I Ate the State – Okanogan County

Greetings!

Welcome to the largest county in Washington State, Okanogan County. Seriously, this county is ENORMOUS! In fact, I’d go as far to say it is ginormous – and filled with an equally large bevy of adventure-filled opportunities. I am absolutely blown away by the size and scale of the county every time I’m lucky enough to visit. Towering mountains, beautiful forests, winding rivers and some of the darkest, star-filled skies in North America are just a few of Okanogan County’s stunning attributes. It would take many trips to cover all it has to offer, but please join me as I pay tribute to the amazing areas I’ve visited thus far.

North Cascades
The North Cascades are calling!

There are many ways to hit up Okanogan County, including via our lovely neighbor, Canada. It is also possible to visit Okanogan County via the 440-mile Cascade Loop as it circles through King, Snohomish, Chelan, Skagit and Okanogan counties. This amazing route was recently and appropriately designated a National Scenic Byway in January of 2021. It is a fantastic way to visit the state and a beautiful representation of everything Washington has to offer.

Included as part of the Cascade Loop is the North Cascades Scenic Byway, also known as SR-20. Opened in 1972 to accommodate area hydroelectric projects as well as access to the newly created North Cascades National Park (1968), it is the longest highway in Washington. It is possible to traverse the entire state, beginning from coastal US-101 and ending at the border with Idaho. If you want to experience an amazing cross-section of the state’s bounty, SR-20 is the way to go!

Travel Alert: Okanogan County typically deals with very serious wildfires throughout the summer months. Portions of SR-20 and other thoroughfares are periodically closed and many trails, campsites, homes, lodges, etc. can close or experience various levels of evacuation. Please check the WSDOT before traveling and follow all fire stages and restrictions whenever in forested and dry areas. Be smart. Be safe!

Since Okanogan County is so large, it took me a few visits to experience even the moderate amount of adventures I’m about to share. I took different routes in and out of the county, but for this take, we’ll start out heading east on SR-20, off of I-5 in the Burlington area. (A great alternative off of I-5 is SR-530 to Darrington and then over to SR-20 near Rockport.) When the North Cascades pass is closed during the winter, another great route out of the Seattle area is via I-90 to Cle Elum and then SR-970­ to US-97 and Blewett Pass. US-97 will then meet up with US-2 at Peshastin and then back to US-97 at Orondo. Once in Okanogan County, take SR-153 from Pateros to head towards Twisp and Winthrop or stay on US-97 north towards Okanogan and the Canadian border. If you’re heading over from the eastern side of the state, US-395 out of the Spokane to SR-20 at Kettle Falls is great, as is US-395 out of the Tri-Cities area to SR-17 in Mesa and on to US-97.

The route via SR-20 through Skagit and Whatcom counties is spectacular. There are so many things to see and do along the way and so many glorious distractions. Eyes on the road, lovely travelers – we’re headed towards Okanogan County! That said, if you’re headed along SR-20, it would be road trip silliness to not check out a few of the more amazing spots along the way. I double-dog dare you to pass up these surreally beautiful sights on your next trip through the area. (Don’t actually take my dare – check out the sights!)

  • Directly off of SR-20 is the amazing Gorge Creek and Gorge Lake interpretive trail. The waterfall itself is breathtaking and can be viewed via a careful walk across the highway from the parking area. Even if you’re not a fan of heights, the area is well worth investigating.  
  • The deep turquoise, glacial waters of Diablo Lake blow me away every time I see them. There is much to do in the area, but taking a ride with the Diablo Lake Dam Tour, operated out of the very cool North Cascades Institute, is a great way to experience the area in a few hours. (Also a pick-up point for the Diablo Lake Ferry which heads to the incredibly unique, floating Ross Lake Resort.) Hit up my Whatcom County article for a more detailed view of the area.
  • If you don’t have time to stop at Diablo Lake proper, a quick stop at Diablo Lookout is a must! The views are soaring and everywhere you look presents the most perfect picture you’ve ever seen. (Pro Tip: It’s also a rest area and there aren’t many along this route. Just sayin’.)

Alrighty. After all that preamble and amazing roadway, we have at last arrived in Okanogan County! I will also commend you (and me!) for your fortitude while traversing over the formidable Washington Pass. (This part of SR-20 is very appropriately closed during the winter.) The North Cascades have been nicknamed “The Alps of North America,” and the comparison is well-deserved. This area is a haven for mountaineers, hikers and skiers alike, but even if you’re just heading over the pass, a stop at the Washington Pass Observation Site is a worthy adventure. At around 5500 feet, the views of Liberty Bell Mountain, Early Winters Spires and the highway as it snakes through the valley are awe-inspiring. The Alps are certainly something to behold, but the North Cascades are in a class of grandeur all their own.

After maneuvering through the impressive twists and turns of Washington Pass, the highway descends towards the idyllic, mountain town of Mazama and the enchanting Methow Valley. Washington has its fair share of stunning locales, but I can honestly say I’d move to the Mazama area tomorrow if it were possible. The most amazing scenery imaginable, all the outdoor adventure opportunities you could ever desire and the peaceful bliss of dark, star-studded skies can all be found in Mazama. While the area is rugged and doesn’t cater to modern convenience, it is not without its charms. A few places not to miss in the Mazama area:

  • If I lived in Mazama, I’d be at the incredibly cool, local institution, The Mazama Store every day. I’d have a regular table inside or a spot in their super-cool, outdoor courtyard. I’d eat one (or several) of their ridiculously tasty baked goods with several cups of their excellent coffee – in my personal mug. (OMG – their cream-cheese filled Everything Bagel!) I’d get my groceries, gas and takeaway food there. I’m pretty sure they’d be sick of me, but I wouldn’t leave. I can’t quit you, Mazama Store! And I would most certainly hang out at their yearly, Christmas at the End of the Road celebration. Cheers, Mazama! (Store open daily, 7am – 6pm. Gas 24hrs.)
  • Located conveniently behind the Mazama Store, The Goat’s Beard Mountain Supply has everything you need for exploring the local splendor. Gear sales and rentals available year-round, they have bikes, skis, snowshoes and more. A perfect spot to hit up before setting out on the amazing Methow Trails trailhead, located very close by. (Store open daily, 9am – 6pm)
  • Enjoy the ranch life at Freestone Inn at Wilson Ranch. (c. 1940s ranch) A lovely lodge and cabin layout feature 36 units with lake or forest view. For dining, check out their Sandy Butte Bistro, Moonshine Bar and Jack’s Hut. (Note: Dining options currently closed Monday/Tuesday. Check online for updates.) They are also located along the beautiful Sandy Butte Trail and are close to the Early Winters Campground and Early Winters Trail.
  • Close to cross-country ski trails and year-round activities, check out the Mazama Country Inn for their cozy inn and cabins. They also feature onsite yoga and tennis as well as a seasonal restaurant.

One of the biggest draws to the area is the undeniably spectacular North Cascades National Park. Featuring 300 glaciers, soaring mountain peaks, rugged terrain and lush forest, it is one of America’s most glorious gems. Just next door is the winner for *Best Supporting Forest in a Gorgeous Nature Scene, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. You truly can’t go wrong wherever you end up in this expansive, amazing setting. (*Not a real award, but should be)

If you’re up for an adrenaline rush and a view of all this majesty from the highest drivable point in Washington, take a trip to Slate Peak Lookout, located above Hart’s Pass. The road ends at 7488 feet at the Slate Peak parking area and is a narrow, steep gauntlet of unpaved twists and turns, complete with no guardrails. (Important note: Trailers are not allowed and RVs are highly discouraged.) Once you’re at the parking lot, it’s a half-mile hike to the lookout. If you happen to be in the area at night, I’ve heard the dark skies are filled with an absolute blanket of stars. Dreamy! (Side note: I totally got sucked into watching videos of people driving up the road. Yikes!)

Pro Tip: While there are no fees required to drive through the North Cascades National Park, they are often involved for parking within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Various National Park trails actually begin within the National Forest and could require a NW Forest Pass.

If you’d like to do some hiking, backpacking and camping or perhaps a climb in the park, there are SO many wonderful options for your adventure. For something epic, the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail runs through the south part of park and the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail (WA, MT, ID) traverses through the upper-north of the state, through the park and down towards the coast. (Note: All overnight camping within the park requires a park Backcountry Permit.) Good spots to join up with the Pacific Crest Trail are off of SR-20 near the Rainy Pass Trailhead, the Cutthroat Lake trailhead or via the aforementioned Hart’s Pass.

For something not quite as involved, but equally epic and beautiful, consider these great backpacking and camping spots for your next trip to the North Cascades and Mazama area:

  • For the perfect combo of stunning views and a loop trail, check out the Heather-Maple Pass Loop off of SR-20, across from the Rainy Pass Trailhead.
  • Located in the area of the Washington Pass Lookout, Blue Lake is a very reasonable 2-mile hike from SR-20. The elevation gain is relatively low (1050 ft) and makes for a lovely family daytrip. You might even see a mountain goat!
  • Sporting some pretty amazing scenery and backcountry camping, Easy Pass and the Fisher Creek Trails offer a splendid cross-section of North Cascades glory. Park at the trailhead at milepost 151 on SR-20 to start your adventure.
  • For an amazing view, head to the historic Goat Peak Lookout and revel in the wonder of the North Cascades and Methow Valley.
  • Following along with the goat theme, Goat Wall Overlook offers yet another spectacular view of the North Cascades and Methow Valley and is easily reached from Mazama proper.
  • For great forest, flowers and more, the Robinson Creek Trail and the West Fork Methow Trail are very enjoyable hikes. (Hot tip: The Pacific Crest Trail can also be accessed from the West Fork Methow Trail.) If you’re up for camping in the area, the River Bend Campsite and Ballard Campground are good options. (Note: A NW Forest Pass is required for the Robinson Creek Trail and Ballard Campground areas.)

I am a creature of the snow. Winter is coming! (Doesn’t matter what time of year you might be reading this article…) The North Cascades are known for their stellar climbing challenges, both rock and alpine, and I dream of conquering even a small portion. Those snowy heights are within reach. I know it! (Gear up and grab the 10 Essentials first, but the mountains are calling!) In addition to climbing, the North Cascades and Methow Valley offer some of the country’s (nay, world’s) best cross-country skiing opportunities. Should you feel inspired to don your Gore-Tex and hit the winter wonderland, here are just a few of the snowy possibilities:

  • There are SO many amazing places to climb in the North Cascades. WOW. If you’ve got nerves of steel and a love of heights, the iconic Liberty Bell awaits. Forbidden Peak is considered one of the top, classic climbs in North America and is a surefire adrenaline rush. Add to that list, Sharkfin Tower, the Goat Wall and Eldorado Peak and you’re looking at some serious mountaineering magnificence.
  • If you’d like an assist with your ascent, hit up the experts at North Cascades Mountain Guides for both alpine and rock adventures – year-round! (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm and Saturday/Sunday, 8am – 5pm)
  • The North Cascades and Methow Valley support an incredible Nordic scene which includes cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking. In operation since the 1970s, the non-profit Methow Trails system is now North America’s largest cross-country ski area. Working with local landowners to allow access to private land, the groomed trails feature over 120-miles of snowy opportunity. One can even ski town to town and lodge to lodge – just like in Europe! Methow Trails also support some pretty amazing summer action as well.
  • In addition to climbing expeditions, North Cascade Mountain Guides also offer ski tours in North Cascades National Park. You could even try your hand (and legs!) at heli-skiing or backcountry touring with local outfit, North Cascades Heli.
  • Perhaps you’d like to sit down while enjoying your snowy adventuring. If snowmobiling is your jam, there are many amazing areas to hit up in the Methow Valley. Yellowjacket Sno-Park provides access to excellent snowmobile trails in the Hart’s Pass and Blackpine Basin areas. Eightmile Sno-Park, located out of Winthrop on West Chewuch Road is another great area to check out. Visit the Methow Valley Snowmobiling Association for local tips and be sure to have your Sno-Park and snowmobiling permits sorted out. (Required November thru March)
Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell, stunning with snow or without!

Heading east through the Methow Valley towards Winthrop is a beautiful adventure in and of itself. Any time of the year you happen to be in this area is guaranteed to be an extraordinary experience. Featuring snow-covered pastures and scenery in the winter, idyllic harvest colors in the fall and abundant flora and fauna in the warmer months, the area is a picture-perfect wonderland.

Longtime stewards of the valley, the Methow People, now part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have cherished the area for millennia. Flowing through this beautiful valley, the Methow River was a vital part of the Methow Peoples’ lives and to this day is an extremely integral part of valley life. A fine way to experience this timeless splendor is with a horseback riding adventure or a hike along the Methow Community Trail. Take a stop on the lovely Tawlks-Foster Suspension Bridge and take in the river scene. (Groomed for skiers in the winter!) The Methow Valley is always striking and not to be missed on your Okanogan County adventure.

Continuing through the Methow Valley on SR-20 will bring you directly into the very unique town of Winthrop. As you enter town, you might question if you’ve just stumbled into an Old West movie set. Nope – it’s just a typical day in Winthrop! Feel free to bust out your chaps and ride in on a horse, but more modern methods of transportation are equally welcome. In fact, on a busy weekend day, you’ll be lucky to snag one of the parking spots in the center of town. (SR-20 is the main route through town.)

While there are many aspects of early settler life that remain in Winthrop, the “western” feel of the town was inspired by the opening of SR-20 in 1972. Local merchants contributed $1000 each and a new era of industry began. Along with general updates, false facades were rebuilt, sidewalks were replaced with boardwalks and a “Westernization Code” was put in play. (In effect to this day.) Similar to what the nearby town of Leavenworth also accomplished, the town modernized its tourist appeal by taking a step back in time. Everything old is new again! (I say that to myself every birthday.)

