The Ultimate Summer Road Trip, Part II By Marguerite Cleveland
Part II of the Ultimate Summer Road Trip begins by heading through farmlands toward the jagged peaks of the Cascade Mountains, where you will make your first of two crossings. Highway 2 follows the Skykomish River in an area known as the Stevens Pass Greenway, which is a National Scenic Byway as well. This drive passes through the charming small towns of Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and Skykomish, each with its own local flair. A must stop for coffee is the cute Espresso Chalet, which is the home of Harry, the endearing sasquatch from the movie “Harry and the Hendersons.”
Other must stops include Wallace Falls State Park and a hike to Bridal Veil Falls. Once you are past Skykomish the road begins to narrow and climb up to Stevens Pass with its incredible views. There are stunning overlooks and picnic areas on the river throughout this drive, so plan to take lunch with you to enjoy some time outdoors. After crossing Stevens Pass continue along Highway 2 through the stunning Tumwater Canyon to Leavenworth.
Leavenworth Leavenworth is a cute Bavarian-themed town, which will make you feel like you are in Germany or an Alpine village. There is so much to see and do in town. Try some German food or pop into one of the many tasting rooms for local wine or cider. With a main street closed to traffic, it is a wonderfully walkable town. Schocolat offers handcrafted Belgian chocolates that are a luxurious taste not to be missed.
The Leavenworth Reindeer Farm is a fascinating place to learn about Caribou as well as the opportunity to feed them. Leavenworth is also known for all of its outdoor recreation. Enjoy a tube float on the Wenatchee River or hike on more than 800 miles of trails.
Plan to stay the night here at the Icicle Village Resort and Spa. It is close enough to walk to everything in town but away from all the noise. The onsite restaurant JJ Hills Fresh Grill has some Bavarian favorites as well as a Northwest-themed menu. The outdoor patio has great views of the Cascade Mountains.
Wenatchee Wenatchee sits at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers. Visit the downtown National Historic District with plenty of boutiques, galleries and restaurants. The Pybus Public Market is located on the Columbia riverfront. Rent bikes at the market and cruise the 25-mile paved loop that circles the river and crosses two bridges for a beautifully scenic ride. Head into the market for local farm goods, artisanal foods, restaurants and shops. Select some refreshments and either dine in or pick up a picnic to enjoy in the Wenatchee Riverfront Park.
Chelan Lake Chelan is a popular summer vacation destination for Western Washingtonians looking for summer sun. The stunning lake is surrounded by orchards and vineyards. In recent years, the area has become known for wine as well. The Lake Chelan AVA is known for its unique terroir due to ice age glaciers and the “lake effect,” which creates mild temperatures with a longer growing season. There are more than 30 wineries and tasting rooms.
For a unique adventure take the Lady of the Lake ferry from Chelan to Stehekin. This darling hamlet can only be reached by boat, helicopter or hiking. It makes a perfect day trip, or you can stay overnight. There are a lot of hikes, including the lovely Rainbow Falls. No trip here is complete without a stop at the Stehekin Pastry Company with its wide selection of delectable treats and breakfast or lunch offerings. They even have a cabin for rent.
Beebe Springs Nature Area As you leave Chelan make sure to stop at the Beebe Springs Nature Area just north of the Beebe Bridge. The park overlooks the Columbia River and has 2 miles of ADA-accessible trails that weave around the marshy area where Beebe Creek flows into the Columbia River. The park is adorned with metal sculptures created by artist Virgil “Smoker” Marchand, a member of the Lakes Band of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Dominating the park is his 3D sculpture of “The Chief” on horseback with a feathered headdress hoisting aloft a Columbia River salmon over his head. Also look for the “Root Diggers.” His work can be found throughout the Cascade Loop.
Methow Valley Before turning on Highway 153 and starting the climb over the North Cascades, stop at the little town of Pateros. There is a cute riverfront park with incredible views. You’ll want to see the art installation by Marchand, commemorating the Native peoples who originally lived on this land. Pateros is a good spot to gas up and stock up on snacks.
Once you turn onto Highway 153 you will see the Cascade Mountains in the distance. The terrain will gradually change from high desert hills to wooded areas filled with Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. The first stop is the quaint artist community of Twisp. Over 100 artists call the Methow Valley home, and you can see some of their work in the art galleries of Twisp. You’ll also find live music, theater and maybe even a poetry reading on a street corner. When you head into town you will see the campus of TwispWorks, which helps local businesses get established. Stop at their Methow Valley Goods store and shop over 70 artists, makers, producers and creatives.
The faux western town of Winthrop is very well done. With its wooden boardwalks you really feel like you are in the Wild West. Spend some time exploring the town. To add to the western experience, book a horseback ride or go tubing on the Methow River. Downtown offers a variety of restaurants, shops and breweries. If you want to support a hyper local, make a visit to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery. The beer is made using unfiltered North Cascades water and local hops. Local ranches supply lamb and beef for their burgers, while all dressings and sauces are made in house. The patio beer garden overlooking the river is the perfect place to enjoy this bounty. Before you leave town visit the Homestream Park, which also has sculptures by Marchand on an interpretive trail.
North Cascade National Park The route takes you through Mazama before climbing into the North Cascades. The Cascade Loop Travel Guide recommends the eastern approach to Washington Pass for its superior views. This portion of Highway 20 is known as the North Cascades Scenic Highway. It traverses the North Cascades National Park. You will be surrounded by glaciers (there are more than 300 in the park), jagged mountain peaks with several above 9,000 feet in elevation. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain lakes and waterfalls. Ross and Diablo look stunning, as their turquoise-colored water stands out among the forested mountains. The North Cascades National Park Visitor Center is located near Newhalem, where you can get information from park rangers about local conditions, trails and viewpoints. This park is one of the less visited in the National Park System where you can enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery of a Glacier National Park but without all the crowds.
Skagit Valley Heading down from the mountains you will pass through the darling towns of Marblemount and Concrete. The terrain will now turn into rolling hills before you begin to see the acres of farmland that span the Skagit Valley, where you will finish your trip.
The Specifics The Cascade Loop - CascadeLoop.com Where to Stay The Icicle Village Resort - IcicleVillage.com Where to Eat Espresso Chalet - Facebook.com/Espresso-Chalet Schocolat - Schocolat.com Pybus Public Market - PybusPublicMarket.org Stehekin Pastry Company - StehekinPastry.com Old Schoolhouse Brewery - OldSchoolhouseBrewery.com Thing to Do Twisp Works - TwispWorks.org Winthrop Tubing - WinthropTubing.com The Stevens Pass Greenway - CascadeLoop.com/Stevens-Pass-Greenway