Among its many attributes, The Evergreen State is a place where the enjoyment of the outdoors is a way of life. The beautiful Cascade Mountain range is known as the “Switzerland of North America,” and can be accessed within a two hour drive from any metropolitan area in the state. Washington is also the home of majestic Mount Ranier, and as the home base of Starbucks, the state serves as the Coffee Capital of the World.
Our journey begins in the quaint Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth, where we can enjoy a European Alps experience without ever getting on a plane. The shops contain authentic Bavarian souvenirs, and the food is also 100% European. In winter, the city comes alive with the Ice Fest; blanketed in fresh snow, the city celebrates the winter season with decorations and festivals. Spring brings the Ale Fest and the Spring Bird Fest. Summer gives us the Wine Walk and 4th of July extravaganza, while fall brings us – of course – Oktoberfest! This grand spectacle runs the first three weekends of October, and is not to be missed by the fan of fine brews and bratwurst.
Getting on the road, we head northwest on Highway 2 for a little more than 100 miles, then merge with the southbound I-5 for just under 40 miles, which takes us into Anacortes. Anacortes is the home of the Washington State Ferry Terminal; from here we can take a boat ride into British Columbia and visit Victoria, B.C’s capital. If you do, don’t miss the authentic Russian sub docked near the Parliament building; it’s well worth checking out. Or, we can remain stateside and enjoy the various activities such as scuba diving, sailing, whale watching, or maybe just take a stroll down the beach.
Cruising east on Highway 20, we have the chance to see a great deal of Washington’s rain-fed natural wonder. The trip is a solid 150-mile drive, but our destination city of Winthrop is a perfect place to pull over and spend a day or two enjoying the rugged wilderness, where there’s no shortage of fresh, crisp mountain air. There are plenty of places to set up base camp; once that’s accomplished, let’s rent a couple of horses and explore the mountain trails on horseback. Hot air balloon tours are also available for that eye-in-the-sky view, or stop and grab a map of the various scenic drive trails in the area – just make sure to check which ones are RV-friendly, as some of the scenic drives tend to be a bit narrow for big rigs. At the end of the day, let’s head to one of the mountainside eateries for a glass of wine and a delicious dinner as we watch the sun go down.
Our final stop of Chelan lies 50 miles away. We drive south for 11 miles on Highway 20, then merge with the southbound Highway 153 for a little over 30 miles. We take the westbound Highway 97 the final five miles into Chelan, which is surrounded by the North Cascades National Forest. Nearby Lake Chelan covers 50 miles of area, and is a mile and a half across at its widest point. The remote location and massive area terrain ensures that you won’t be climbing over your fellow campers or competing for space. If you rent a boat or a kayak, you’ll see what it’s like to have the entire lake to yourself. Sample local vintages at any of the local wineries; these wines are among the best in the world, and the connoisseur among us will no doubt want to take home a case or two for souvenirs. Lake cruises are a great way to see the massive Lake Chelan and the surrounding wilderness, or maybe we just want to sit at the water’s edge and dangle our feet. That’s the beautiful thing about Lake Chelan, and for that matter, the rest of Washington – if outdoor activities are our idea of a good time, there’s no better place to be!