Just as is the scene in nearby Mazama, outdoor activities and beautiful views are plentiful in Winthrop any time of the year. Whether you’re into cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice-skating, hockey, hiking, camping or fishing, Winthrop has you covered. And that’s just the short list! Even if you simply want to sit out at night and marvel at the wonderfully dark skies or look out from your hotel deck onto the Methow and Chewuch rivers as they converge, Winthrop can accommodate you. It is truly an excellent town to spend a spell. And maybe water your horse…

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely pretty hungry (and thirsty!) after all of that adventuring. Even if you were only sitting by the river, that takes some concentration! Which surely burns some amount of calories, right?? At any rate, it’s a very wise plan to spend some time enjoying the food and beverage scene in Winthrop. It may be a small area, but Winthrop certainly packs in some delicious options! Here are some of my favorite spots in Winthrop:

  • Featuring delicious craft cocktails and locally sourced ingredients, Copper Glance is an excellent place to enjoy a meal. The atmosphere is modern, but is set in a historic Winthrop locale. (Open Thursday – Saturday, 4-pm)
  • I absolutely love the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. If it’s a nice day, head directly to the beautiful riverside seating, overlooking the Chewuch River. I particularly enjoy their Methow Blonde with one of their amazing burgers or an order of Totchos. They also regularly feature live music in the summer. (Open Monday – Thursday, 3-8pm, Friday/Saturday, Noon – 9pm, Sunday, Noon – 8pm)
  • If you’re in need of a sugar fix, don’t miss a stop at the popular Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe. It can be a bit touristy on a busy weekend, but the delicious treats are worth the wait. (Open daily, 7am – 6pm. Open seasonally.)
  • I have a very special place in my heart for the fabulous Rocking Horse Bakery. Perhaps I’ll tell you the story one of these days… Don’t miss the amazing carrot cake and cup of their always excellent coffee. They feature Lariat Coffee Roasters which are conveniently located next door! I truly love this place. (Open Thursday – Monday, 7am – 2pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday.)
  • My brother and I enjoyed some seriously delicious pizza at East 20 Pizza. Featuring excellent pizza along with great beer and a fun atmosphere, it’s an all-around enjoyable place to stop. (Open daily, 3-8pm.)
  • Should you be feeling a little fancy during your Winthrop visit, head to the Arrowleaf Bistro for a delicious evening. Their menu features locally-sourced ingredients and a modern flair. Check out the roasted quail with local Bluebird Grain Farms farro! (Open for dinner, Thursday – Sunday, 5-9pm)
  • Featuring apples they grow themselves, the Methow Valley Cider House is a great place for cider and food. They also have the Apple Amphitheatre for live events and music. (Winter 2022 – Open daily, 12-8pm, closed Wednesdays.)
  • Stop in at the tasting room of boutique, family-owned Lost River Winery and enjoy a glass or two. A nice glass of Cab on a fall afternoon… yes, please! (Friday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm)
  • Offering tastings and small plates, the Brix Wine Bar & Bottle Shop is a lovely spot to both relax with a glass and replenish your wine rack. (Open Wednesday, 4-9pm, Thursday – Sunday, 1-5pm, 6pm on Friday/Saturday – Closed Monday/Tuesday)
  • If you’d like to take home a bit of the area bounty, stop by the Winthrop Farmers Market and stock up! (Sundays, 10am – 2pm in Winthrop Park. Spring thru Fall)

The very strollable boardwalks in Winthrop not only host excellent dining options, but feature several wonderful shops. Grab a good book, gear up for your outdoor adventures or stock up on crafting items – Winthrop has what you need. A few of the excellent shopping possibilities for your next visit:

  • In addition to a great supply of crafting, quilting and gift items, the 3 Bears Café & Quilts also offers casual breakfasts and great coffee in their inviting shop. Located at the east end town, it is well worth a stop. (Winter hours: Thursday – Monday, 10:30am – 5:30pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • If you’d like to cozy up in your cabin, stop by the charming Trail’s End Bookstore and grab something for your weekend library. (Open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm and Monday/Tuesday, 10am – 3pm)
  • Forget your ski poles? Need some cool new hiking boots? Stop in at Winthrop Mountain Sports and let them outfit you. They can fill your Nordic ski needs and rentals as well as hook you up with a sweet kayak. (Open daily, 9:30am – 6pm, 9am – 6pm on Saturday, 5pm on Sunday)
  • Backpacks, tents, Nordic ski gear and more! The very cool Cascades Outdoor Store has everything needed to trick out your outdoor adventures. (Sunday – Thursday, 9am – 6pm, Friday/Saturday, 9am – 5pm)
  • Should you plan on braving the local rivers, hit up Methow River Raft & Kayak and make sure you’re ready to go. In addition to gear and rentals, they also offer guided trips for rafting and kayaking. (Open daily, 10am – 5pm)
  • Want to learn more about the fat bike craze or rest a pair of skis or snowshoes? Stop by Methow Cycle & Sport and let them hook you up with all your year-round sporting needs. (Open daily, 9am – 5:30pm, 5pm on Sunday.)

Whether you want to enjoy some quality indoor time or spend your time trekking on a hiking or x-country trail, there are SO many possibilities in the Winthrop area:

  • Even if you are only passing through Winthrop, make time to visit the fascinating Shafer Museum, situated on a small hill above downtown. This step back in time features well-curated indoor exhibits as well as an extensive outdoor collection of mining implements and more. Open daily, 10am – 5pm in summer. (May 9th – September 19th) Note: The museum is also open in winter, but the buildings are closed and snow doesn’t get cleared. Also open by appointment year-round.
  • Looking to see that cool new indie film or catch a live performance from a NW band? The Barnyard Cinema is the place to be! Along with movies and live music, they also have a concession stand and a lounge with beer, wine and coffee.
  • In addition to the stellar Nordic scene, there are other chilly options to explore while in town. Head to the Winthrop Ice and Sports Rink for ice skating and hockey during your winter visit. This all-season rink also has roller/inline skating, roller hockey and pickleball in the summer. Check out their online schedule for more info.
  • In addition to the excellent, year-round outdoor opportunities of the Methow Trails, there are many other areas to check out. The Pipestone Canyon Rim Trail between Winthrop and Twisp and the Sa Teekh Wa Trail (Riverwalk Trail) via the beautiful Sa Teekh Wa Suspension Bridge are excellent options. Just out of Winthrop on East Chewuch Road is Falls Creek Falls with its lovely, 2.6-mile roundtrip trail to a series of falls. If you want to extend your trip to the area, hit up the Falls Creek Campground for some further outdoor adventure.
  • Perhaps you rolled into town with your ski boat or jet skis. If you’re looking for a place to put in, head to Pearrygin Lake State Park located just outside of Winthrop. It’s a great state park with camping, boating, fishing and winter Nordic opportunities. (Discover Pass required)

There are so many beautiful lodging options in Winthrop and surrounding areas. In addition to the large list of local hotels, lodges, cabins and campgrounds, there are also many opportunities available via sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. It does, however, get pretty busy in the summer months in particular. Book early for your adventures! A few of the excellent places where you can rest up from your adventuring:

  • Overlooking Winthrop and the valley, the Sun Mountain Lodge has much to offer from its spectacular, mountaintop perch. Even if you’re not staying at the lodge, the amazing views and beautiful drive are worth your time. If you are lucky enough to be staying there, be sure to check out the spa, excellent wine cellar, gift shop, pool and comfortable lodging. I wasn’t actually staying there on my last visit, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying a delicious breakfast in their restaurant – AND a gorgeous view! Part of the Methow Trails system, there are winter trails for cross-country skiing, fat-biking, snowshoeing and summer trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. There is truly something for everyone at Sun Mountain Lodge.
  • I’ve stayed at the Hotel Rio Vista and very much enjoyed my time there. It’s more of a traditional motel setup, but what sets it apart are the river views from each room’s private deck. A glass of wine, the river and those star-filled skies? Dreamy!
  • The River’s Edge Resort is located appropriately on the Chewuch River in downtown Winthrop.  Featuring a series of charming cabins, some with their own hot tubs, the resort is an excellent place to spend your holiday.
  • Situated on the Methow River, River Run Inn & Cabins feature lovely rooms, cabins and a 6-bedroom house. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub, large grounds and a fire circle by the river. Methow River Raft & Kayak also offer trips leaving directly from the inn. Adventure at your doorstep!
  • Not only does the Spring Creek Ranch have lodging and host beautiful weddings and events, they are also well known for their alfalfa. Throw a wedding, rent a cabin and grab a bale (or ton!) of alfalfa from their 6-acre farm. All the things!
  • In addition to cozy rooms and complimentary breakfasts in their lodge, the Chewuch Inn also has seven cabins and lovely grounds which include a small, organic orchard.
  • Hit up The Virginian Resort & Hotel for their cozy, western-themed cabins and rooms with tranquil river views. I’m giving them extra points for having a groovy “1969” themed cabin.

As the area can get incredibly dry during the long, hot summers, the danger of wildfires runs extremely high. This danger has been increasing over the years, making the need for a rapid-deployment fire-fighting presence incredibly important and necessary. Enter the North Cascades Smokejumper Base. Located between Winthrop and nearby Twisp at the Methow Valley State Airport, the base supports the local firefighting effort, including the specialized smokejumper crew.

In 1939, Methow Valley became the birthplace of smoke-jumping. Today, there are nine primary locations in the western part of the US and Alaska. These bases support around 400 smokejumpers and owe their existence to the first crew out of the Methow Valley. If they’re not otherwise engaged in fighting fires, the base is open June 1st thru October 1st for free tours. (Daily, 10am – 5pm) The tour includes a museum and smokejumper planes. Go check out what these brave women and men do!

After visiting with the smokejumpers, hop back on SR-20 and head towards the wonderful town of Twisp. This little paradise of a town is well-known as an artist’s haven and even a quick visit easily showcases this claim. Packed into its relatively small borders lie tasty food options, top-notch galleries and beautiful outdoor possibilities. You won’t want to miss taking in the charms of Twisp.

On your next visit through the area, fuel up for your Twisp adventures at these delicious spots:

  • Don’t miss a stop at the iconic Cinnamon Twisp Bakery. Not only do they feature super tasty pastries, they also feature excellent breakfast bagel sandwiches and lunch offerings. Open Wednesday – Sunday, 7am – 3pm, Closed Monday/Tuesday.
  • For wood-fired, tasty Italian goodness, reserve a spot at Tappi. Enjoy pizza, pasta, delicious wines and more! (Open Friday – Tuesday, 5-7:30pm. Closed Wednesday/Thursday)
  • Who doesn’t love a bahn mi sandwich, a tasty burger or maybe a Korean fried chicken sandwich? YUM!! Check out the Fork food truck, located seasonably on the TwispWorks campus. (May thru mid-October, Wednesday – Saturday. Check online for hours.)
  • If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee, stop in at Blue Star Coffee Roasters and get your caffeine fix. Visit the coffee roasting plant where you can get fresh pastries and coffee onsite or order online. (They have a coffee subscription deal!) Open Monday – Saturday, 7:30am – 1:30pm.
  • The very cool Glover Street Market, located in the heart of downtown Twisp features a great grocery selection along with a food counter and groovy wine cellar. (Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 6pm. Kitchen open 9am – 4pm. Closed Sunday.) Note: They’re for sale! If I had money to buy a local grocery spot… Crowd fund me??
  • If you happen to be in town on a Saturday between April and October, stop by the Twisp Farmers Market and stock up on local goods. (AKA: Methow Valley Farmer’s Market) Saturdays, 9am – noon (April – October)

There are so many amazing things to experience in the Twisp area. Want to add a bit of the Arts to your adventure? Done! Consider these creative options for your next stay in the area:

  • Perhaps you’d like to stay right in the middle of all that Twisp action. Drop off your bags at the very cool Twisp River Hotel Suites, located on the lovely Twisp River and relax in style.
  • I’m a sucker for a good vintage or thrift shop. I had a great time perusing the goods at The Thrifty Fox in downtown Twisp. (Open Wednesday thru Saturday, 10am – 4pm. Closed Sunday – Tuesday.)
  • Featuring local artists, the Confluence Gallery is an excellent place to check out all things arty. (Open Thursday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm)
  • Should you be looking for some local theatre or maybe even a theatre camp, check out The Merc Playhouse in downtown Twisp. Check online for upcoming shows and auditions.
  • Located in the downtown area, the Methow Valley Interpretive Center features exhibits and an interpretive garden focusing on indigenous peoples and natural surroundings of the area. They also feature very interesting events and classes. (Open Friday – Sunday, Noon – 4pm, 10am on Saturday)
  • You can find Samantha Carlin’s work in various shops around the area, but Twisp-based Lucid Glassworks is also available online. I picked up a lovely glass from the Sun Mountain gift shop and I’m looking forward to expanding to a full set. (Currently waiting for it to ship, in fact!)
  • For a great opportunity to enjoy all things Twisp and gear up for the holidays, check out their Mistletoe Madness celebration in the downtown area. (December 3rd, 2021 from 3-7pm)

I can’t say enough good about local arts mecca, Twispworks, located in the downtown area. It’s an incredibly cool artist collective, sculpture garden, business incubator and more. A must-stop for your next Twisp visit. A few of the eclectic spots to explore at Twispworks:

  • If you’re looking for tasty beer, visit the OSB Taproom, located on the TwispWorks campus. An extension of Winthrop’s Old Schoolhouse Brewery, this new production facility and adjacent taproom are a great place to spend an afternoon. They also feature Methow Pure sparkling water. (Open Monday – Friday, 3pm – close and Saturday – Sunday, noon to close.)
  • Outside food is welcome at the OSB Taproom and Saskatoon Kitchens is ready to fill the bill. Located on the Twispworks campus, they feature some very tasty items. (Check out their Menu!)
  • Featuring artisan gifts and goods from the Methow Valley and Okanogan County, Methow Valley Goods is the perfect place to stop for that special gift. (Open Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm. Also available online!)
  • If you’re in the market for beautiful, hand-dyed wearable art, Culler Studio is the place to be! (Thursday/ Friday, 10am – 4pm, Saturday, 10am – 2pm. Closed Sunday – Wednesday.)
  • Featuring super cool bags, wallets, masks and more, the innovative eqpd is a great place to check out. Their HEPA masks and stadium bags are super rad!  (Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm, Saturday to 2pm, Closed Sunday)
  • Check out the Fireweed Print Shop for their letterpress facilities and unique hand-printed items. (Open Thursday/Friday, Noon – 4pm and Saturday, 11am – 2pm. Closed Sunday – Wednesday.)
  • As soon as I have a spot to hang one of their one-of-a-kind nests, I’m heading directly to Nice Nests. These species-specific nesting boxes use recycled materials and are absolutely charming. (Call for hours)

Okanogan County has definitely cornered the market on amazing outdoor opportunities and Twisp certainly holds up its part of the bargain. Beauty is everywhere! Here are a few amazing spots from which to view the majesty:

Trees
Take a moment and enjoy the beauty of the area…

After reveling in the artistic grandeur of Twisp, it was time to head back into the surrounding mountains. As a skier, it’s long been on my bucket-list to ski every ski hill in the state. Sadly, I still have a few places on my list and nearby Loup Loup Ski Bowl is one of them. Since I’m located on the west side of the state and the North Cascades pass is closed during the winter, it’s a bit of a haul to get to the area. However, since my most recent trip was in the summer months, I merrily made the trek. (Sans skis, unfortunately.)

Located in between Twisp and Okanogan off of SR-20, Loup Loup is small, but mighty. They have runs to suit all levels as well as cross-country trails and… Luge sledding!! I might just have to make the long winter trek to the area and check it out. A snow cat ferries lugers up the mountain, where an epic-looking ride down then ensues. COOL! And should snowmobiles be more your thing, head to the South Summit Sno-Park and unload your beast. (The area also features groomed cross-country trails.) Located on the south summit of Loup Loup pass.

Pro Tip: For the record, I’m used to driving in snow and I’ve driven my fair share of wacky ski-hill access roads. That said, the portion of SR-20 leading to Loup Loup pass and ski hill is not for the faint of heart, or driver of non-winter-friendly vehicles. Make sure you have chains and/or AWD during the colder months.

Another route out of Twisp is via SR-153. This path heads east towards a more arid region along the Columbia River before meeting with US-97. If you plan to head further north from Twisp, SR-20 is the most direct route, but heading down SR-153 allows a look at a beautiful part of the Columbia River as well as a visit to the nearby towns of Pateros and Brewster.

Located directly on the Columbia River at an especially wide bend in the river, Pateros is a nice place to enjoy a bit of sun. Set at the confluence of the Columbia and Methow Rivers, it is a particularly excellent spot for all water-based endeavors. Nearby Brewster offers many outdoor opportunities and sweeping views of the river. A few options to consider should you be visiting the area:

  • If you’d like to wake up to a view of the beautiful Columbia River, be sure to book Howards on the River for your overnight stay. In addition to the beautiful view, they feature a boat launch to help with your pursuit of watersports. Hit up their Super Stop for gas and groceries and adjacent restaurant, Rivers by Ed’s Mudville for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Featuring scratch-baked goods, coffee, pizza and more, The Sweetriver Bakery is a great place to stop in the town center. They also feature live music in the summer months on their back patio. (Open daily, 7am – 7pm)
  • Stop in at the Pateros Museum for a look into the history of the area. (City Hall entrance – Open Monday – Friday, 8am – 4:30pm) Don’t miss the Methow Monument Native American sculpture park located behind City Hall near the river. For a more in-depth look into local Native American history and heritage, visit Fort Okanogan Interpretive Center in nearby Brewster. Managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the center features an emphasis on the Okanogan Tribe. (Open Wednesday – Friday, 8:30am – 4pm from May – September)
  • If you’re looking for golf action, there are great options in the area. Along with golf, the Pateros Alta Lake Golf Resort features lodging and a café by the name of Scratch. (Café open daily 7am – 3pm, 4pm on Friday/Saturday) Located in Brewster, the Gamble Sands course and their Danny Boy Bar & Grill are also a great choice. (Open daily, 60-min after sunrise – 10pm. Winter hours vary – check online) Lodging can be found at The Inn at Gamble Sands, which features a pool, fire pits and beautiful views of the Columbia River.
  • If you’d prefer to rough it a bit, nearby Alta Lake State Park offers camping, hiking, fishing, wind-surfing and swimming. (Discover Pass required for parking and permit required for boating.)
  • Should you be visiting during the winter, ample snowmobiling and x-country skiing opportunities can be found in the Black Canyon and South Fork Gold Creek sno-park areas. (Sno-Park permits required)
  • The towns of Pateros and Brewster and relatively small, but they do feature some big celebrations. Going since 1947, the Apple Pie Jamboree takes place the third weekend in July and is a great opportunity to indulge your love of pie as well as jet-ski races, fireworks and more. Taking advantage of that big bend in the river, the Pateros Hydro Races feature old-school hydroplanes in all their speedy glory. (August 26-28, 2022)

The most common route when heading north from Pateros and Brewster is via US-97. If you’re partial to roads less traveled, hit up Old Highway 97 off of US-97 in the Brewster area. It’s a lovely, tranquil route with acres of cherry orchards, waving fields of grain and sweeping vistas. That said, there was a bit of road construction on my last trip and several miles of it were unpaved gravel. It was well worth it, however, to experience the area from a less modern perspective. It was very easy to imagine riding horseback through the area en route to the next outpost…

Along the route, there are some excellent places to stop for a rest, enjoy the views and sample the area’s bounty. A couple of options to check out on your trek through the backroads:

  • Pull over in tiny Malott and visit the charming Malott Country Store. Along with all-day breakfast and desserts, they feature coffee, groceries, ice cream and more! (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm, Saturday, 10am – 7pm and Sunday, 11am – 6pm)
  • Don’t miss a stop at Smallwood Farms, located on SR-20 after the merge with Old Highway 97. Along with being a working farm, it’s a restaurant, fruit stand and grocery/gift store – and they have plenty of picnic space! If you’re into cherries, you’ll be extremely happy with your visit. (in season, of course) The store/restaurant is open seasonally – check online for hours.

