt (Thanksgiving weekend) – A lovely holiday market that takes place every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving. I’ve been wanting to go for years and have yet to make it. Maybe this is the year!
- Christmas tree lighting – A downtown Leavenworth holiday tradition, beginning weekends at the end of November through mid-December. Leavenworth is a winter wonderland this time of year and the town spares no expense in making visitors feel as if they’re walking around in a Christmas tale come to life. Nutcrackers, roasting chestnuts, carolers, St. Nickolaus – all await you during the Leavenworth holiday season. Just as is the case with Oktoberfest, make your arrangements early as things get chaotic this time of year.
- Leavenworth Snow Train (Alki Tours via Amtrak) – If you’d like to avoid the sometimes dicey drive over the pass, or want to enjoy a nice glass of wine as a train navigates the weather, check out the Leavenworth Snow Train. Note: Get your reservations well in advance. There are very limited offerings and they are quickly reserved.
In addition to the outdoor opportunities mentioned above off of Icicle Road, there are many other options in the area.
- Leavenworth Ski Hill – Want to check out where the some of the first US ski jumpers trained and competed? The Leavenworth Ski Hill has been in operation since 1928 and is still going strong. It’s a smaller operation with only 2 rope tows, but is certainly a cool bit of Washington State ski history to explore. They also feature Nordic skiing with hiking and biking during the summer months.
- For more area hiking info, check out the extensive listings HERE.
There are many lodging opportunities in the Leavenworth area. Everything from nice lodges to economy chains are within easy access of the town center. As the area is busy year-round, be sure to make arrangements in advance. There are also many great VRBO and Airbnb options in the area. A few spots to check out:
- Icicle Village Resort – Nice resort within walking distance of downtown Leavenworth. They have a spa and pool, miniature golf and a game room, regular hotel rooms and condo options for larger parties. Also pet-friendly.
- Bavarian Ritz Hotel – Located directly in the downtown area, it doesn’t get much more convenient. Stumble back to your room after Oktoberfest… Pet-friendly.
- Bavarian Lodge – Located directly on Highway 2, in the center of Leavenworth. Nice rooms, outdoor pool and hot tubs and within easy walking distance of downtown.
- Loge Leavenworth – For the NW outdoor set, the Loge features cool cabins as well as group-style hostel accommodations. I haven’t stayed here yet, but I REALLY want to.
Just down the road from Leavenworth on Highway 2, you’ll drive through the tiny burg of Peshastin. If you happen to be driving through in the spring, be prepared for a spectacular display of blossoming fruit trees. The scent of blossoms fills the air and it’s quite the dreamy, fragrant experience.
Right along the highway, you’ll come upon the Smallwood’s Harvest fruit stand and country store. This is a great stop for an interesting snack (Cherry flavored pickles, anyone?) as well a great place to stock up on farm-fresh produce or enjoy a quick wine-tasting in their tasting room. Packed inside the quirky store are rooms filled with only taffy or cotton candy, candy and sodas, chickens telling jokes and an impressively large offering of all things pickled. They also have a great outdoor seating area, kettle corn and cotton candy and a COW TRAIN ride for the kids. It’s definitely a worthwhile stop for the whole family.
Not too far from Peshastin, look for signs leading to the small town of Cashmere. I have friends who live a few miles down the road from the area, directly on the Wenatchee River. I love visiting and absolutely envy the quiet calm of life on the river. The glorious weather and quick access to the Applets and Cotlets factory isn’t too shabby a deal, either.
Downtown Cashmere is a picturesque, well-preserved slice of historic Washington. The Wenatchee River runs through the town and longtime businesses such as Liberty Orchard’s Applets & Cotlets factory are featured in the history and industry of the town. (Try the fruit sours – do the factory tour!) Most importantly, in my opinion, they feature a Gnomes of Cashmere walking trail in and around town! (Dad, I’m lookin’ at YOU.) They also feature Cashmere Apple Days in early October, sponsored by the local Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village.
If you’re looking for food and beverage options, check out the following Cashmere favorites:
- Milepost 111 Brewing Company – Craft brewing and pub-style food in downtown Cashmere.
