gorgeous sunset at lake wenatchee state park

5 Days in Leavenworth and Lake Chelan: Your Ultimate Travel Guide

Late spring and early summer are perfect times to head to Leavenworth and Lake Chelan for hiking, sunny skies, wildflowers, and warmer weather. While the Seattle area can still be a bit chilly and cloudy, the days get amazing once you cross over the Washington Cascades.

So, while the mountains are still snowcapped and thawing out, the lower-level adventures are ripe for exploration! This is what makes this time frame so great for visiting and planning your Leavenworth and Lake Chelan itinerary.

But don’t worry if you’re considering doing this in the summertime. There will be even MORE to do with all the hiking trails available. (Truth be told, you can do this itinerary year round.)

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I visited with my parents in 2023, spending five days exploring parts of Washington I hadn’t gotten to yet. It was a really great time, and I loved expanding my knowledge of the state.

Five Days Exploring Leavenworth and Lake Chelan

Day 1: Seattle to Leavenworth

a rainbow emerges at the base of a waterfall
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

If you do this on a weekday, your drive to Leavenworth from Seattle will be super easy. You’ll take Highway 2 up over Steven’s Pass and be treated to gorgeous views along the way. You can do a few hikes in the area, or you can keep heading to Leavenworth.

My parents and I did Wallace Falls, a wonderful hike! It’s a great way to start your Leavenworth and Lake Chelan itinerary.

Steven’s Pass Area Hikes:

  • Skyline Lake Trail (2.5-mile steep hike)
  • Lake Valhalla (easy-moderate 6-mile hike)
  • Deception Falls (short walk)
  • Wallace Falls State Park (6-mile hike)

Drive Time: 2.5 hours via Highway 2, 2.25 hours via I-90

gorgeous sunset at lake wenatchee state park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 2: Explore Around Leavenworth

roaring rivers on the icicle gorge trail
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

If you’re looking for a day out on the trails, you couldn’t have picked a better place. This area has trails for all levels.

Hikes in the Area:

  • Icicle Gorge Trail (Easy four-mile-loop)
  • Icicle Ridge Trail Overlook (Hard 5-mile hike)
  • Visit Lake Wenatchee (a great place to watch the sunset)
  • Colchuck Lake (check road status if visiting before June)
  • Sauer’s Mountain (Hard)

Things to do in town: Book your experiences on Viator

  • Go to the Reindeer Farm
  • Guided Wine Tour
  • Enjoy German Beer, Pretzels, and Brats at local restaurants
  • Go Wine Tasting at half a dozen locations in town

My Favorite Food/Drink Spots

  • Yodelin Beer Garen
  • Munchen Haus
  • Rhein Haus
  • Gustav’s
  • Argonaut Coffee/Biscuits
  • Stein
tourists standing in front of a building in leavenworth washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Day 3: Half Day in Leavenworth and Drive to Lake Chelan

This is a pretty easy hour-long drive from Leavenworth to Lake Chelan. For half the drive, you’ll be next to the Columbia River, which offers a scenic view.

Once you arrive, you’ll see how massive and gorgeous this area is. Our time in Lake Chelan was pretty quick, as we only had a day and a half to see things. Considering I was still recovering from cancer treatment, we kept it pretty chill, doing only a short hike and hanging out by the lake.

Hikes in the Wenatchee/Cashmere Area:

  • Sage Hills Loop (Hard 12-mile trail)
  • Chelan Butte Trail (Moderate 7.5-mile trail)
a dock on lake chelan in washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Things to do in town:

  • Go Wine Tasting
  • Spend time on the lake – rent a boat, go paddle boarding or swimming
  • Go ziplining
  • Golf
  • Fish
  • Biking/Mountain Biking

Drive Time: 60 minutes

Day 4: Explore Around Lake Chelan

You can probably shift Day 3 or Day 4 around to suit you best. This is especially true if you want to spend the entire day on the water. However you do it, you’ll have a fantastic time!