After adventuring on Old Highway 97 and merging onto SR-20, it’s not too long before you’re back on the modern US-97. Heading further north on US-97 will soon bring you to the county seat of Okanogan County, fittingly named Okanogan. Established in 1888, Okanogan has long been at the center of local area commerce and culture. Located along the Okanogan River, it continues to serve as an important part of Okanogan County industry and interests.

One of the very interesting stories to be found in Okanogan involves the life and work of artist, Frank Matsura. After emigrating from Japan to the US in the early 1900s, he answered a Seattle newspaper ad and was hired at a hotel in nearby Conconully. During his time at the hotel, he spent his spare time photographing the Okanogan area and eventually moved into Okanogan proper in 1907. He became well known as both a photographer and muralist and contributed greatly to the commemoration of early Okanogan life and heritage. In January of 2022, a 60-foot mural was discovered during renovation of a downtown Okanogan building. (c. 1907) The hand-painted mural is being potentially attributed to Frank Matsura and the building’s new owners are currently working to restore the mural.

To explore the culture, history and industry of Okanogan and surrounding areas, consider these great options for your next visit:

  • Learn more about Frank Matsura and the early days of Okanogan with a visit to the Okanogan County Historical Museum in the downtown area. In addition to the museum, there is a firehouse exhibit next door as well an outdoor, historic Okanogan exhibit. (Open Memorial Day weekend – Labor Day weekend, call for hours/days)
  • For local festivities, entertainment and all things fried, head to the Okanogan County Fair & Rodeo every September and revel in this celebration of the county. If you’re in need of some new boots or a cowboy hat to pep up your rodeo-attending attire, stop in at longtime Okanogan staple, Rawson’s and get yourself outfitted.
  • Enjoy the area bounty and explore offerings from local artisans at the Okanogan Valley Farmers Market. (Saturdays, May thru October, 9am – 1pm. Hot tip: There is also a Tuesday version in nearby Omak from 3:30 – 6:30pm, June thru October.)

Important to any adventure is a great meal and a cozy place to stay. Okanogan can certainly help you out in both departments. On your next visit, check out these fine establishments:

  • For hearty panini sandwiches and fresh salads, head to The 509 – just good food for a tasty lunch. Monday – Friday, 10:30am – 2pm. Closed Sat/Sun
  • If a place features “wieners and wine,” I’m in! The Dawg House, located in the heart of downtown features both as well as delicious BBQ and a respectable tap list – not to mention mouthwatering cheesecake. They also feature live music on weekends and great outdoor seating. (Wednesday – Saturday, 4-8pm)
  • If you’re in the mood for a hearty breakfast or juicy burger, stop by local fav, the Stockyard Café and fill up. Also, they have crinkle fries. Very important to note. (Open Tuesday – Saturday, 7am – 2pm)
  • I require a good cup of coffee (or three) in the morning and drive-thru spot, Free Bird Espresso fully came to the rescue on my recent visit. (Open Monday – Friday, 5:45am – 6pm, Saturday/Sunday, 6:45am – 5pm)
  • There are Vrbo and Airbnb options in the greater Okanogan area, but on my last visit I stayed at the local Quality Inn & Suites. It’s relatively basic, but reasonably priced and the staff was very friendly and helpful. Located close to US-97, it’s well situated as a base for exploring the area.

Not far north on US-97 lies the largest city in Okanogan County, Omak and its suburb, North Omak. The area is famous for its yearly Omak Stampede, but there are many great ways to enjoy the area. Located in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, a hilly, mountain range spread across Canada, Washington and Northern Idaho, the dark skies alone are worth a visit. It is also a great base of operations for your northern Washington adventures.

Okanogan is a big county and you’ve likely worked up a big appetite if you’ve made it all the way up to Omak. There are many great options to stave off the hunger on your next visit:

  • Check out the fresh bread and home-style cooking made with locally sourced ingredients in this classic Omak location. (c. 1906) The Breadline Café offers tasty lunch and dinner and is open Tuesday – Friday, 11am – 8pm.
  • Located on the main route through town, Magoo’s Family Restaurant features classic, diner breakfasts all day and hearty lunch options. (Open daily at 7am, 11am on Wednesdays.)
  • Stop in at family-run Red Rooster Grill for classic diner dishes with an international flair. Located in the heart of downtown Omak and open daily from 8am – 9:30pm.
  • Head to the hip, downtown spot, The Loggerhead for artisan pizza, good beer and a fun atmosphere. This family friendly location in downtown Omak is typically open Wednesday – Saturday, 3-9:30pm. (Check online as they are open seasonally – and for the occasional special event in the off-season.)
  • These guys were closed on my last visit, but I WILL be back and I’m planning on a tasty visit. Los Gallos, a restaurant and bar located in downtown Omak features not only Mexican fare, but Chinese as well! That’s a dream fusion, in my foodie opinion. Open daily, 11am – 8pm (11pm, Thursday – Sunday)
  • Located just out of North Omak and flanked by orchards and farmland, the Rockwall Cellars Winery is a nice spot to relax with a glass of wine. In the summer, their tasting room is open Monday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm. During January – April, it’s open Thursday – Saturday, 11am – 5pm. They also host live music and feature “Wine Down Wednesdays” from7-9pm. Bring your own food – there’s a BBQ available for grilling.

I will admit to enjoying a visit here and there to a good casino. Video poker? Yes, please. Is that a Zillion Gators slot machine I see there?? Move out of my way! (Damn. Now I have the ridiculous Zillion Gators theme song stuck in my head. I have no one to blame but myself.) If you’re visiting the Okanogan/Omak area, smack dab in the middle is the 12 Tribes Resort Casino, operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Featuring a large array of slots and table games, the casino also hosts several onsite restaurants, hotel and RV lodging and spa facilities. The casino is a hot spot for nightlife and entertainment in the area and a fun evening out. That said, they didn’t actually have Zillion Gators. I looked… Maybe next time?

While there is much to do in the Omak area year-round, one of the most popular attractions takes place over the second weekend in August. The Omak Stampede has been entertaining visitors since 1933 and features western and native art shows, the Indian Encampment & Pow Wow and the famous Suicide Race. Whether or not you’re a fan of horses and their riders careening down an insanely steep trail in the Suicide Race, there are many sights, sounds and tasty treats to enjoy at the Omak Stampede. (August 11-14, 2022 – Always second weekend in August)

If don’t happen to be around during the Stampede festivities, consider these entertaining options for your visit:

  • Featuring first-run films in a classic movie house setting, the Omak & Mirage Theaters in downtown Omak are the places to be. They also host drive-in movies at the Stampede Arena during the summer months.
  • While currently closed during Covid times, the Omak Performing Arts Center hopes to be back soon. Featuring all varieties of performance, both local and touring, they are the premier destination for the performing arts in the area.
  • If you’re looking for a unique getaway, head to Pine Stump Farms­ for one of their package deals. They feature a Country Weekend that comes with food, lodging and excursions of your choice. (Horseback riding, swimming, canoeing or hiking) as well as horseback adventures of varying length. And be sure to try their tasty cheeses on your visit!
  • If enjoying the natural beauty of the area is on your agenda, check out Omak lake, Washington’s largest salt lake. Located in the foothills of the Okanogan Highlands, the area features beaches, camping, fishing, swimming, boating and more. This beautiful area in Colville Federated Tribes land is well worth a visit. (Camping and boat launch permits required.) Also found in the Omak Lake area is the gravity-defying, 40-ton behemoth known as the Omak Balance Rock. You can hold it up with one finger!

If the laid-back scene in Okanogan and Omak still isn’t mellow enough, consider heading towards Conconully on Conconully Road just out of Okanogan. Set in a beautiful mountain valley, Conconully is surrounded by forest, stunningly dark skies, two lakes and an endless variety of outdoor opportunity. Home to snowmobiling, camping, hunting, fishing and more, it’s the perfect place to commune with the sportsperson in you.

Most importantly, it’s home to the annual Outhouse Races. (The 2022 races took place on January 15th) If you’re not inspired to build your own outhouse racer, line up along the course as outhouses careen down the street. True story! Check out the short film, “Fast Crapper” for an in-depth look into this very excellent Conconully tradition.

Whether you’re in the area to enjoy the outdoors or the outhouses, Conconully has some food and lodging options to help you appreciate your stay:

  • Hit up the Conconully General Store for all your gas, groceries, gifts, and treat needs. (And more!) They’ll also be hosting a local vendor market beginning the weekend of April 23rd, 2022.
  • If you’re up for hearty burgers or pizza, stop in at the Red Rock Saloon and trade some fishing tales with your buddies. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 4pm – 2am. Family friendly. (Closed Sunday/Monday)
  • Enjoy a bit of classic breakfast and pub fare at the Sit ‘n Bull Saloon. Open Monday – Thursday, 9am – 11pm, Friday/Saturday, 8am – 11pm and Sunday, 9am – 10pm. Family friendly.
  • If you happen to be in town on the fourth Saturday in September, don’t miss the Stew & Brew event. A mere $15 buys you tastings of several stews and local brews.
  • Learn more about this tiny community at the Conconully Area Historical Museum. (Open weekends and holidays, 10am – 4pm, Memorial Day to Labor Day and by appointment.)
  • There are plenty of great lodging and camping areas in and around Conconully. The Liar’s Cove Resort, Shady Pines Resort and Gibson’s North Fork Lodge all feature cabins and access to local lakes, fishing, boating and more.
  • Also featuring five cabins as well as RV and campsite accommodations, Conconully State Park features ample boating, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling opportunities. (Discover Pass required. Fishing and boating permits required. Park facilities closed during the winter.)
  • Heading deeper into the forest surrounding Concunully, you’ll find the Salmon Meadows Campground. This area provides access to the Angel Pass Trail as well access to many snowmobiling and horse trails.
US 97
Okanogan Highlands and fruit on US 97

Heading closer to the Canadian border via US-97 will bring you to the tiny town of Tonasket. Fruit is big business in Okanogan County and Tonasket is an important player in the scene. Celebrate their part in one of Washington’s most important industries at these Tonasket spots:

  • Located off of Highway 7, Apple Cart Fruit features farm-fresh fruit throughout the year. Apples, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and more! Open daily, 8am – 5pm, closed Sundays.
  • If you’re in the mood for homemade pie made with local fruit, stop by the quaint Shannon’s Place and dig in. If you need more than pie, check out their hearty breakfasts and weekend dinners. Open daily from 7:00am – 2:30pm. Friday/Saturday, open for dinner 4:30-7pm.
  • Stock up on all things natural and organic at the Tonasket Natural Foods Co-op. They feature an in-store deli with soup and sandwiches, local produce, meats, eggs and more. Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm, Saturday, 9am – 6pm and Sunday, 11am – 4pm.
  • If you’re in the market for antiques or an eclectic gift, stop by The Olde Creamery and find your bliss. Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 5:30pm, 8:30pm on Saturdays.
  • Buy directly from local artisans and farmers at the seasonal Tonasket Farmers Market. (Thursdays, 2-6pm, Mid May-October)
  • As is the case across Okanogan County, there are many beautiful areas to explore just out of town. Head to Bonaparte Lake and the Bonaparte Lake Campground for an outdoor adventure. The lake is very popular for fishing, including ice fishing in the winter. Along with stellar fishing, the campground features a boat launch, camping, swimming and hiking. (Fishing license required.)
  • For stunning hiking and very cool rock climbing options, hit up the Whistler Canyon Trailhead and take in the beautiful scenery. (Trailhead entrance located just off US-97.)
  • Should you feel like exploring the ghost towns of Okanogan County, head east on SR-20 out of Tonasket towards Wauconda and Old Wauconda. Outside of visiting the ghosts of Washington’s past, there isn’t much to do, but the drive is interesting and fairly quiet. Unfortunately, not to be confused with Wakanda.

If you’ve made it as far as Oroville, it’s only a few more miles to the Canadian border. You’ve also been traversing the beautiful Okanogan Trails Scenic Byway for the past 80 miles from Pateros and as you’ve seen during your trek, this part of the state packs in quite a bit of scenic wonder. If you’re looking to add more road trip street-cred to your adventure, check out the Highland Historic Loop (features northern Okanogan County and includes parts of adjacent Grant County) and the Many Lakes Historic Loop. (out of Oroville, heads to Nighthawk ghost town and on to Loomis and Conconully)

Oroville is the last town before the Canadian border. On my recent visit, the border was still closed due to Covid, but when open, it’s a very low-key affair to cross borders. None of those multiple lanes and gates; One lane and one gate. Voila! You’re in Canada! (As long as you have your passport or Washington State enhanced ID, of course.) Osoyoos is the closest Canadian town to the border and Penticton is just up from there. If you happened to have read my first Puerto Vallarta article, Penticton is home to the awesome couple I met during my adventures, Jorgen and Jen. Last I knew, Jorgen was head of the ski team at Penticton area Apex Mountain Resort, a ski hill I’d very much like to visit one of these days. I never cease to be amazed at just how small a world we all share.

Even during Covid times, it’s been possible to spend the day adventuring into Canada. Granted, it’s via water and you can’t legally touch the shore, but it’s still an international adventure! Spanning the border between the US and Canada, the international waters of Osoyoos Lake provide many relaxing opportunities for both Americans and Canadians. It’s possible to traverse the entire lake without a passport as long as you don’t go to land. Put in at the lovely Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial Park in Oroville and spend the day cruising the lake. In addition to a boat launch, the park also features fishing, swimming and camping.

When visiting the park, be sure to check out the private pond off to the side of the parking area. The number of trout in that pond – and the amount of commotion they were causing during my visit – was fantastic! (But it’s a private pond, so please don’t drop in a pole.) There was also an amazing variety of birds in the area. For more info about birding in the area, check out the Cascade Loop portion of the Audubon Society Great Washington Birding Trail.