- Rusty’s Drive-In – Classic drive-in burger stand right off Highway 2. A fine late-night option when in need of fries and a corn dog…
- Country Boy’s BBQ – Popular BBQ spot in the heart of Cashmere
- Cashmere Cider Mill – Artisan (non-alcoholic) cider mill in the beautiful Cashmere valley. Lodging and event space is also available. Stop in for a tasting and snack – or bring in your own apples and have them create your own custom blend!
- Barns Etc. Hard Cider Shed – Located a couple of miles off Highway 2, stop in for a pint of hard cider.
- Apple Annie Antique Gallery and 59er Diner – Located directly off Highway 2 and just outside Cashmere, this is a must-stop if you’re in the mood for antiquing. 70,000 square feet, chock full of antiques and collectibles. I’m still lamenting the day I walked away from a mint-condition, full-headed Darth Vader mask. (Complete with breathing FX.) If you need more than a few hours to check out the scene, they have lodging packages
Next destination on the Chelan County docket was the gorgeous town of Lake Chelan and its namesake, 50.5-mile long body of water. Turning off of Highway 2, we followed US Route – Alt 97 towards the south side of the lake. To say this part of the state is magnificently breathtaking would be an absurd understatement altogether…
Following along the Columbia River, past the Rocky Reach Dam and Visitor Center and the tiny town of Entiat, the highway rambles past amazing displays of ice age geology and hints at the force which shaped the area. Also note the turn-off for Ohme Gardens. I haven’t visited yet, but it looks like a lovely spot to explore and I’m looking forward to doing so on my next visit to the area.
As we were initially heading towards local wine-tasting opportunities, we turned off onto SR-971 (S. Lakeshore Drive) to drive along the south side of the lake. It was apparent we were in for a magical day when, just past the turn-off, we encountered a doe and her three little fauns casually grazing on the side of the road. The deer family, the stunning vista of the brilliant blue water and sky as we descended towards the lake and the perfectly puffy clouds dotting the sky signaled we were about to enjoy quite a lovely afternoon.
There are many wineries and tasting rooms in the Lake Chelan area. Since we were only in town for the day, our reach was somewhat limited. (For a good overview of local offerings, check out the Lake Chelan Wine Valley site.) With a loose outline of interesting sounding spots in hand, we headed first towards Karma Vineyards and its onsite restaurant, 18 Brix. I’m so glad this was our first stop as not only was the wine delicious and the food tasty, the grounds were gorgeous, the staff was genuine and the on-premises wine “cave” was truly cool. (Both aesthetically and temperature-wise) It definitely set a high bar for the day and I absolutely could’ve spent the entire day and evening just hanging out on the grounds. For the record, I highly recommend their 2014 Pink Brut and well as their well-represented charcuterie plate.
Next on the list was Tsillan Cellars, located a little before Karma Vineyards off of Alt-97. The grounds were spectacular and wandering around the Italian-themed landscaping is worth a visit in and of itself. The winery and vineyards are perched perfectly, overlooking the south side of the lake and the view itself is noted as award-winning. The tasting room is large and comfortably arranged with a friendly and knowledgeable staff and a good selection of wines to sample. After visiting other Lake Chelan locations, we later returned to their Sorrento’s Ristorante for dinner and a little more wine in their tasting room.
Also to be considered in the realm of liquid refreshments is the vibrant hard cider scene of Lake Chelan. Check out the Lake Chelan Cider Trail for a good representation of what the area has to offer.
If you’d like to explore more than a day-trip’s worth of adventure, there are many great lodging options in and around the Lake Chelan area. Resorts, mountain lodges, cabins, hotels, B&B’s – you name it, Lake Chelan has it. A few good possibilities:
- Campbell’s Resort and Campbell’s Pub & Veranda – Right on shores of downtown Lake Chelan with a beautiful, sandy beach for guests to enjoy.
- Darnell’s Lake Resort – It’s in the name – it’s on the lake! Also with sandy beachfront and all the amenities needed for relaxation.
- Riverwalk Inn & Café – Historic small hotel and café in downtown Chelan.
- Mountain View Lodge & Resort – Located close to Lake Chelan in the town of Manson, they feature traditional rooms along with suites and townhomes for larger parties.
- Howard’s on the River – Waterfront hotel located on the beautiful Columbia River in the nearby town of Pateros. Also features the Rivers Restaurant.