Hikes in the Area:

  • Fourth of July Mountain Trail (3 miles)
  • Upper Echo Ridge Trailhead—A few trails wind around the area and are also great for mountain biking. The last bit is a dirt road, and my Prius did fine on it.
wildflowers with mountains in backgroun
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
hikers on a trail with wildflowers
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Another Idea

If you’re looking for something that will take up your entire day, you can take the boat to Stehekin (about four hours each way) and see this little town on the far side of Lake Chelan. My parents did this back in the late 80s, and they said they had fallen asleep on the boat. So, factor that into your consideration.

Day 5: Lake Chelan back to Seattle

Your departure time will depend on your flight or when you want to get home. The fastest route is to head back towards Leavenworth and then south on the 93 towards I-90.

If you have a high-clearance vehicle, I recommend stopping on the way back at Red Top Lookout. You’ll have a 15-minute dirt road and then do a very short hike with awesome views of the Washington Cascades.

Drive Time: 3.5 hours

Where to Stay on your road trip

Leavenworth Hotels

You can stay in Leavenworth, decrease your drive time, but pay more for your hotel. Or, you can be 15-30 minutes down the road in Cashmere or Wenatchee and save some money.

We stayed in Cashmere at a cute little place, and it was great. This also cut our drive time down a bit going to/from Chelan.

If you do stay outside of the area, please be responsible when it comes to drinking and driving.

Leavenworth Camping

There’s A LOT of camping options near Leavenworth. There are campgrounds at Lake Wenatchee and multiple along Icicle Road just outside of Leavenworth (on the way to the Enchantments).

You can also find a campground at Wenatchee River County Park.

Red markers are campgrounds or potential campgrounds

Lake Chelan Hotels

You won’t run out of options in this area. There are hotels, motels, VRBOs, and whatever else you want to look for.

Rooms for the summer months are not cheap, though.

Lake Chelan Camping

Depending on the dates and temperatures, Lake Chelan may be a bit warm to camp. I would keep an eye on the forecast, as 100-degree days may not be the most enjoyable.

One spot that looked great was Lake Chelan State Park. During the weekdays, they should have ample camping spots.

Things to Know About this Trip

Wildflower Season is May and June

Once we get into May, the wildflowers on the eastern side of the cascades begin the most magical bloom. They will literally cover the mountains’ slopes, adding a colorful palette to the grassy faces.

Summer Days Last Until 9:30pm

It’s one of the best parts about Washington summers. The daylight stretches further than most anyplace not named Alaska. Due to this, you have tons of time to spend outside, but you will also not realize it’s 8pm and you haven’t eaten dinner yet.

One suggestion is to eat a bit early and then head out for a sunset excursion in the area.

A solo hiker enjoys the views from the Colchuck Lake hike
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Summer temperatures can be in the 100’s

On this side of the Cascades, summer can be brutally hot. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to break 100 degrees, though it doesn’t stick around for long. Still, 90 degrees is quite warm, so when you’re enjoying yourself, remember to wear appropriate clothing, drink plenty of water, and find shade when possible.

As you plan out your Leavenworth and Lake Chelan itinerary, keep an eye on the weather forecast and plan accordingly.

Weekends are Bustling

During the summer months, Leavenworth is a hotspot for tourists. This only maximizes on the weekends. If your plan is to visit on a weekend, aim to make reservations for dinner and book your hotel rooms as far in advance as you can.

It’s arguably the most popular hike in the PNW. On weekends, I almost wouldn’t even dare to go park as it’ll be incredibly crowded and chaotic.

If you can visit on a weekday, you’ll have a MUCH more enjoyable experience. But the hike is 100% worth it, and you’ll be flat-out amazed.

Is Leavenworth German or Swiss?

Leavenworth’s town center was designed to resemble a German Bavarian village, a project that started in the 1960s. This has turned the area into a popular tourist destination, with events and festivals happening almost every month, all year round. The main street, in particular, captures the charm of a Bavarian village, drawing visitors from near and far.

Final Thoughts on Leavenworth and Lake Chelan Itinerary

This area is very special and one that you will love exploring. The flowers, jagged peaks, and raging rivers will give you more than enough things to do. (Meaning you’ll have to come back.)

If you have limited time, I would say skip Lake Chelan and do more around Leavenworth, as the mountains offer so much to do and see.

Thanks for reading my Leavenworth and Lake Chelan itinerary, and I hope you have a phenomenal trip!

Until next time, adventurers, stay safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside