What’s to Love: If your family is into outdoor adventure, Leavenworth, WA is an ABSOLUTE must! It’s a relatively-short, 5-hour drive to some of the best outdoor recreation you could possibly imagine: mountain biking, road biking, whitewater rafting and kayaking, hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, traditional rock climbing, sport climbing, and some of the best bouldering in the country. For outdoor enthusiasts, Leavenworth is like a dream come true.
Our first visit to Leavenworth was back in 2008 for a winter edition. This was an epic trip that including skiing, tubing, sightseeing, and eating! While winter is an excellent time to visit Leavenworth, the spring, summer, and fall seasons offer a diverse range of activities for the whole family. For the summer edition, our primary focus was on one of our favorite family activities – boudering.
Bouldering has become a popular sport where short rock climbs are done (usually on free standing boulders – sometimes big as a house!) without a rope. Crashpads and spotters are used to help break a fall. Many of these boulders are highlighted in guidebooks with various routes per boulder. Some routes up boulders are easy, some are on the verge of impossible. Leavenworth has become a prime destination for this type of climbing. This video highlights bouldering in one of my favorite areas called “Forestlands.”
Icicle Creek Road will be your primary destination for adventure. On busy weekends, this road will be packed with cars around popular spots for kayaking/rafting, climbing, and hiking. Luckily, there are plenty of options for camping along this road. This website highlights seven forest service campgrounds. There is also a KOA campground behind the Safeway. This is a family-oriented campground with a pool, playgrounds, summer movies, convenience store, etc.
If climbing isn’t your thing, the outdoor options are endless with something for the whole family. The “All Trails” website gives a pretty good overview of hiking, biking, and running. The Chamber’s website is also a good source of information.
Caveats: The town hosts many festivals during the summer months, and the downtown will be busy. At times, with the Bavarian background and bustling crowd, it can seem like you’re visiting Epcot Center. With the crowds come longer waits at local restaurants and parking problems. Certainly, do not let this deter your family from visiting – it’s all part of the charm and quirkiness of this little town.
Website: Leavenworth, Washington
Distance from Portland: You may think the highway (I-5) is faster, but I doubt it. No matter what, you’re looking at five hours (278 miles) in the car with kids. At least, it’s a pretty drive and the wind turbines outside The Dalles make it interesting for kids. Here is a Google Map.
Recommended Ages: All ages
Parental Stress Factor: Our kids don’t do very well in the car, so that’s the stressful part for us. If the town is busy, that can cause some stress as well with congestion, parking, and waiting to eat.
Physical Difficulty: Leavenworth is similar to Bend, Oregon, but more mountainous. Hikes will be strenuous, so make sure you select something that isn’t too long. Several short hikes in different areas might be better than a one long hike.
Pet Friendly: The Icicle Creek Village Resort where we like to stay is pet friendly.
Weather Considerations: Spring, summer and fall are perfect for visiting Leavenworth! The summer offers hot, dry, sunny weather on most days, and it even cools off a bit in the evenings.
Insider Info: For both of our trips to Leavenworth, we chose to stay at The Icicle Village Resort. The first time we stayed in a condo, and this time we stayed in the hotel. For cleanliness, customer service, and a myriad of entertainment options, The Icicle is the best option for lodging in Leavenworth. The Resort features an Adventure Center with a basketball court, mini-golf, a movie theater, and arcade games.
JJ Hills Restaurant at The Icicle Village Resort has a nice veranda for dining with the family. This restaurant is one of the most family-friendly places in Leavenworth with good food at reasonable prices. The kids were treated very well by the wait staff, and other diners didn’t seem to mind our kids walking around on the deck.
Another reason to stay at The Icicle is the close proximity to Icicle Creek Road and downtown Leavenworth. The Resort is just far enough from downtown to avoid the craziness of summer crowds. Leave your car at the Resort and walk only 1/4 mile to some wonderful restaurants and shops. The Bavarian-style architecture is fun for kids and adults too!
Our favorite restaurant in downtown Leavenworth is The Munchen Haus. It has incredible sausage and plenty of beers on tap in their beer garden. It’s a great atmosphere after a long day outside playing. You will no doubt be seated next to friendly folks talking about your adventures in and around Leavenworth.
On this trip, we made two visits to the Munchen Haus! I needed to get a sausage for the road trip back to Portland. While it seems constantly busy, they manage to get your food out quickly with friendly service. I love all the different mustard options they have at Munchen Haus.
Family Tips: While out adventuring on Icicle Creek Road, you might need to use a restroom, get some water, or fill-up on some delicious food. If you don’t want to head back to town, stop in at O’Grady’s Pantry at The Sleeping Lady Resort.
O’Grady’s is a friendly stop with a cute gift shop right next door. We stopped in first thing to pick up sandwiches for lunch and refill our water bottles. The prices are a bit steep, but it’s the price you pay for convenience.
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Horsethief Lake State Park on July 10th, 2012