Want to know how to spend seven fall days in the Pacific Northwest including Leavenworth, WA? We did it a couple of weeks ago after our latest college drop off!
Did you read my last post about what it’s like when your kids leave the nest? If so, then you know I HIGHLY suggest making sure you spend any amount of time after the drop off exploring the area. And if you are familiar with the college area- just make sure to do something happy right after the drop off so that you relate a happy memory to the day!
After dropping our youngest daughter off for her second year of college in Oregon, we drove up the Oregon coast to Mount Rainier National Park and then proceeded on to the cute Bavarian town of Leavenworth, WA before flying home.
The total number of days for this trip including time with our daughter in her college town for three days was ten days (with day ten being spent flying home from Seattle). Here are my suggestions on how to spend seven fall days in the Pacific Northwest in Mount Rainier National Park and Leavenworth, WA:
Drive the Oregon Coast For One Day
We spent one night on the Oregon coast at the Salishan Coastal Lodge after saying goodbye to our daughter. We did this because I wanted to spend an entire day driving the Oregon coast in the daylight and I knew we would be spending most of that Sunday with our daughter before saying goodbye.
This lodge looks like it has the potential to be a great place to stay for coastal Oregon adventures. However, We didn’t really partake in any of the amenities available to us here (besides getting hot chocolate and sitting by their bonfire pit). But we could tell if we wanted to spend more time in the area, this hotel would be quite helpful in aiding our fun!
We stayed there at the same time that the Red Cross was using the lodge as an emergency evacuation center for the Oregon fires that had been raging the two weeks before we got there so I don’t think we were able to truly see the hotel at its full potential.
Stop in Pacific City, Cape Meares, and Cannon Beach, Oregon
We left Gleneden Beach, Oregon around 10:30am the next morning and took our time driving the coast up to Mount Rainier arriving at the National Park Inn around 7:45pm. We made a few stops along the way but the ACTUAL driving time was 6.5 hours. Definitely found a few towns I would love to return to for a longer visit on this drive!! Just adding it to the ever long bucket list 🤪.
A quick stop for crepes in Cannon Beach
We grabbed a quick snack/late lunch in Cannon Beach, Oregon on our drive north at the DELICIOUS Crepe Neptune and ate them on the beach at the end of town. If you are a crepe lover – this is THE PLACE FOR YOU!!
Spend Three Days in Mount Rainier National Park
We stayed at the National Park Inn in the park
I had hoped to stay at the historic Paradise Inn but sadly it didn’t open this season because of COVID… maybe another time. TBH it was for the best as that would have added another 30 minutes of driving in the dark through the park on our arrival night to get to it as the National Park Inn and Paradise Inn are a good 30 minutes apart on a dark and windy park road 🤪.
This trip was obviously during a pandemic so services were quite limited for our next three nights in the park. While we enjoyed being off the grid and in the mountains for two full days, it was definitely a different experience than we have had at that park in the past.
Hike the Skyline Trail up in the Paradise Area of the Park
We spent an entire day up in the Paradise Jackson Visitor Center area (closed during the pandemic) and hiked the Skyline Trail Loop which was absolutely just what the doctor ordered for us! Fresh mountain air is always a good thing!! The views from this hike are out of this world! The hike is a 6 mile loop with almost an 1800 foot elevation gain – however you can turn around once you get to Glacier Vista to avoid the heavy climbing after that point. We kept on for a great workout!
The National Park Inn had ZERO wifi and cell coverage while there is coverage up in the Paradise area. So after spending the day hiking in the mountains, we spent about thirty minutes in the car checking in with the kids via text and checking our emails. Yup- we couldn’t go COMPLETELY cold turkey- I mean come on we are suburbanites after all!
We had a pretty heavy downpour of rain on our second day which ended up being fine for us because it forced us to sleep in, have a lazy day, and just breathe :). The dining room is currently closed at the lodge so all of our meals had to be preordered from the kitchen and then eaten on the front porch or in our room. Again- traveling during Covid…🤷♀️
Sixty Hours in Leavenworth, WA As Part Our Seven Fall Days in the Pacific Northwest
After about a four hour drive, we made it to Leavenworth in the early evening on a Thursday night.