In addition to Oroville’s dining opportunities, there are also some great ways to sample from the area’s wine scene. A few of the spots to help you enjoy your stay:

  • For beautiful views and a little vino, head to Esther Bricques Winery & Vineyard, located off US-97 between Tonasket and Oroville. They’re open daily from 1-6pm as well as Thursday evenings at 6pm for live music and tastings. (Thursday night events are year-round, but call ahead to make sure they’re open for afternoon tastings as they might be out in the vineyard.)
  • It was a beautiful sunny day on my last visit to Oroville and a stop at Taber’s Taste of Summer was the perfect way to celebrate. Set adjacent to a beautiful cherry orchard, this seasonal fruit stand, greenhouse and gift shop is a must-stop. The lovely owners also host “Wine Wednesdays” from 6-9pm with live music and food, which is a great opportunity to enjoy wine from their Copper Mountain Vineyards. (Opens in May, 10am – 5pm, fall hours vary seasonally)
  • While not a wine shop, Akins Fresh Market offers a good selection of local wine and beer as well as tasty treats for your picnic basket. (Open daily, 8am – 8pm) And don’t miss a stop at adjacent Country Store for all sorts of things you didn’t know you needed. Like my new “I heart Chickens” hoodie, for instance. (Open Monday – Saturday, 8am – 7pm, Sunday, 9am – 6pm)
  • Should you be craving a frosty beer rather than a glass of red, stop in at the Pastime Brewery and wet your whistle. (That said, they feature local wines as well!) In addition to a good tap list, they also feature house-smoked meats with homemade sauces and locally sourced ingredients. (Thursday – Monday, noon – 8pm. Closed Tuesday/Wednesday.)

On your next Oroville visit, why not enjoy some of that beautiful lake and mountain scene with a stay at one of the many local lodging establishments:

  • If you’ve been exploring the area around Osoyoos Lake, no doubt you’ve noticed how many homes dot the shoreline. If you’d like to spend more time on and around the lake, check out the Veranda Beach Resort. This upscale resort area is directly on the lake and features cottages, boating slips, a diner, grocery store and Veranda Beach Cellars winery.
  • Located west of Tonasket and Oroville, the Wannacut Lake Resort offers cabins, cottages and campsites on the lake. They have electric boat rentals available and a newly renovated restaurant opening sometime this year. (Opens for 2022 in on April 20th)
  • For a charming B&B experience in a beautiful ranch setting, head to Buena Vista Lodging in the North Oroville area for a relaxing weekend.
  • Work off some of that wining and dining on the Similkameen River Trail, a former railroad line located just west of Oroville off of US-97. Enjoy hiking, biking and gorgeous views on this easy-going paved/graveled trail.
Osoyoos Lake
Private homes and resorts dot the shores of Osoyoos Lake

Okanogan County is a jackpot for ghost towns and opportunities to take a step back in time abound. For a particularly fascinating look into county, state and international history, head to tiny Molson, a ghost town and museum located up Chesaw Road out of Oroville. The drive alone is worth the effort for its rolling hills, winding roads and absolute, complete solitude. Additionally, Molson sits very close to the Canadian border and there’s a country road (9 Mile Road) which parallels the country-dividing train tracks just out of Molson, all the way back down to Chesaw Road and into Oroville. Such an amazing part of the state! (Pro Tip: Cell reception cuts in and out on these roads and there isn’t a lot of traffic. Make sure you have a paper map on hand and know how to change a tire.)

The history you’re able to see along the drive to Molson is noteworthy, but you’ll want to grab your camera and jump out of the car as soon as you enter this tiny town. The first area you’ll come upon is the site of Old Molson and its now ghostly visage. Park in the small area just after turning into the site and get ready to transport back in time.

The buildings of Old Molson are largely intact with interiors which have been lost to the sands of time as well as portions featuring a museum-like format. This struck an engaging balance between stumbling upon a long-lost secret and handily learning all about it with an informative exhibit. I very much enjoyed exploring this slice of NW history and look forward to spending more time learning about the area on future visits.

Since Molson is very close to what is now the American/Canadian border, the area has quite a bit of shared history with our Canadian neighbors. As you drive into Old Molson, both flags are flying and after exploring the town, it’s an appropriate statement. So much trade, commerce and shared resources were a regular part of Molson’s day to day life and the international lines were often very blurred.

After roaming around Old Molson, do not miss a stop at the Molson Museum, located just past the ghost town. Originally the area’s schoolhouse, it has been closed for that purpose since 1969 and is now a fascinating museum dedicated to local history. The displays are well put together, charming and paint a very vivid picture of Molson life and times. An added bonus was the incredibly helpful and informative volunteer museum staff. They were very happy to discuss the area as well as serve up 50-cent coffee and brownies. I want all of my museum trips to be just like that! (Open daily from 10am – 5pm – Memorial Day thru Labor Day)

If you’re making the trek in and around Molson, there are many other points of history and interest to find in the area. Get out your map and find your way to these great spots on your next visit:

  • If you happen to be visiting Molson over the last weekend in August, head to the Molson Grange Hall for the popular Highland Stitchers Show & Sale. Beautiful, handmade quilts are on display and for sale! (Last Saturday in August, 9am – 3pm)
  • Taking place in Chesaw, every July 4th since 1942, the Chesaw Rodeo is a time-honored tradition in the area. Classic rodeo events, a parade, food and more! Another fun summer event in Chesaw is Chesaw Hot August Nights, featuring a classic car show and more. (The event was cancelled in 2021, but typically takes place the last Saturday in August)
  • If you’re visiting during winter and want to get in some skiing, make the trek up to cozy Sitzmark Ski Area. Follow Chesaw Road off of US-97 in Oroville up to Havillah Road and enjoy one of Washington’s old-school ski hills. (Open Thursday – Sunday. Lifts open 10am – 4pm. Ski hut and lodge open at 9am.)
  • For a bit of cross-country skiing on a network of groomed trails complete with warming hut, head to the Highlands Nordic Sno-park, located off of US-97 in Tonasket and up the Tonasket-Havillah Road. (Or take US-97 to Chesaw Road and onto Tonasket-Havillah Road.) A non-motorized Sno-Park Permit is required.
  • If you haven’t fulfilled your ghost town quota, head to Nighthawk, home to the oldest mining claim in the state. (c. 1860) Located on the opposite side of Oroville as Molson, take the Loomis-Oroville Road, west out of Oroville.

Yowsa! Okanogan County is a very large area to cover… But we did it! For the sake of wrapping up this particular Washington State odyssey, I’m going to save the spectacular Grand Coulee Dam for my upcoming Grant County adventure. Located in both Okanogan and Grant Counties, Grand Coulee Dam is an adventure not to be missed, but we’ll spend some quality time there during my Grant County travels. I promise!

And with that, we’ve come to the end of the road for Okanogan County. Well, not really, as we just left off in the middle of nowhere near Molson. Still a few miles to go before we get back home… Just as there are many ways to get in and around Okanogan County, there are equal amounts of beautiful routes to get you home. For this outing, I traveled back south on US-97 towards Pateros and Brewster, over to Blewett Pass and back towards I-90 and Seattle. It was a great drive! Bottom line, any path you take in and out of Okanogan County will inevitably be filled with beauty and adventure. It’s just a Washington State fact!

Until next time – Happy trails!

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Wind through the backroads of Okanogan County with my SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

  • Medicine – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (from Grace Potter & The Nocturnals)
  • The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home)
  • These Days – Jackson Browne (from For Everyman)
  • You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor (from Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon)
  • Right Down the Line – Gerry Rafferty (from City to City)
  • Wish the Wind Would Blow Me – Bob Schneider (from Burden of Proof)
  • I Gotta Get Drunk – The Little Willies (from The Little Willies)
  • Can’t Find My Way Home – Ellen McIlwaine (from Up From the Skies: The Polydor Years)
  • Fruits of My Labor – Lucina Williams (from World Without Tears)
  • A Little Too Soon to Say – Jackson Browne (from A Little Too Soon to Say)
  • Bigger Boat (feat. Randy Newman) – Brandy Clark (from Your Life Is A Record)
  • Mountain Greenery – Kat Edmonson, Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks (from Café Society)
  • Baker Street – Shawn Colvin, David Crosby (from Uncovered)
  • I Wish I Was the Moon – Neko Case (from Blacklisted)
  • Just Like Heaven – Katie Melua (from Piece by Piece)
  • I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory – Kathleen Edwards (from Asking for Flowers)
  • Wildflowers – The Wailin’ Jennys (from Fifteen)
  • September Fields – Frazey Ford (from Indian Ocean)
  • I Must Be in A Good Place Now – Fruit Bats, Vetiver (from In Real Life – Live at Spacebomb Studios)
  • Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon (from The Wind)
  • White Horses – Darlingside (from Birds Say)
  • Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp (from Breakfast in America)
Pine Cones
Happy trails to you!

Check out more I Ate the State adventures!

I Ate the State – Klickitat County

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Greetings!

Washington State packs a powerful punch when it comes to celebrating diversity. Whether it be via environment, culture or history, Washington fully represents and Klickitat County is no slouch. Within a single afternoon of exploring the area, I took in towering volcanoes (plural!), spacious forests, sweeping plains, grand rivers and ancient canyons. I enjoyed delicious bounty, learned of amazing history, hiked beautiful trails and even wandered around an abbey shared by Buddhists and Druids. All this in just one afternoon – and that was truly just the tip of the volcano! Join me while I discover what spectacular adventures Klickitat County has to offer. (And I’ll still only be scratching the surface!)

Named for the Klickitat Tribe, now part of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Klickitat County is located in the south-central area of the state. Falling near the middle in size, the population sits closer towards the bottom of the list. (29th out of 39 in population, to be exact) In a nutshell, it’s very easy to stretch out in Klickitat County – and to possibly not see anyone around for miles. And miles… It’s quite something to be able to stop in the middle of the road to take a picture and not be worried about someone driving up behind.

Bickleton Hwy
The Bickleton Highway after a spring rain. Not a car in sight…

Klickitat County is a very accessible county, from both Washington and Oregon. It neighbors Yakima, Skamania and Benton Counties and sits directly across the mighty Columbia River from Oregon. There are many routes in and out of the county within Washington as well as several bridges over the Columbia River to Oregon. This can make for many great quick-trips! It also has the benefit of being in the south-central part of the state, so it’s a relatively doable day trip from many parts of Washington. That said, as there are so many amazing things to see and do, I’d definitely recommend at least an overnight stay.

As I live in the western part of the state, I typically take I-90 to Yakima via I-82 and then Exit 37 onto US-97 towards Bend and Goldendale. I love heading over Satus Pass and enjoy the change of forest from the firs and spruce of the west side to the Ponderosa pines of the east. This route also allows me to stop at the very unique St. John’s Monastery & Bakery, located just off US-97 near the lovely Brooks Memorial State Park. The resident nuns and novices make the most delicious traditional Greek pastries, candies, soups, handcrafted candles and more. A must stop! (Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 6pm)

For my most recent foray into Klickitat County, however, I was coming from nearby Sunnyside, so I headed towards Bickleton via WA-22 to Mabton and then onto the Mabton-Bickleton Road. Tiny Bickleton is reached via quiet, winding backroads and the drive is well worth the effort. Stunning vistas, rolling fields and high desert plains are de rigueur and it’s hard not to see beauty in every turn of the road. (And there are many turns!) If you happen to visit during the spring, there are the added glories of wildflowers, fresh sage brush and possibly spring rain. (Spring sage in the spring rain is one of the dreamiest smells ever!) If you take this route, be sure to pull over randomly and take in the scene. And the air. And the silence. Beautiful

Pro tip: Reception can be spotty along the roads to and from Bickleton – and the roads are often very, very quiet. (In many parts of Klickitat County in general.) Be sure to get that oil change and tire check before venturing off into the wilds and always bring along an old-school paper map. And snacks. Always bring snacks. And probably some water.

Known as theBluebird Capitol of the World, Bickleton is a tiny, but lovely jewel in the high desert of the county. (Population 90!) Thousands of bluebirds spend much of their year in the area, making their homes in the lovely birdhouses dotting area fence lines. If you are coming to the area via Mabton, Ponderosa pines begin to pop up just outside of town and wildflowers cheerfully dot the landscape. It truly is a gorgeous drive and ends with a step back in time once you’ve arrived in Bickleton proper.

As mentioned, Bickleton is quite small, but there are definitely places to explore and several events throughout the year to check out. On your next high desert adventure, consider these great options:

  • Should you be interested in wetting your whistle in the oldest operating tavern in the state (c. 1887), be sure to sidle up at the Bluebird Inn. Grab a drink and great burger and relax in this nostalgia-filled gem. (Open Wednesday – 7am to 8pm, Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 8pm and Sunday – 8am to 6pm. Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and the entire month of December.) NOTE: Not to be confused with The Brick Saloon in Kittitas County, which lays claim to the oldest, continuously operating bar in the state. (c. 1889) DON’T MIX THEM UP! Fight, fight, FIGHT! Bar/Saloon/Tavern brawl anyone?
  • Grab food to go or take a seat in the café at the charming Bickleton Market Street Café & Grocery. Offering tasty burgers, hot and cold sandwiches and more, they’re a great stop in the area. (Open Monday – Friday, 7am to 6pm and Saturday, 7am to 11am. Closed Sunday.)
  • Be sure to make a stop at the Bickleton Carousel Museum and take in the festive scene. The museum features a lovely Herschell-Spillman Carousel (c. 1900) as well as area history. It is one of only three of its type still working, which is amazing when you consider 121 years of rowdy fair-goers. (Open Friday & Saturday, 10am – 3pm and Sunday, Noon – 4pm. Open spring through late fall.)
  • You can find the aforementioned carousel in full operation once a year at the… Alder Creek Pioneer Picnic & Rodeo (June 12-13, 2021, 10th – 12th for 2022) It is Washington’s oldest rodeo and this year marked its impressive 110th anniversary. (c. 1910) Located in nearby Cleveland Park, it’s a classic rodeo scene set amidst Ponderosa pines and a rustic park scene. I recently attended and had the pleasure of riding the carousel and eating a GIANT corndog and elephant ear. It was a great time, indeed. (Hot Tip: Cleveland Park is also known as Alder Creek Pioneer Rodeo and Picnic Area if you happen to be searching on Google. If you’re lucky enough to have reception, that is!)
  • If you have a penchant for classic cars and flea markets, be sure to hit up the Bickleton Classic Car Show – and flea market! Taking place at the Carousel Museum over Labor Day weekend, it’s a fun way to wrap up the summer. (My dad has attended and gives it his seal of approval. 😉 The event was cancelled for 2020, but hopefully 2021 will be a go.

One of my favorite stretches of road in the state lies between Bickleton and the nearby town of Goldendale. Traveling west out of town on the Bickleton-Goldendale Highway will take you through Ponderosa-filled forest and into high plains brimming with wildflowers and sage brush. (And the occasional, lonely tumbleweed blowing across the road.) I love pulling over along the way and just standing outside. The smell of the flowers and sage is amazing and on a recent trip, there was a bit of spring rain to bring it all out. No one on the road, the only sound the wind and a sense that this scene has remained exactly the same for a very long time… Sublime.

As the high plains begin to lose elevation, the road starts to wind and twist into an absolutely stunning area known as Badger Gulch. As the road descends into the deep valley, switchbacks and hairpin turns compete with impressive views for your attention. On my last drive through the area, the sun was shining, but at the same time it was raining. Amazing rainbows and god-rays sifting through the clouds accompanied me as I navigated my way through the switchbacks. Glorious! (Pro Tip: Keep your eyes on the road, or just occasionally pull over. I hate to admit that I’m prone to taking pictures out of my window as I drive, but not in this area. Nope. EYES ON THE ROAD, please.)

Once out of the dastardly, but beautiful, Badger Gulch the road calms down as you make your way towards Goldendale, the county seat of Klickitat County. Nestled in the foothills of the Simcoe Mountains, Goldendale is known for its wheat, cattle, alfalfa and hay. (Which means I get to bust out my classic “Hay!” joke whenever in the area. You’re welcome.) It is easy to breeze through the area if you’re traveling on US-97, but the town is well worth a stop. Interesting history, good barbeque and a night sky chock-full of stars are just a few of its draws. Throw in an amazing view of nearby Mount Adams and I’m never disappointed with my time in Goldendale.

Klickitat Valley
Hay!! And alfalfa, wheat, sheep and cattle!