- Watson’s Harverene Resort – Located on the south shore, Watson’s is old-school Lake Chelan. Built between the 30s and 40s on the original Watson homestead, it’s still run by the Watson family today. Lodging includes cabins, lodges and rustic lake front scenery. Located nearby is Watson’s Alpenhorn Café. (Open primarily summer months and serving the area since 1966.)
- In the category of full-on bucket list lodging needs, check out the Hobbit House, located in the greater Chelan area. It’s an ‘Underground Hygge’ (Earth House) and is modeled after an actual Lord of the Rings hobbit house. I NEED TO STAY HERE.
For additional dining opportunities in the downtown Lake Chelan and surrounding area, consider these establishments:
- Apple Cup Café – Classic diner-style restaurant, serving breakfast, burgers and more.
- Wapato Point Cellars – Manson-area tasting room and wine bar with dining options at the Winemaker’s Grill. (Dining available after 5pm)
- Lakeview Drive-In – Old-school Lake Chelan drive-in, serving burgers and fries since 1957.
- Stormy Mountain Brewing – Beer and BBQ in downtown Lake Chelan.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast of any kind, Lake Chelan can represent – All seasons, all tastes. The lake activities are near limitless and the hiking, biking, skiing, and sightseeing opportunities in the surrounding mountains are amazing.
One of my very favorite things to do in the area is to take the 3-hour boat cruise up Lake Chelan on the Lady of the Lake to the remote village of Stehekin. The only way into Stehekin is by boat, float plane or on foot. There are around 100 year-round residents in the area and it’s one of the most remote zip codes in the state. If you’re lucky enough to visit, be sure to check out the spectacular 312-ft Rainbow Falls. Aside from camping opportunities in the area, there is limited lodging available at the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin and through VRBO and Airbnb. For other lodging and activity ideas, check out the Stehekin Valley site.
A few great options for hikes in the Stehekin area:
If you’re looking to try any of the summer boating or water sports offerings in the area, here’s a quick list to get you started:
- A quick camping primer for the area
- Kelly’s Resort – Rustic lakeside resort and cabins on the south shore of Lake Chelan. Boat, swim, fish – enjoy the lake!
- Learn about all manner of watersports, etc. available in the Lake Chelan area
- Slidewaters Waterpark – Get wet while careening down a 75-ft vertical drop! Open during the summer months.
For the hiking set and those seeking winter sport options:
- Echo Ridge Summer Trails and the Echo Ridge Winter Trails – Located 10 miles from Chelan and boasting 25 miles of trails. Hiking and biking in the summer months, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and awesome snow in the winter months.
- Echo Valley Family Ski Area – Skiing, tubing, cross-country and snowshoeing at a small, volunteer-run Lake Chelan winter recreation area.
- Snowmobile and Sno-Parks – Lake Chelan has six Sno-Parks with miles of excellent snowmobiling options.
This is all just a small scratch on the surface of the beauty, tastes and adventure the Lake Chelan area has to offer. It’s a wonderful place to visit anytime of the year and if I could possibly work out a way to “work from home”, I very well might consider Lake Chelan the perfect spot to hang my hat(s).
Wrapping up the Chelan County adventures brings us to the Wenatchee area. While we didn’t visit Wenatchee on this particular journey, I’ve spent much time over the years in the area visiting family, enjoying the surrounding areas, skiing and more. Wenatchee is the county seat of Chelan County and a well-established, historic north-central Washington destination. Famous for their immense contributions to the fruit-growing operations of the state (Apple capital of the world!) as well as their important stake in the state’s railway industry, Wenatchee is an integral area to the development of Washington State. Check out the yearly Apple Blossom Festival for a great celebration of all things apple!
Wenatchee enjoys a fertile stretch of valleys and orchards (Fruit stands!) as well as the beauty of the surrounding mountains and rivers. As a child, our close family friends lived in Wenatchee and we visited often. My Uncle Pat had a very cool, beautifully restored Model-T Ford (or possibly a Model-A – I was young…) and he used to take us for rides up into the mountains – complete with rumble seat!
Not only is Wenatchee close to amazing mountains and outdoor pursuits, it has quite a fascinating geological history. In recent decades, much geologic and archaeological work has gone into studying the Ice Age Floods and indigenous people of the area and there are several amazing places to check out in and around the area.