If you find yourself in this lovely part of the state, there are many things to occupy your time and imagination. A few places to check out while in the area:

  • Goldendale is famous for its dark skies and up until recently carried the ‘Dark Sky’ designation. Sadly, this has since been removed, but hopefully Washington State will rally to have it re-established. Nevertheless, the area skies are indeed still very dark and magnificently showcase the night sky. One of the nation’s largest public observatories, Goldendale Observatory (and state park) offers an amazing look into the cosmos and a beautiful opportunity to explore the area surrounding the observatory. Newly renovated and state of the art, the observatory offers both day and night time viewings and is a must-stop if you’re visiting the area. They are currently requiring reservations until Covid restrictions are further lifted, so look online before you go. (Regular schedule resumes August 13th and drop-in visits will be allowed.) While in the area, be sure to take a quick hike through the nearby Observatory Hills Trails to enjoy the local flora and fauna. (Discover Pass required for observatory parking.) Author’s Note: The observatory was closed on my most recent visit to the area, but I’ll be returning in August and will update with pictures. I’ve visited the observatory in the past and am very excited to check out the updates! And that spectacular night sky…
  • Set back from the quaint downtown area, the Presby Museum – and Klickitat County Historical Society offers a well-curated look into the yesteryears of Goldendale and the surrounding area. Set inside the stately Presby Mansion, it’s a fine way to spend an afternoon. (May 1st – October 15th, 10am – 4pm daily)
  • There are several standard hotels in the area, but why not go big? Check out The Red House on Airbnb for a step back in time. Featured on both state and federal Historic Registers, you get the whole house to explore and imagine life in late 1800s Goldendale. (c. 1890. Originally the home of Charles Newell, the Horse King of the Northwest.) Author’s Note: I haven’t stayed there yet, but I’ll be taking care of that in August. Pictures coming soon!
  • If you’re looking for an opportunity to don those boots and polish that belt buckle, or the chance to eat A LOT of fair food, the Klickitat County Fair & Rodeo is the place to be. Given the opportunity, I’m pretty sure I could eat my weight in delicious corn dogs and elephant ears. Mmmm… (August 19-22, 2021)

What’s that? You didn’t fill up on corndogs and elephant ears at the fair?? Hmmm… Well, lucky for you, there are some great dining options in the area. Stop in at one of these fine spots the next time you’re in town:

  • If you’re a fan of BBQ (Yes, please!) head directly to The Dirty Cowgirl. Originally a food truck, Chef Kory Geddes has grown her operation into a full-service restaurant. On my recent visit, I was fortunate enough to get the very last order of brisket for the day. Moowahahahaha… SO GOOD! (Open daily, 11am – 9pm; 10pm on Friday/Saturday and 8pm on Sunday)
  • For a great breakfast, lunch or dinner, head to the Town House Café in the downtown area. This charming spot is very popular for its tasty, home-style cooking. (Wednesday to Sunday, 7am – 2pm with dinners to 7pm on Fridays. Closed Monday/Tuesday.)
  • Dwinell Country Ales offers an impressive line of craft beer and cider. The tasting room is currently closed, but private tastings are available by reservation on their tasting room patio. They are also open Saturday and Sunday from 1-4pm for beer-to-go.
  • Should you be in the mood for an old-school tavern and café experience, check out the Simcoe Café located in the heart of downtown. If those walls could talk… (Daily, 11am to 12pm, 2am on Friday/Saturday.)
  • The Goldendale has a bounty of produce and tasty treats to offer. If that sounds delicious, stop by the Goldendale Farmers Market and grab some goodies! (Saturdays at the Goldendale Chamber Grounds from May – September, 9am – 2pm)

After staying the night in one of the chain hotels off of US-97, I was very ready to head further south and do some wine-tasting and exploring along the Columbia River Gorge. And do some tasting of wine… (Did I mention doing some wine tasting?) As I headed south on US-97, the morning was brilliantly sunny and the windmills dotting the hills were in full swing. It’s amazing how large they are from a distance and this part of the drive allowed me to see just how large they actually are. Suffice to say, there’s quite a bit of energy being created by these behemoths. Klickitat County hosts several wind farms throughout the county, thoroughly utilizing the constant, sweeping winds of the area. Some may find them a challenge to the landscape and view, but I’ve always thought them strangely scenic. And hey, clean energy sources are always good!

Another sight along the way offers a prime opportunity to take in four founding members of the Pacific Northwest’s “Ring of Fire.” Should the day be sunny, which is often the case in this area, be sure to pull over at the Cascade Volcanoes Viewpoint, located shortly outside of Goldendale. Showcasing one of the state’s most splendid vistas, this humble pull-over spot on the side of US-97 allows you to see, in one fell swoop, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. Granted, Hood and Adams clearly dominate the scene, but Saint Helens and Rainier nicely tip their caps on either side of this family picture. Don’t miss the chance to stand in awe of these magnificent mountains.

While the western names of these noble guardians of the Northwest have been in place since early, western exploration of the area, their original Native American names have been known for thousands of years:

  • Mount Adams Native American name: Pahto or Klickitat
  • Mount Hood Native American name: Wy’east or Wyeast
  • Mount Rainier Native American name: Tahoma or Takhoma
  • Mount St. Helens Native American name: Louwala-Clough or Loowit to the Klickitat

Continuing south on US-97 brings you up and over a ridge and down into the just-plain-amazing Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. I truly can’t say enough good about this area. It has mesmerized me my entire life and with each visit, I love and appreciate it all the more. Even if you are just passing through on your way to Oregon or beyond, it’s hard not to thoroughly admire nature’s handiwork as you descend into the gorge.

Travel Tip: If you’re pining to do a bicycle trip through the area, the Mt. Adams Bus – Mt. Adams Transportation Services (MATS) goes from Goldendale and all through the gorge. (It also goes over bridges to The Dalles and Hood River.) Put that bike on the rack and take a break from the uphill! $1 for adults and kids five and under are free. Sweet!

Should you indeed only be passing through, you can continue heading south on US-97 towards the nearby Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and into Oregon. A large truck-stop area, Biggs Junction, lies just past the bridge and continuing south will bring you to beautiful Bend, Oregon. Further south and into California, it is possible to hook up with I-5 in the city of Weed near Mount Shasta. (Travel bonus: If you were to reverse course on US-97 and head through Okanogan County and into British Columbia, Canada (BC Highway 97), you could drive all the way to Alaska via the ALCAN Highway. (#LifeGoals) US-97 in a pretty epic highway!

For this trip, however, my travels remained firmly in Washington as I followed along the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition via SR-14 west. This natural wonder of an area features amazing history and spectacular geology, not to mention breathtaking views. Ice age flood plains, millennia-old Native American history, towering basalt cliffs and the mighty Columbia River are just a few of the attractions. It’s not hard to understand why the area has been a major hub of activity for thousands and thousands of years. It can also be a bit difficult to take it all in while simply driving along the winding road. Keep those eyes on the road while driving, but be sure to pull over many times along the way to revel in the fantastic scenery.

Columbia River Gorge
Yep. That’s a pretty amazing view.

Not too far into my journey on SR-14, I stopped for a visit at the lovely Maryhill State Park. A sprawling, scenic area along the Columbia, it’s a great spot for a picnic or camping adventure. Bring your boat and do some fishing or perhaps a little waterskiing. (I have the fondest memories of waterskiing on the Columbia. Major fuel for my I must have a boat plan…) On a windy day, it’s likely windsurfers will be also sailing the river and defying the laws of gravity. (Discover Pass required for parking and a Launch Permit is required for boating.)

Just up the road from the park sits one of the county’s, nay state’s, most interesting sites, the Stonehenge Memorial & Klickitat County Veterans Memorial. Designed by prolific highway builder, Sam Hill, it sits on a bluff overlooking the Columbia as a monument to soldiers killed in WWI. (Sam Hill was also a businessman, lawyer and railroad exec and quite influential to the area’s development in the early 1900s) While not quite Salisbury Plain, the view is stunning and the structure a truly unique tribute. Sam Hill’s crypt is located just a short walk below the monument on a bluff overlooking the river.

Additional unique and interesting spots to check out in the area:

  • In operation since 1936, the excellent Gunkel Orchards & Fruit Stand is just down the road from the Stonehenge memorial. Open seasonally, they offer delicious fresh fruit and more. Cherries, peaches, nectarines… Go get ‘em! (Monday – Thursday, 8am – 6pm and Friday – Sunday, 8am – 6pm)
  • Visit the Waving Tree Vineyard for a bit of wine tasting bliss. They’re located down from the memorial and east of the historic Maryhill Community Church (c.1888) on Maryhill Highway. They also have a tasting room at the entrance of Maryville State Park, but it is currently closed due to COVID. (Winery open daily from 10am – 5pm, but they do suggest making an appointment.)
  • The Maryhill Loops Road goes between US-97 (just past Goldendale) and connects with SR-14 near the Stonehenge Drive turn-off. Now only open to bikes and pedestrians, it is part of the original, ten-mile asphalt road Sam Hill personally financed in the early 1900s and is the first such road in the northwest. It was originally used it to experiment with paving techniques and also provided an invigorating drive for early motorists. (Pro Tip: They do open the road twice a year to motorists. Gotta check out those hairpin turns!)

Heading a little further west on SR-14 continues the celebration of Sam Hill and his significance to the region. Enter the fabulous Maryhill Museum, a crown jewel in the extraordinary beauty of the area. Built by Sam Hill, the name is a tribute to his wife, daughter and mother-in-law, all named “Mary” and the opening was dedicated by Queen Marie of Romania in 1926. Featuring an excellent art collection both in the galleries and throughout the grounds, it is a must-stop when visiting the area. It also offers a gorgeous, expansive view of the area’s amazing geology. (March 15th – November 15th, 10am – 5pm daily.)

Sam Hill’s Legacy: As he was an extensive international traveler, Sam Hill’s contributions extend beyond the area. He is also responsible for the Peace Arch monument in Blaine, between the US and Canadian border and built a golf course and restaurant at Semiahmoo, just north of Blaine. During Prohibition, the restaurant could serve alcohol as it was on the Canadian side. Well played, Sam. Well played. Additionally, if you’re in the Seattle area, take a drive through the neighborhood of the Sam Hill house, located on Capitol Hill.

After luxuriating in the artistic grandeur of Maryhill Museum, it was time to find a bit of lunch – and maybe do a little wine-tasting. (Art, food and wine… A perfect afternoon!) Located just west of the museum, off of SR-14, lives the wonderful Maryhill Winery. Featuring award-winning wine, a delicious menu and spectacular views, a visit to Maryhill Winery is always a good idea. Their famous amphitheater is unfortunately closed these days, but they do still feature live music on their lovely terrace. I’m pretty sure if I lived in the area, I’d be there all the time – for the charcuterie and Albariño alone! (Open daily, 11am – 6pm, 8pm on Saturdays. They also have tasting rooms in Spokane, Vancouver and Woodinville.)

One of the best sightseeing opportunities while traveling through Klickitat County is just that; seeing the sights. There are plenty of places to pull over and I highly recommend you take advantage and enjoy the many incredible vistas. The area is part of the greater Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, which spans Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon and it is a marvel to take in. The entire “trail” spans 16,000 square miles!

Also found in the area is The Dalles Dam. (A great opportunity to do my classic Dam! joke. You are again welcome.) This area of the Columbia was forever altered by a different type of flooding in 1957 with the completion of the dam. Before this time, the massive Celilo Falls dominated the scene. These marvelous falls were a hugely important center of fishing, trade and gathering with neighboring tribes for thousands of years. They also proved to be a bit of an obstacle for the Lewis and Clark Expedition when it ventured through on its way to the Pacific. There is an excellent viewpoint located just before the turn-off to nearby Wishram which highlights the history of the area. It is well worth a stop.

Should you like to extend your area viewing with a nice glass of wine and tasty eats, the following Wishram establishments await your visit:

  • Set at the base of the Columbia Hills (elevation 2600-3200 feet) the Cascade Cliffs winery is a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine. Bask in the sun, marvel at the nearby basalt cliffs and enjoy the view. Sigh…  The vineyard and tasting room is located just off of SR-14 and they also have tasting rooms in Hood River, Woodinville & Georgetown. (Wishram tasting room open daily, Noon – 7pm, Friday and Saturday to 8pm.)
  • In addition to a lovely wine offering, the Jacob Williams winery, located off SR-14 near the Avery Recreation Area, features charcuterie and other treats. Their tasting room is also dog friendly and features live music throughout the summer. (Open daily, 11am – 6pm. They also have a tasting room in McMinnville, OR.)

People have been inhabiting the Columbia River Gorge for millennia. There are many ways to explore and experience the history of the area, but among the most fascinating is the sprawling Columbia Hills Historical State Park along SR-14. (Discover Pass required for parking and launch permits required for boating) Comprised of four major areas with a wide variety of things to do and see. Whether your stay is short or long, it is impossible to walk away without being profoundly affected by the beauty and history of the area; So many stories, so many spectacular views, so many trails and natural wonders to savor.

One of the most amazing features of the area and easiest to check out are the ancient petroglyphs located along the Temani Pesh-wa Trail at Horsethief Lake. These amazing stories were left by the original stewards of the land and were relocated from their original locations along the Columbia with the creation of the Dalles Dam. Despite their move, it is still awe-inspiring to view them in their current dwelling and an enduring tribute to the indigenous peoples of the area.

There are so many wonderful opportunities for exploration in Columbia Hills Historical State Park. Just a few of the options:

  • For an easy-access look at the petroglyphs, drive to the riverside parking lot inside the Horsethief Lake entrance of the park. The Temani Pesh-wa Trail is located directly adjacent to the lot and features a boardwalk with a self-guided tour next to the petroglyphs. For something more in depth, the park offers ranger-guided tours which go deeper into the area and history. The featured She Who Watches tour tells the legend of a female chief of the native Wishram people from 3000 years ago. Check out local Native American artist, Lillian Pitt for wonderful artwork based on local legends and the Columbia River Gorge area.
  • Stay a while at Horsethief Lake and camp in the same areas that have been hosting travelers for millennia, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition. A couple of rustic cabins are also available for camping. The lake is usually open for fishing, from the end of April to October 31st and there is boating access to both the lake and Columbia River. (Permits required for fishing) If you don’t happen to have your own boat, check out the kayak and pedal boat rentals options.
  • For some stellar rock climbing, check out the Horsethief Butte area. Amazing views, beautiful trails and super cool rocks!
  • Off the north side of SR-14 lies the Crawford Oaks trailhead. In addition to hiking opportunities, bikes and horses have much to explore. If you’re looking for amazing mountain and gorge(ous) views, this is the trail to take.
  • Also off the north side of SR-14 and close to the Crawford Oaks trailhead, is the beautiful Dalles Mountain Ranch area. In addition to the 6,000 acres of remarkable landscapes, this historic ranch features much flora and fauna along with historic farm buildings and equipment.
  • Should you fancy a side trip into yonder Oregon, an amazing drive with incredible views can be found just over the nearby Dalles Bridge. Once across the bridge, take I-84 west and head for Mayer State Park. You’ll be looking for the Rowena Crest Viewpoint off the Historic Columbia River Highway. You won’t be sorry!

Important Public Service Announcement: The Columbia River Gorge is an extremely beautiful and fascinating area. It is one of many extremes, in fact; several of which being flora and fauna. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, ticks, poison oak and more! Spring is tick season and rattlesnakes generally love cool, concealed spots. Long pants, good boots and a hat are my go-to whenever hiking around these areas. Go prepared, be aware and you’ll be fine! And don’t go poking around in those interesting looking spots between the rocks… DON’T DO IT.

Nope.
And this is where my petroglyph party-train came to a halt…

After communing with the petroglyphs and successfully evading snakes, it was time to head further west. I was ultimately heading towards Trout Lake and Mount Adams, but there were many alluring spots to check out along the way. Beautiful trails, local history and delicious vino are just some of the options that came across my path in the Lyle area. Don’t miss exploring the beauty in and around this tiny community.

Keep an eye out for exits off of SR-14 for Old Highway 8. The area is a goldmine of outdoor opportunities and is not to be missed. Just a few of the amazing places to explore during your visit:

  • One of the most impressive features of the area (and that’s saying something!) can be found in the Coyote Wall Recreation Area. The Coyote Wall Trail is just one of the excellent ways to experience the mammoth formation of columnar basalt known as the Coyote Wall or “The Syncline.”
  • The Catherine Creek trailhead is lovely throughout the year; particularly during spring and early summer. The wildflowers are gorgeous and the views, sublime. Located off of Old Highway 8, west of the Syncline.
  • Located just off SR-14 at an intersection for Old Highway 8 sits Rowland Lake. (SR-14 actually cuts directly through the lake!) Known for its trout fishing, it’s a great spot to stop even if you’ve forgotten your poles.

More great opportunities for exploration in the Lyle area:

  • For wonderful views, wildflower identifying and a glance into the cherry-growing history of the area, hit up the Lyle Cherry Orchard Trail and Loop. The trailhead is located just off SR-14 and the trail itself can be enjoyed in a 5 to 6.5 round-trip loop.
  • Set in the center of town, the Lyle Twin Bridges Museum is a lovely place to learn about the history of the town and greater Lyle area. (Open Saturdays, June thru September, Noon to 5pm)
Chamberlain Lake
Lovely wildflowers in the Lyle area

If all that exploring has left you parched and peckish, there are several ways to address the situation while in the Lyle area:

  • A well-established and respected winery in the Columbia River Gorge, Domaine Pouillon offers a fine catalog of wines. Check out their summer ‘2nd Weekend Sip’ events for a taste of their greatness. (Located along the Lyle-Snowden Road. Tasting room currently open by appointment only.)
  • Stop in at the family-run Klickitat Canyon & Columbia Gorge Winery and enjoy a bit of their hand-processed, certified-organic wine. (Located along the Lyle-Snowden Road. Open Friday – Sunday, Noon – 6pm, Mother’s Day through Thanksgiving weekend and by appointment.)
  • I really enjoy the AGO Sauvignon Blanc from COR Cellars, located off of Old Highway 8. Stop in and give it a try, along with their other lovely offerings. Currently, tastings are by reservation only, Wednesday thru Monday. They have limited indoor seating in addition to a cool courtyard and tasting tent. Spots are available 11am thru 3pm.
  • Also found off of Old Highway 8, the appropriately named Syncline Winery features lovely wines in a beautiful location. This charming boutique winery is open for tastings Friday thru Sunday, noon to 5pm. (Reservations recommended) They also feature various tasting packages and I have to say I’m quite intrigued by their Blue Door Experience… Adding it to my travel bucket list!
  • Just up the road from the Syncline Winery is The Hillbilly Farm. This family-run farm stand features fresh produce with their specialties being tomatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe. They also have plants for sale and fresh eggs available 24 hours a day. Open daily, 9am – 7pm.
  • The tagline at Tetrahedron Wines is “Where Art meets Science,” which I find very cool. Two great tastes that go great together! Stop in for a tasting on Saturdays from noon to 5pm and Sundays from noon to 4pm. (Reservations recommended. Located off of SR-14 in downtown Lyle)
  • Featuring classic pub fare and hand-tossed pizza, The Sandbar and Grill is the perfect addition to a day of local exploration. Located off of SR-14 in downtown Lyle. Open Wednesday thru Saturday, 4pm – 9pm. (Closed Sunday – Tuesday)
  • If you’re in the mood for a classic country breakfast before you begin your adventures, stop in at the Country Café in downtown Lyle. They also serve old-school burgers and sandwiches during lunch. Open daily, 7am – 2pm. (8am on Sunday)
  • If all this adventuring has left you tuckered out, consider a reservation at The Lyle Hotel and take a well-earned rest. This quaint hotel (c. 1905) was originally a railroad hotel and offers a charming glimpse into the history of the Lyle area. Located in downtown Lyle. (Note: Their restaurant is closed for the time being.)
Twin Bridges Museum
The Twin Bridges Museum in Lyle

Getting to Lyle is simple via SR-14 as the highway goes directly through town. There are, however, a couple of interesting and less direct ways to and from the area. If the beauty of a Douglas fir forest is calling your name, take a 30-minute drive north to the tiny town of Snowden via the Lyle-Snowden Road. (West of downtown Lyle on SR-14, take Old Highway 8 to Canyon Road)

If you’d like to take a back-route to Lyle from the Goldendale area, hit up the very scenic SR-142. Along the way, make sure to visit the town and county namesake, Klickitat. This route is filled with plenty of beautiful views and vantages to discover. A great route extending from SR-142 is the Goldendale-Glenwood Highway, which leads north towards the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge and offers more beautiful views and vantages.

While exploring the backroads and byways of Klickitat County, keep these enjoyable options in mind for your itinerary:

  • Located in Klickitat proper, the Klickitat Historical Museum features interesting exhibits and artifacts from days gone by. Open Sundays, 10am – 3pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • The town of Klickitat is located at the base of Klickitat Canyon. Spilling from its mouth at the base of Mount Adams, the Klickitat River flows into the canyon offering many outdoor opportunities along the way. (It’s the state’s longest wild river!) Fishing, rafting, hiking and much more can easily fill a sunny weekend. This is also apparently the place to be for turkey hunting. Chalk that up in the ‘you learn something new every day’ category for me. I was unaware Washington had a turkey population much less one large enough for hunting. The more you know!
  • If you’d rather draw pictures of turkeys than hunt them, consider instead hitting up the Klickitat Trail for a bit of hiking. This 31-mile trail follows an old railroad grade through the canyon and serves up much beauty and adventure. Bikes and horses welcome.
Hand Turkey
I spent a lot of time on this. You’re welcome. (Yes, Dad, that is a real googly eye.)

Further west of Lyle, heading towards Bingen, make sure to take a stop at the Chamberlain Lake Rest Area. (Even if you don’t need to rest. I mean, if you have a chance to rest, it’s probably a good idea. As my mom always said, you never know when your next chance might be…) This little spot is a great place to take a quick break and a short stroll around the area. Have a snack! The views are spectacular and it’s just off the road…  

There is much environmental variety to be found in Klickitat County. The bulk of my journey thus far has focused on the drier, Columbia River Gorge portion of the county. Beautiful grasslands, rolling hills and the Columbia River dominate the scene, but not far away exists a temperate rainforest. Heading north from Bingen and past White Salmon will take you into this amazing area. (Don’t worry – we’ll visit White Salmon and Bingen on the way home!)

From SR-14 in Bingen, I headed north on SR-141 towards White Salmon. The road immediately began climbing and the trees and greenery began to expand their reach. Mount Hood was towering behind me on the Oregon side and Mount Adams, straight ahead to the north. This was the first time I’d traveled this road, but I knew in my soul it was taking me somewhere spectacular. I was not proven wrong…

Ponderosa Pines
My favorite – the magnificent Ponderosa pine!

As I traveled further north on SR-141, I came to the tiny town known as the ‘gateway to Mount Adams,’ Trout Lake. (Not an actual lake, but there is a namesakelake nearby.) Since the arid Columbia River Gorge is a mere 30-minute drive from the cooler, greener mountain vibe of Trout Lake, the transition is quite something to experience. Even if the outdoor life isn’t your thing, it’s well worth just making a drive around the area to take in the beautiful scenery and environment.

Backroads tip: It is also possible to reach the Trout Lake area from Goldendale and SR-142 to the Glenwood and Trout Lake Highways OR the Glenwood Highway to BZ-Glenwood Highway. So many excellent backroads options!

In addition to stellar hiking, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, climbing and rafting, the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest – Mount Adams area is also renowned for its scrumptious huckleberry season. The season goes from mid-August to mid-September and is a delicious way to experience the mountain scene.

Huckleberry hot tips: You will need a permit for picking in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. You can get a printable Free-Use Permit online if picking under one gallon/up to three gallons a year. If you’re wanting to pick to use for products such as jam, ice cream, etc. you’ll need a Charge Use Permit, available at your local Ranger District or Monument Headquarters

Should you not fancy cooking over a camp stove or camping under the stars, there are several lodging and dining options in Trout Lake. It is popular to use this area as a sort of basecamp for area adventures. Some great places to check out on your next visit:

  • Along with tasty food, the historic Trout Lake Country Inn also offers yoga classes in their dance hall and live music. Open Friday – Sunday, 5pm – 8:30pm.
  • The Station Café & Espresso at Andy’s Valley Service (and Chevron Station) features delicious huckleberry shakes and pies along with coffee, burgers and more! (And you can get gas and have your car serviced!)
  • On my recent visit, there were two old guys hanging out on the porch, discussing the day’s events. A little girl was playing on the steps… Take a step back to quieter times at the historic Trout Lake Grocery and stock up on adventure goods. If huckleberries are in season, check out the fresh berries, jams and more! (Open daily, 7:30am – 7pm.)
  • For pub fare in a classic, mountain setting, stop in at The Logs Inn and enjoy the scene. Located directly off of SR-141 and in the area since the 1930s, they have recently renovated and reopened in August 2020. They also have four cabins for rent. Open Wednesday – Friday, 3pm – 11pm and Saturday/Sunday, 11:30am – 11pm. (8pm on Sunday)
  • The very inviting, family-operated Trout Lake Valley Inn offers modern comfort in a beautiful, rustic setting. Be sure to check out the hot tub as well as the free bicycle and charcoal BBQ loaners! Pet friendly.
  • It’s right there in the name – cozy! The charming, family-operated Trout Lake Cozy Cabins feature modern amenities including Wi-Fi, TVs and outdoor BBQ grills. Roughing it, while not roughing it! Pet friendly.
  • If you’re looking for something truly unique for your Trout Lake stay, head to the Cave Creek Farm. This small herb farm also has cool “glamping” options as well as a farmhouse for rent.
  • For a more modern take on the mountain cabin, check out Getaway Mount Adams. Part of a larger, very cool “getaway” concept, these cabins have everything you need to get away from the city and into the outdoors; while still living in comfort.
Mt Adams
The stunning Mount Adams as seen from the Trout Lake area

One of the most uniquely beautiful and peaceful spots I’ve ever visited in Washington or beyond is located in the Trout Lake area. Resulting from the friendship between a Zen Buddhist monk and a Druid priest, the Trout Lake Abbey is like nothing I’ve ever encountered. The day I visited, I was the only one walking around the grounds and it was one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve had in my life. Granted, COVID likely had something to do with the lack of visitors, but I can’t deny the absolute bliss I enjoyed that afternoon.

Set on a large farm near the base of Mount Adams, the abbey features a Zen Buddhist temple and meditation garden, a Druid sanctuary, organic farm, lavender labyrinth and lodging. (Five private B&B style rooms and a hostel.) They host several retreats throughout the year including yoga, qigong, Chinese medicine, music and dance. Due to COVID, they are currently closed for overnight stays, but will hopefully be resuming lodging soon.

Whatever your ideology, go to this place. Walk around the grounds. Marvel in the peaceful feeling and sense that whoever you are, you are welcome. In these challenging times, it did my heart much good to feel such genuine goodwill – and in such a spectacular setting. I can’t wait for my next visit to the Abbey and hope I’ll be able to stay for longer than an afternoon.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is quite large and spans Skamania, Lewis, Yakima, Cowlitz and Klickitat counties. With such a large swath of forest as well as Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens located within its borders, the outdoor endeavors are near limitless. Camping and hiking are two of the most popular activities to add to any adventure and there are so many excellent options when visiting the Trout Lake area. A few ideas for you:

  • Part of a 2000-foot lava cave, the Guler Ice Caves feature a 650 ft long cavern for exploration. Leading down into total darkness, a 20-foot staircase leads you to a treasure trove of icy stalactites and stalagmites. Don’t forget your flashlight and jacket! Check out the Peterson Prairie Campground (summer to September 15th) if you’re interested in camping in the area. (Also great access to huckleberry picking!)
  • If you’re into lovely waterfalls, head to the trailhead for Langfield Falls. Enjoy the 60-foot falls and easy-going hike to get there. The trailhead is located about 25 miles northwest of Trout Lake.
  • If you’re looking for a spot for a nice, lakeside picnic, take the hike to lovely Lemei Lake, west of Trout Lake. (Five miles round-trip from the Cultus Creek Campground)
  • As a former fire lookout location, it makes sense that Sleeping Beauty Peak would offer stunning views and vistas. There is a small bit of elevation gain involved (1400 ft.), but the entire hike is only 2.6 miles round-trip. Not too bad for such amazing scenery! The nearby Trout Lake Creek Campground is a great campsite near the hike. (Trailers and RVs not recommended)
  • More great campsites in the area are the Goose Lake Campground (mid-June thru mid-September – RVs not recommended) and the Oklahoma Campground. (mid-May thru mid-September)

If you’re not afraid of a little snow (or a lot!), the cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snow-shoeing trails in Gifford-Pinchot are quite impressive and abundant. Beautiful Douglas fir trees covered in snow and the quiet padding of snowshoes are two of my very favorite things. I highly recommend taking a trek into the Gifford-Pinchot forests during the winter season. (A Washington State Sno-Park Permit is required for sno-parks. Get the non-motorized permit for ski and snowshoe and the motorized for snowmobiling. The nearby Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center in White Salmon sells non-motorized sno-park permits.)

If you love snowy adventures as much as I do, check out these spots in the Gifford-Pinchot area:

  • The Pineside Sno-Park is located north of Trout Lake and features 20-miles of groomed ski and snowshoe trails. (No snowmobiles allowed on the groomed trails.)
  • The SnowKing Sno-Park can be found a couple of miles beyond the Pineside Sno-Park. It offers both non-motorized and motorized access and features 20-miles of groomed cross-country trails and quite a bit of backcountry ski and snowmobile possibilities. (No groomed snowmobile trails.)
  • Found west of Trout Lake, the Atkisson Sno-Park is big with snowmobilers and offers 154-miles of marked snowmobile trails. There is also a large area of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. (Marked, not groomed) The area is close to the Guler Ice Caves and Natural Bridges area and has a nice warming hut with wood stove.
  • If you didn’t bring your own gear, Doug’s Hood River and Pure Stoke Sports are great places to gear up. Offering both summer and winter rentals, they are located across the Columbia in lovely Hood River.

If you’d like to fine tune your snow skills, Mount Adams boasts an excellent climbing scene. It is the second highest peak in Washington (12,276 ft) behind Mount Rainier (14, 410 ft) and presents some excellent alpine climbing opportunities. While less technical than Rainier, it still requires an ice axe, crampons and a decent knowledge of mountaineering. If you are not an experienced climber, hire a guide or guide service. (Alpine Ascents or American Alpine Institute are great options) As the weather can change swiftly and dramatically, the Ten Essentials are incredibly important. Always be prepared.

If you’re just starting out in your alpine climbing career, the South Climb route is the “easiest.” It takes off from the South Climb Trailhead (also known as Cold Springs Camp) and can be achieved in a long day if prepared and in shape. That said, camping along the route is generally recommended. (Climbing permits for travel above elevation of 7000 ft. are required from May 1st to September 30th and can be purchased online. Late spring into early October is the typical climbing season.)

Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is fun!

After cruising around the Trout Lake and Mount Adams area, it was time to head back towards White Salmon. I’d arranged to stay in town for the evening and was looking forward to investigating the downtown area and restaurant scene. A quick drive south on SR-141 brought me into town where I found parking directly in front of the Inn of the White Salmon, the hotel where I was staying. Score!

Once I’d checked in and briefly relaxed in my very comfortable and modern room, it was time to find some dinner. The inn was conveniently located on W. Jewett Boulevard, the main route through town and hot spot for restaurants, shops and more. Just a short walk down this very quaint road landed me directly in the center of town. The evening was coming on, but it was still warm and bright and the sky was just beginning to turn pink and orange with the sunset. Double score!