- The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail is an ongoing National Park Service project meant to provide insight and education into how the Wenatchee Valley and surrounding areas were formed during the last Ice Age. (Starting from Missoula, Montana and extending all the way down through Washington and into Oregon.) The trail is an extensive auto route, but many of the included areas also feature local hikes. Check out the Ice Age Floods Institute for more info.
- Not only is the Wenatchee Valley Museum a cool spot to visit, they also host bus tours which will take you to key areas of geologic interest and indigenous history around the greater Wenatchee Valley.
If you are looking for outdoor adventure in the area, Wenatchee doesn’t disappoint. Some of the more popular places to add to your Wenatchee list:
- At the joining of the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers, Confluence State Park offers camping, hiking and great access to watery pursuits. The Horan Natural Area and hiking trails are in the vicinity and are well worth checking out. (NOTE: Sadly, there is no JIRA park to check out…)
- For beautiful, close-up views of the Columbia River, the Apple Capitol Loop Trail provides a 10-mile loop trail along the river. (It spans 5 miles on Wenatchee side and 5 miles on Douglas County side)
- For ski and snowboard enthusiasts, Mission Ridge is a great place to hit up. Tucked away, high on the east side of the Cascade Mountains and about a 30-minute drive from Wenatchee, it is a much less crowded ski hill than Stevens Pass and features high and dry powder and a lot of sunshine. Several Wenatchee and Leavenworth hotels feature ski package deals and there is a FREE, regular shuttle from Wenatchee up to the ski hill. (They also have shuttles from western Washington!) There are also many lodging options on the way up to the ski hill. Check out the Mission Ridge website along with VRBO and Airbnb for good options.
Taking advantage of all the excellent outdoor opportunities can make one hungry. A few Wenatchee eateries and markets that are there to help:
- The very cool, Pybus Public Market not only hosts a Saturday morning farmer’s market (from 8am – 1pm), but includes many local artisan craft and food stalls. They also feature the Wenatchee branch of the Leavenworth Cheesemonger’s Shop as well as Wenatchee Valley Brewing. Stop by on Friday nights and enjoy some live music.
- McGlinn’s Public House – Cool downtown spot with locally sourced pub-style fare.
- Stones Gastropub – Northwest-inspired gastropub
- The Chateau Grill at Chateau Faire le Pont – Winery and restaurant for a more upscale Wenatchee adventure
- Tastebuds Coffee & Wine – Wine, coffee, food, music. All the things!
- Apple of My Pie – PIE!! Enough said.
And with that, I shall bring this edition of I Ate the State to a close. (And maybe go get some pie…) I wish very much I’d been able to commit a solid week to tooling around Chelan County and more deeply enjoying its impressive bounty. However, wine glass half-full, I now have so many reasons to return to the area – again and again. It is indeed an expansive county, but to think of all the varied landscapes, history, food, wine, and outdoor opportunities it contains is simply mind-blowing. I can’t wait to uncover more of everything on my next visit!
Until next time – Cheers!
Chelan County Playlist
- Common Free Style – The RH Factor, Common (Starting things off funky – we left kind of early…)
- Crabbuckit – K-OS
- Harry Palmer – Corduroy
- La Coda Del Diavolo – Karminsky Remix – Nicola Conte
- Norwegian Wood – Victor Wooten
- You’re All I Need to Get By – Aretha Franklin
- Not Going Anywhere – Keren Ann (Moving towards the wine-tasting vibe of the day…)
- Quelqu’un m’a dit – Carla Bruni
- Les Etoiles (Live) – Melody Gardot
- Non, je ne regrette rien – Édith Piaf
- La conga bilicoti – Josephine Baker
- Sympathique (Je ne veux pas travailler) – Pink Martini
- Where or When (from “Babes in Arms”) – Lena Horne
- Nocturnes, Op. 9: No. 2, Andante in E-flat Major – Frédéric Chopin (Perf. by Elisabeth Leonskaja)
- Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller Orchestra
- Hang on Little Tomato – Pink Martini
- I Want to Be Evil – Chiwetel Ejiofor (I love the classic Eartha Kitt version, but this is great, too!)
- Back in Black – AC/DC (And now it’s time to try and stay awake for the drive home…)
- Paradise By the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf
- Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham!
- The Power of Love – Huey Lewis & the News