As White Salmon is a major hub of outdoor pursuits, the vibe around town is very casual and mountain-friendly. Don’t let that low-key vibe fool you, however, as there is a vibrant and delicious restaurant scene to be savored. From casual to fine dining, there are many excellent options, making it the perfect area to complete a day of mountain adventuring. Check out these tasty spots the next time you’re in town:

  • I had one of the best meals in a long time at the delicious Pixan Taqueria & Cantina. To say it was fantastic would be an understatement. I began with a tasty craft margarita paired with hand-cut chips served with house-made cheese, nasturtium leaves, honeycomb, cactus and house-made salsas and sauces. Just that was enough, but I wisely followed it up with a selection of tacos and additional chips, salsa and beer. It’s a good thing my hotel was a block away as I was moving pretty slowly… (Open Monday/Tuesday from 4-9pm, Friday from 4-10pm, Saturday from noon – 10pm and Sunday, noon – 9pm. Closed Wednesday/Thursday.)
  • Sporting an excellent ski theme, Le Doubblé Troubblé Wine Co. is a cool little tasting room in the heart of downtown. Monday and Thursday, Noon – 8pm, Friday – Sunday, Noon – 8pm. (Closed Tuesday/Wednesday)
  • In the mood for fried pickles and beer cheese soup? I know I always am! Everybody’s Brewing in the downtown area is a fun brewery and pub serving tasty beer and great food. Open Sunday/Monday, 11:30am – 9:30pm, Tuesday, 3:30pm – 9:30pm and 10pm on Friday/Saturday. (Closed Wednesday)
  • Serving freshly made bread and pastries along with breakfast and lunch sandwiches, the White Salmon Baking Co. can be found just off Jewett Boulevard. (Open Monday, 5pm – 8pm for pizza night, Wed – Sun, 8am – 3pm. Closed Tuesday.)
  • Henni’s Kitchen & Bar covers the refined dinner and cocktail scene in downtown White Salmon. Using locally-sourced ingredients, their menu pairs very well with a glass or two of local vino. (Open Thursday – Sunday, 5pm – 9pm)
  • Just next door to Henni’s, their sister restaurant Pizza Leona serves up delicious full pies and slices along with refreshing soft-serve ice cream. (Open daily, 4pm – 9pm)
  • The very hip Feast Market & Delicatessen is located in the center of down town and features prepared lunch and dinner options along with fresh meat and seafood, dairy and specialty items. (Open Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 8pm)
  • Locally-sourced ingredients make up the very tasty menu at the North Shore Café, located in the center of downtown. Serving breakfast, lunch, coffee, tea and more! (Open Friday – Wednesday, 8am – 2pm. Closed Thursdays.)
  • Located off SR-141, heading north towards Trout Lake, the Ruby June Inn & Icehouse Bar offers lodging along with a seasonal Chef’s Collective Dinner Series. Getting a ticket to one of these dinners is high on my bucket list for future visits to the White Salmon area.

In addition to the mighty Columbia, there are several other amazing rivers and creeks flowing through Klickitat County. There is also a lot of crazy wind to add to the adventure. Kayaking, rafting, windsurfing and simply relaxing on the water are just some of the ways to enjoy all the wet stuff. In addition to all the opportunity on the Columbia, there is quite a bit of action happening off of SR-141 in the White Salmon and Trout Lake areas. Considerations for your next water-loving adventure:

  • If whitewater isn’t your thing, keep it mellow with some hiking along the tree-lined creeks of the Jewett Creek Watershed Recreation Area. In addition to hiking, they also feature a BMX bike park and mountain biking trails.
  • The beautiful White Salmon River flows into the Columbia at this point. If you’re a little brave and maybe a little crazy, consider rafting over Husum Falls near BZ Corner. Husum Falls is the tallest commercially rafted waterfall route in the country. Should this sound like the trip for you, hit up local guide services Zoller’s Outdoor Odysseys or Wet Planet Rafting & Kayaking for their excellent guided river trips. (Absolutely on my bucket list for future visits! Maybe not those falls, though…)
  • In need of gear for your crazy, water-filled adventure? Stop in at Immersion Research in White Salmon for some outfitting assistance. (Open daily, 9am – 5pm)
  • Perhaps you’d like to sail over the water rather than through it. Should this be the case, head to Pacific Boardsports / Naish USA for all your windsurfing needs. (Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)

After I begrudgingly wrapped up my visit to White Salmon, it was time to head home. And back to ye ol’ day job… (I’ll be back soon, White Salmon. I’ll be back!) But since I wasn’t fully committed to making it back in time for my afternoon meeting, I thought I’d check out nearby Bingen and maybe grab a little coffee and breakfast on the way home. A girl’s gotta eat, after all! It was also a gorgeous, sunny morning and I knew from my phone’s weather app it was raining at home… Let’s go get some coffee!

Located on SR-14 and along the Columbia, Bingen holds the keys to much enjoyment and adventure. Beautiful forests are just to the north and one of the country’s most prolific rivers, directly adjacent. It is also very close to the Hood River Bridge and provides easy access to the town of Hood River and Oregon at large. Bingen is a great center of activity and there are many pastimes to pursue while visiting the area; water sports, wine-tasting and sightseeing to name a few.

The Columbia Gorge is a natural wind tunnel and epicenter of windsurfing and all things wind-sporty. If you’d like to try your hand at mastering the winds, these establishments can help you on your way:

  • Just across the bridge in Hood River, both Cascade Kiteboarding (daily 9-5) and Big Winds (daily 10-5) offer rentals, gear for purchase and various wind-worshipping lessons. Kiteboarding, windsurfing, and wing-foiling are a few of their daredevil options.
  • Perhaps you have your own boat or maybe a couple of jet skis, in which case, can I join you on your next trip? We’ll hit up Bingen Harbor and put in at the Bingen Marina. An afternoon of cruising around the Columbia, busting out some waterskiing and windsurfing? (The windsurfing is on you. I’m sticking with water skis.) This is a doable and excellent plan, right??
Mt Hood
Heading out of White Salmon and towards the windy Columbia and Mt. Hood

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much opportunity to investigate the Bingen restaurant scene on my recent visit. (Or go waterskiing!) I will, however, be back very soon and have a few establishments front-loaded on my list:

  • Who doesn’t love a good cup of Joe and a hand pie for breakfast? (or any meal, really) Located in the downtown area, directly on SR-14, Mugs Coffee, serves tasty beverages, pastries, sandwiches and more in a cozy atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the sausage and egg hand pie. Mmmm!! (Open Monday – Thursday, 6:30am – 4pm, Friday to 3pm and Saturday from 7am – 2pm. Closed Sunday.)
  • Featuring gluten-free baked goods, including hand pies, cakes and pizza crusts, the Columbia Gorge Bakery is very popular throughout the area. They also offer frozen and take-n-bake options. (Open daily at 8am, Sunday at 10am.)
  • If you’re in the mood for Italian, Beneventi’s, located in the heart of downtown is the place to be. Serving pizza, sandwiches, pasta, calzones and more, they are open Monday thru Saturday from 10:30am – 8pm. (Closed Sunday.)
  • Located directly on SR-14 in the downtown area, the appropriately named EAT 14 can help you with that teriyaki and sushi craving. They also have burgers and fries! Open daily, 10:30am – 9pm. (Closed Sunday.)
  • Looking for pub food and BBQ in an old-school tavern scene? Head to Chips Bar & Grill on SR-14 in the downtown area for a drink and tasty food. (Currently undergoing new management and staffing – they hope to reopen soon.)
  • Operating in the area since 1867, the Dickey Farms Produce Market features all things local and fresh. (Including beer and ice cream!) They’re open Monday – Friday, 6am – 7pm (Saturday at 7am, Sunday at 10am)

In addition to river activities, Bingen has many options that don’t require a life vest. If you’re not looking to spend the day on your boat, consider these options: (Also, can I borrow your boat?)

  • Learn all about the greater Bingen area at the Gorge Heritage Museum, located in downtown Bingen. They are open from June 4th – August 31st on Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 4pm.
  • Located in the center of downtown, directly on SR-14, Antiques & Oddities is chock full of odds and ends from days gone by. I was in the area fairly early on my last visit and they weren’t open yet, but I’ll be back! Open daily from 10am – 4pm.
  • A performing arts center featuring live performances and theatre events, the Bingen Theater in downtown is a mainstay of local entertainment. They weren’t operating during COVID, but keep an eye on their website for upcoming events.
  • The Society Hotel looks very cool and I plan to stay there sometime soon. A converted schoolhouse featuring lodging in rooms, bunks and cabins, they also have a spa and bathhouse along with a cozy café and bar. (They also have a pretty cool looking location in downtown Portland.)
  • If you’re looking for local history and charm, check out the historic Joslyn House B&B in downtown Bingen. The oldest house in the Columbia Gorge, (c. 1860) the Joslyn House features multiple rooms with en suite bathrooms.
  • Bonus trip: The historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, located just across the bridge in Hood River is an absolutely beautiful hotel and spa – and it’s haunted! (So they say, but I didn’t see any ghostly visages during my Halloween stay.) Delicious dining, well-appointed rooms, beautiful grounds and a spectacular view of the Gorge – you can’t go wrong!

Since that afternoon meeting of mine was still looming in the distance, it was time to make my way back to the Seattle area. Goodbye enduring sunshine, gorgeous gorge views and towering mountains. Granted, I enjoy most of those things in greater Seattle (minus that whole enduring sunshine bit), but there’s just something so magical and unique about the way Klickitat County does it.

Since I was pressed for time and didn’t want to chance getting stuck in Portland area traffic, I decided to head back towards Goldendale on SR-14 and back out to US-97. Heading west on I-90 towards Seattle just felt like a better option overI-5 on a busy weekday morning. I ended up being very glad of that choice, even considering the never-ending construction on I-90.  

If you have a little more time on your hands, there are a few more ways to return to western Washington (should that be your destination) and some nice side-trips to enjoy along the way:

  • From Bingen and SR-14 take the Hood River Bridge (toll bridge) to I-84 West to Hood River and Portland. Get onI-5 in Portland and head back to the Seattle area. (Toll note: If you aren’t signed up with the BreezeBy toll-pay system, you can pay cash – or online within 7 days if you don’t have cash.)
  • From Bingen, head towards Skamania County on SR-14 and then I-205 towards Five Corners. (a suburb of Vancouver) Take I-5 towards Seattle and beyond. (Bonus trip: Located along SR-14, Beacon Rock State Park is a wonderful area to explore. Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, this extinct volcano and surrounding area features great hiking, camping, boating and more. The switchback-filled hike to the top of Beacon Rock is an absolute must. (848-ft) Lewis and Clark camped here on their journey – both ways! (I will be covering this area further in my upcoming Skamania County article.)
  • Another great bonus trip while in the Skamania County area takes you to Oregon via I-84 and the Bridge of the Gods toll bridge. Once in Oregon, head for glorious Multnomah Falls and enjoy one of the Northwest’s most photographed and recognizable falls. To get back to the Seattle area from Multnomah Falls, go west on I-84 to I-205 or I-5 in Portland.
STOP
STOP. Stop and look at Mt. Hood before you go.

Well, I guess that wraps up my journey to Klickitat County. This version, anyway… There is so much to see and do in the area and so many opportunities for adventure packed into this relatively small county. I’ve visited several times in the past and I will definitely return many more times in the future. I can’t quit you, Klickitat County! I hope you will join me in appreciating this amazing part of Washington on one of your next adventures.

Until next time – happy trails!

California Poppy
Beautiful California Poppy on the Temani Pesh-wa Petroglyph Trail at Horsethief Butte

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Enjoy the scenery with my Klickitat County SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!

  • Feels Like Lightning – Josh Ritter (from Gathering)
  • Moon in the Water – Dawes (from Nothing is Wrong)
  • A Horse with No Name – America (from America)
  • Miles Away – Josh Ritter (from See Here, I have Built You A Mansion)
  • Wide Open Spaces – The Chicks (from Wide Open Spaces)
  • Only Prettier – Miranda Lambert (from Revolution)
  • Getting Ready to Get Down – Josh Ritter (from Sermon on the Rocks)
  • Newton’s Cradle – Sean Rowe (from New Lore)
  • Lonely Alone – Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson (from Threads)
  • Ticks – Brad Paisley (from 5th Gear)
  • Sin Wagon – The Chicks (from Fly)
  • Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson (from Ricky Sings Again)
  • Life Is Beautiful – Keb’ Mo’ (from Just Like You/Suitcase)
  • Horse’s Mouth – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians (from Hunter and the Dog Star)
  • Beautiful World – Colin Hay (from Going Somewhere)
  • Dear Someone – Gillian Welch (from Time (The Revelator))
  • I Only Want to Be with You – Shelby Lynne (from Just A Little Lovin’)
  • World Spins Madly On – The Weepies, Deb Talan, Steven Tannen (from Say I Am You)
  • Wildflowers (Home Recording) – Tom Petty (from Wildflowers & All the Rest)
  • Travelers Paradise – The Cactus Blossoms (from You’re Dreaming)
  • Back in Your Own Backyard – William Galison & Madeline Peyroux (from Got You on My Mind)
  • The Life You Choose – Jason Isbell (from Something More Than Free)
  • Got a Lotta Love – The Cactus Blossoms (from Easy Way)
  • Bluebird – Jamestown Revival (from A Field Guide to Loneliness)
  • No Hard Feelings – The Avett Brothers (from True Sadness)
  • Mr. Policeman – Brad Paisley (from 5th Gear)
  • Baby Snakes  – Frank Zappa (from Sheik Yerbouti)
Free Range
Full-on free range!

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Check out more I Ate the State Adventures:

I Ate the State – Island County

Happy New Year from I Ate the State! I’m quite certain it’s going to be a good one – and chock full of Washington State adventure.

To start the year off in coastal style, I’d like to share my recent adventures to the beautiful shores of Island County. Comprised primarily of Whidbey and Camano Islands and located in the upper northwest part of the state, Island County is a wonderful escape from the mainland commotion any time of year. Full of history, sweeping prairies and shorelines, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on these lovely little islands. Holding court as the second smallest county in Washington (by area), one might think there wouldn’t be much to see and do, but they’d be entirely wrong.

True to its name, Island County is indeed a seafaring destination. That said, there are also routes which quite nicely accommodate the four-wheeled traveler. On my recent journey, I hit up the excellent Washington State Ferry system as well as the bridges connecting both Camano and Whidbey Islands to the mainland. One of these days I’d love to arrive via sailboat… #BucketList

Cama View
Looking out towards the Olympics from Cama Beach

To arrive in Camano Island, I drove north on I-5 and took Exit 212 leading to Stanwood. After following SR-532 through Stanwood, I crossed over moody Davis Slough and the Stillaguamish River via the Camano Gateway Bridge and officially entered Island County. For an excellent day trip from the Seattle area, consider a combo visit to both Camano Island and the Stanwood area. While adjacent to each other, they actually span both Snohomish County and Island County. Travel bonus! There are great restaurants, outdoor opportunities and lodging in both areas, making for a great day trip or weekend getaway. For this adventure, however, I was sticking to the gorgeous shores of Island County.

As one of the two largest islands making up Island County, it can be easy at times to forget you’re actually on an island. Filled with beautiful stretches of farmland and forest, Camano Island is an idyllic slice of Northwest living. Driving around the island is a wonderful way to spend the day and the glimpses you’ll catch of surrounding Possession Sound and Port Susan make for a perfectly picturesque road trip.

One of the first places I wanted to visit was the beautiful Kristoferson Farm. Perched on a hill overlooking scenic farmland, this sixth-generation farm (c. 1912 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places) features organic lavender, hay and fruit crops as well as the zip-line outfit, Canopy Tours NW. While I will admit to still mentally recovering from my jungle zip-line incident near Puerto Vallarta, I plan on returning to conquer my zip-line fears on Camano Island in the near future.

To highlight their bounty, they feature related products in their onsite farm store and gift shop. I picked up some delicious culinary lavender on my visit and have been adding it to various bakery and beverage experimentations ever since. Yum! They also host regular farm-to-table Dinner in the Barn events featuring northwest wineries and chefs as well as lavender craft classes. I do plan on making a triumphant return to zip-lining, but I’d be a liar if I said the barn dinners weren’t absolute tops on my list…

If you’re looking for a unique challenge, but zip-lining isn’t your thing, check out some AXE THROWING action just up the road at Arrowhead Ranch. They feature shared and private axe-throwing lanes as well as various workshops. In particular, their Live-Edge Charcuterie Board class is high on my list of things to check out. Wood-working shenanigans which include hors d’oeuvres and local wine? I’m IN! (I wonder if you drink wine while using power tools…)

While Arrowhead Ranch doesn’t offer onsite food or beverage, they do encourage the bring-your-own plan. Located nearby is the excellent Camano Commons, the local hub for restaurants, coffee, gifts and more. Some of the great options to check out:

There are many excellent spots from which to enjoy the shoreline views as well as Camano’s beautiful forested areas. Peoples of the Coast Salish Native American tribes have been visiting the island for thousands of years to harvest the bounty of seafood, berries and to benefit from the natural wonders. The area has been pivotal to the culture of native peoples as well as Euro-American settlers who began moving to the area in the mid-1800s. Driving, hiking, biking and boating around the island – whatever your mode of transportation – it’s easy to understand the appeal and importance of this beautiful locale.

During my own meandering around the island, I spent a bit of time exploring the lovely Cama Beach Historical State Park. Located on the western side of the island, overlooking the Saratoga Passage and onward towards the Olympic Mountains, the park is a true Camano Island gem. Long a destination for vacationing Northwesterners and included on the National Register of Historic Places, the park has been welcoming visitors to its beach-side cedar cabins since 1934. It felt a bit like stepping into a PNW version of the old-school resort in Dirty Dancing… (And remember: NOBODY puts baby in the corner!)

In addition to the Cama Beach Resort cabins, the charming park features a great picnic area, many miles of beautiful hiking trails, the seasonal Cama Beach Store and an events center. If boating is your thing, the Center for Wooden Boats offers boat-building classes and the park features a boat launch and rentals. (Row, sail and motor) And should cabin or outdoor cooking not be your thing, head to the Cama Beach Café for tasty dining options. (Open daily from June thru Labor Day and on weekends for breakfast/lunch, September thru May)

For further enjoyment of the Camano Island shoreline, stroll up the one-mile trail leading south to neighboring Camano Island State Park. (Or hit up nearby Lowell Point Road via West Camano Drive for a quick car ride) While this park also has a small handful of cabins, they feature a large camping area which accommodates both tent and RV camping. In addition to relaxing in the cozy campsites, check out the boating scene and perhaps do a bit of crabbing or saltwater fishing. And as is the case with all Washington State parks, a Discover Pass is recommended for park access. (Daily passes for $10 are also available onsite)

Since it was such a beautiful day on my visit, I opted for a little beach picnic to make the most of the sunshine. In addition to beach picnics, there are several other great dining options on the island. A few places to consider on your next Camano getaway:

  • Not too far from Camano Island State Park, Journey’s End Café (formerly Kara’s Kitchen) offers great burgers, pizza and more. Grab it to go and head back to the beach! They also host regular game nights and feature live music on weekends.
  • Located just across the way from the Kristoferson Farm, Rockaway Bar & Grill serves NW style fare featuring local ingredients. Fresh oysters, fish and produce make for some very delicious menu options.
  • If you happen to be visiting the island during the first weekend of the month and are feeling parched, check out Dusty Cellars Winery and Edward Lynne Cellars for a bit of wine-tasting enjoyment. (First weekend of each month – check websites for hours)
  • Should you like to extend your Camano stay and further enjoy the local scene, head north of Cama Beach State Park on West Camano Drive to the beautiful Camano Island Inn. They feature well-appointed rooms, stunning views and a great location from which to explore the island.

Pro tip: There are many great lodging options on the island – Hit up VRBO and Airbnb to peruse the many possibilities.

Camano Island is fairly large, but it’s still possible to cover the entire island on an afternoon drive. In pursuit of this goal, I was driving around the southern tip of the island, enjoying the views of Port Susan to the east, when I came upon the quaint Tyee Grocery and Farms. After picking up a coffee and quick snack, I continued down East Camano Drive, but was inspired to pull over not too far down the road. I spotted a few art installations and a very cool little lending library with a small, adjacent parking area. A beautiful drive, a little Art and some cool books – Nice! Definitely keep your eyes peeled while rambling around the island as there are great finds around so many of its corners.

Upon wrapping up my tour of Camano Island, it was time to head to neighboring Whidbey Island to continue my coastal adventures. Granted, I did end up making an additional trip to Whidbey Island on a later excursion, but it is absolutely possible to do a grand tour of both islands on a long day or weekend overnighter. That said, it’s hard to not to spend a little extra time in the Deception Pass area as it is positively stunning. And that’s exactly what happened on my first trip out…

Island County
Entering Island County! (As seen from Deception Pass Bridge)

If you happen to have a boat, (#LifeGoals) you can indeed head over the Saratoga Passage from Camano Island to get to Whidbey Island, the largest island in Washington State. The Saratoga Passage is a beautiful stretch of water and a popular section of the Puget Sound waterways. There are no ferries that go between Camano and Whidbey, but you can sometimes see private passenger boats like the Victoria Clipper cruising through both Saratoga Passage and Deception Pass when waters are rough in the nearby Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are also great whale-watching tours such as Deception Pass Tours which regularly travel through the area.

The Coast Salish and Lower Skagit tribes (Now recognized within the Swinomish Nation in neighboring Skagit County) have been stewards of these waters and islands for thousands of years. It’s easy to see how this beautiful, bountiful area could hold such importance to coastal living. Camano Island has many treasures to share, but with Whidbey being the larger island, the bounty is even more plentiful. It is entirely possible to enjoy sweeping forests, coastlines and wide-open prairies on a visit to Whidbey; All of these environments providing a wealth of resources to the enduring island community.

Since I wanted to drive over Deception Pass (on the National Register of Historic Places) to arrive on Whidbey Island, I took Exit 230 off I-5 North (near Burlington in Skagit County) to access SR-20. (SR-20 is also known as the North Cascades Highway or the spectacular Cascade Loop) Once heading west on SR-20, I followed the road until it turned off to the left, just before Anacortes. If you prefer a more seafaring route, take the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry or Port Townsend/Coupeville Ferry and avoid the crowds of the I-5 corridor. (For another travel bonus trip, link your Island County adventures with Port Townsend and beautiful Jefferson County)

Crossing over Deception Pass is quite a spectacular experience. Whether via car, bike, or foot, it is a beautiful sight to behold. If you happen to be leery of heights, walking over it might not be your bag, but it is well worth the consideration. On my Ragnar Northwest Passage adventure, one of our runners had the opportunity to run across the bridge around sunrise and I’m sure it was amazing. I was traveling over the bridge in the team van at the time and even that was an amazing scene. (The sunrise. Not a bunch of stinky runners piled in a van… not as amazing.) I must admit, however, as much as I love heights, I was completely content to merely walk across the bridge on my own adventure. (Details of my actual bridge visit are included in my Skagit County article)

In addition to the bridge itself, Deception Pass State Park is truly beautiful and should be a must-visit on any list of Northwest destinations. Spanning both Skagit and Island Counties via the bridge, the park has a plethora of camping, hiking, boating, fishing and beach opportunities to enjoy. After becoming a state park in 1922, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, buildings and trails and many of the park structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s easy to feel you’ve stepped back into a quieter, less hectic era when visiting the park. (Check out the in-park CCCs Interpretive Center to learn more about the history of the park.) Don’t miss a visit to this spectacular part of the state! (For even more exploration of the area, stop in a few miles down the road at Deception Pass State Park’s sister park, Dugualla State Park.)

After enjoying the striking scenery of the Deception Pass area, I traveled further south along SR-20 towards the largest city on the island, Oak Harbor. Home to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Oak Harbor is a bustling and vibrant island community. The area is a fun place to explore as well as a center for tasty dining and fun shopping opportunities – and keep an eye out for the naval planes regularly flying overhead.

Naval Base
Just an everyday scene on SR-20 into Oak Harbor…

As you’re coming through town on SR-20, there are quite a few great dining options. All of that adventuring at Deception Pass can make one hungry and there are several great establishments to check out along the main thoroughfare. Just a few of the delicious options:

  • Stop in at Flyers Restaurant & Brewery for great local beers, tasty burgers and more. Located directly off SR-20.
  • Stock up on delicious smoked salmon at Seabolt’s Smokehouse off of SR-20 or hang out and enjoy their lunch and dinner menu. Their clam chowder and Penn Cover oysters are very tasty!
  • The hours are short, but a visit to Kau Kau Corner is well worth the timing. Specializing in Hawaiian comfort food, they offer tempting dishes such as Kalua pork and Spam musubi. (Mon-Fri, 11am – 4pm – Located directly off SR-20)
  • Don’t let the name fool you. In addition to great, organic coffee, Rock Island Coffee has a full menu which includes beer and wine. Check out their skillet mac-n-cheese! (Open ‘til 5pm, M-Sat and 3pm on Sundays)
  • If you’re looking for a classic Oak Harbor joint, check out Island Café, located directly off SR-20. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a classic diner flair.
  • During the late spring and summer, stop in at the Oak Harbor Farmers Market and enjoy some great local produce and artisan goods. (Thursdays, 4-7pm, right off SR-20)

On any visit to Oak Harbor, it’s a great idea to visit the historic Main Street part of town. This waterfront area is filled with fun shops, great restaurants and regular events. It’s the heart of Oak Harbor and can easily accommodate a leisurely day on the town. The full-service Oak Harbor Marina is also located in this area if you happen to be arriving via boat. (#INeedABoat)

On your next visit to Oak Harbor, check out these great spots in the historic downtown waterfront area:

  • Not far before turning off SR-20 to head towards the waterfront, hit up Wicked Teuton Brewing Co. & Homebrew Supply for a tasty local brew or craft soda. This family and pet-friendly taproom is open daily at 11am – Check website for closing times.
  • There are several fun shopping stops to make in the downtown area. A couple of my favorites are the ridiculously cute Popsies with their excellent selection of treats and Purple Moon with their eclectic selection of gifts and more. And don’t forget to stop in at Whidbey Beer Works to peruse their large selection of specialty beers, ciders, wine and meads. (They also do occasional tasting events)

  • Grab a great cup of coffee for your stroll around the waterfront at Whidbey Coffee Co. In addition to their downtown location, they have 11 others in Western Washington. Fun fact: Contrary to their name, they are actually headquartered across the water in Mukilteo, whereas the excellent Mukilteo Coffee Roasters is based on Whidbey Island in nearby Langley. Shenanigans!
  • Closed for the holidays on my recent visit, Chris’ Bakery (since 1948) has been – and will hopefully continue – making delicious pastries, pies, cakes and more for many years to come. Their sweet treats are delicious, but don’t miss out trying their meat pies and amazing bread as well!

  • I enjoyed a tasty, diner-style breakfast on my last visit to Oak Harbor at the Riverside Café. Classic décor and a small, adjacent bar make this a cool spot to visit any time of day. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner)

  • On the finer dining side, head to Rustica Café & Wine Bar (Open at noon, 10am on Sundays for brunch), the Terrace Wine Bar and Bistro (3-10pm, closed Sun/Mon) and lovely Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway (Tues – Sat, 4:30 – 9:30pm, closed Sun/Mon) for a tasty day or night on the town.
  • If you’re looking to celebrate all things Oak Harbor, be sure to hit up their annual Holland Happening International Festival every April. Pioneer Way and the waterfront is blocked off for craft and food vendors as well live music and beer gardens. (April 23-26, 2020)
  • If you’d like to work off some of that downtown decadence, head a little further towards the water and check out the Wildwood Farm B&B. This equestrian-friendly, 80-acre farm features horse boarding, instruction, training and indoor/outdoor arenas. Guests can also stay in a remodeled 1914 bunkhouse and enjoy beautiful walking trails during their stay. Dreamy!

Heading further south on SR-20 will bring you through some magnificent scenery. There are beautiful farms, pastures and sweeping vistas around every turn and one would be hard-pressed to get bored of the views. The drive itself is interesting, but there are several great stops along the way. One such destination is the awesome Blue Fox Drive-in Theater. Entertaining Whidbey Island since 1959, they feature movies, go-karts, concessions and arcade games. When was the last time you went to a drive-in movie?? Sigh…

In keeping with my, “Hmmm – maybe there’s something cool off in that direction – I should check” plan, I turned off SR-20 onto Hastie Lake Road. I had no idea where it would lead, but the landscapes were gorgeous and I thought maybe it would head towards the water. (But then, most paths on an island typically do at some point…) I’m very glad I did as the drive was stunning and beyond idyllic. Along the way, I passed lovely farmland and spots where I’m pretty sure time had stood still. Around one bend, I stumbled upon the charming Hennrich Tree Farm, busy in full-operation for the holiday season.

Not too far past the tree farm and much as expected, I reached the shoreline. Conveniently located at the intersection of Hastie Lake Road and West Beach Road was the tiny, but perfectly-positioned Hastie Lake County Park. Situated on the shoreline in between private beaches, it was a beautiful spot to pull over and enjoy the view and it brought back some wonderful, unexpected memories.

When I was very young, my family made a couple of visits to Whidbey Island to visit friends. (All the way from very non-coastal Eastern WA) I have vivid memories of their house overlooking the water and a cool rope ladder leading down the bluff to the private beach below. Standing on the shores of Hastie Lake County Park and looking down the beach at the homes overlooking the water brought me right back to my 5-year-old self. I remember being absolutely charmed by coastal living and can honestly say that nothing has since changed. Just dreamy…

Just as I’d hoped, it was both an easy and beautiful loop drive back to SR-20 beginning on West Beach Road. Once back on the highway, I continued south towards my next planned destination, Fort Ebey State Park and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. I’d been wanting to visit these areas for quite some time and since there was a fortuitous break in the rain, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Pro tip: As helpful as on-board and mobile GPS can be, it’s always good to have a map or printed directions of the area on hand. It’s common to lose satellite or mobile connections in the more remote and forested areas – be prepared! And in the least, have a full tank, water and SNACKS at the ready. Mmm… Snacks…

The first area I visited was Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. On the National Register of Historic Places and the first National Historic Reserve in the US (established by Congress in 1978 and one of only three presently in the country), the entire area is a one of the most remarkable stretches of land in the state. (And beyond!) I’m sad I hadn’t visited sooner, but am completely grateful to have finally experienced this stunning, expansive beauty in person.

Driving up the access road, the view of gorgeous prairies began to stretch out in front of me as I gained elevation up the hillside. While the prairies expanded, so did the amazing view of the shoreline, making room for the glimmering skyline in the distance. The way the sun was lighting the horizon was exquisite and I can definitively say it was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.

Ebey Landing
Looking out towards the water from Ebey Landing

The Lower Skagit Tribe has been gazing out over these vistas for thousands of years with western settlements beginning to populate the region in the 1850s. One of the first homesteads was plotted by Whidbey pioneers, Isaac Ebey and his wife, Rebecca Davis. After having established himself in the Olympia area, Isaac brought his family over from Missouri to cultivate the sprawling farmland which is now known as Ebey’s Landing. Their home still stands along with defense blockhouses and acres of presently farmed area.

A leisurely hike through the area via the Ebey’s Landing trails is a must for any Whidbey Island visit and nicely showcases a landscape that has scarcely changed over the last few hundred years. Even just a drive up to the Prairie Landing Overlook to enjoy the coastal and farmland views is well worth it. (Located just across the road from Sunnyside Cemetery (c. 1865) and the Davis Blockhouse. Isaac Ebey and Rebecca Davis as well as Coupeville’s namesake, Thomas Coupe are laid to rest in this cemetery.)

Not too far north up the coast and included within the National Historical Reserve lies Fort Ebey State Park. If you’re up for camping, this is a great location from which to explore the area. Not only is there ample camping, the area is popular with paragliders and surfers and the beaches serve as great seaweed gathering spots in the spring. If you’d like to do some smallmouth bass fishing, check out lovely Lake Pondilla, found in the park’s interior. (Note: Until a recent double-check on my research, I was convinced the name was actually Lake PondZILLA. And that’s what I’ll be personally referring to it as moving forward… But hey, score one for double-checking your research! I had a whole backstory worked out in my head and everything! A fisherman must’ve caught a GIANT fish at some point and told his buddies he caught a Godzilla fish in the pond… Come on, it makes sense! I can’t lie – I feel a little let down…)

While visiting the park, be sure to check out the WWII era battery and gun emplacements. Bring a flashlight and snake through the darkened corridors of the island’s military history. Continue your explorations along the stunning