Leavenworth was originally a logging town that was turned into a German Bavaria themed town in the 1960’s to draw tourists to it. And boy does it ever! If you are looking for another cute Bavarian themed town – you should check out Solvang, CA which was part of the inspiration for Leavenworth (or so I’ve been told anyway!).
There are definitely pros and cons to visiting popular places during a global shutdown. The obvious pro being not as many crowds. Although I have to say with 2020 being the year of the road trip – I am not sure how “not crowded” the town of Leavenworth really was. I am guessing seven days in the Pacific Northwest is probably a common road trip right about now…
I know they have canceled all of their Oktoberfest and Christmas festivities for the year (the biggest con) but there is plenty of wine tasting and beer drinking to be had in town still 🤪. This town is literally right out of a Bavarian storybook! We made sure to stop by the visitors center on the far side of town on Highway 2 to ask them where to eat, hike, and explore. They gave us excellent advice that I am excited to pass along to you!
Where We Stayed in Leavenworth
We checked in to the Posthotel in Leavenworth and all I can say is what a surprise!! I guess 2020 has made me such a negative Nelly as far as travel plans have gone that I just didn’t pay that close of attention to where I was making my reservation. I pretty much googled nicest place to stay in Leavenworth and this property was on the list. Biggest perk I saw at the time of booking was that it is adult only so that sold me…
The Posthotel Is Such a Gorgeous Treat!
There were many people staying at the Posthotel for a spa weekend when we were there (which again had I done my research better I may have been able to get a massage reservation in for myself at the hotel) ie- I did not get a massage on this weekend due to lack of planning on my part 😳. Breakfast and lunch are included in your room rate – and the food was amazing. I am just realizing I did not do a good job as a blogger because I only got one food shot on this trip (and it was from my room 😂). But just know – it was all DELICIOUS!
Spend an evening walking around town and getting dinner
After a quick walk around town to get our bearings, we grabbed dinner at Baren Haus before calling it a night in our insanely gorgeous and comfortable room! Again- no food photos taken but I sure did enjoy my steak here 😎. I can just say that all of our food on our seven days in the Pacific Northwest hit the spot! So any food stop I am mentioning in this post definitely gets my recommendation!
Front Street in Leavenworth is Currently Closed to Vehicles
Because of COVID and all the restaurants in the area trying to maximize dining capacity, the city has closed their main street (Front Street) to traffic and has let all restaurants have tables outside on the street. It’s somewhat funny because my husband and I thought the street is always closed to cars but were told that is not normally the case. TBH- it really is something the popular and potentially crowded city should really consider!! We enjoyed this aspect of walking around the main streets without having to worry about vehicles 🤷♀️.
A Full Day in Leavenworth Spent Wandering in the Parks and Neighborhoods
We got a pretty late start this day (sleeping in is my jam btw!). So when we finally got our act together and made it downstairs- we had a lovely light lunch in the lobby restaurant (included) and then headed out to wander the area.
Right outside our hotel’s back doors is the path to Blackbird Island via Waterfront Park. So we wandered through this island along the Wenatchee River for a little less than a mile which ended us a bit above Enchantment Park. I have mentioned in previous posts that we like to just wander when we travel – especially now that most of our travels are without the kids. From Enchantment Park, we turned around and headed back into town as we wandered the residential streets looking at all the cute houses along the way!
As we returned to town – we walked all the way to the far end of town so that we could slowly make our way back to our hotel. We ate dinner at Leavenworth Sausage Garten as a recommendation from the visitors center. The sausages here are housemade and were oh so tasty. We kept it simple – and of course accompanied our sausages with beer, pretzels, and sauerkraut. A true Bavarian experience. Not even sure if we were in Germany or Washington at this point 😂.
My tradition is to collect a Christmas ornament from all of the places we travel so after getting our ornament at the Kris Kringle shop in town, we called it a night.
Day Two In Leavenworth, WA Hiking the Amazing Local Trails
My husband and I love to mix time in nature as well as in cities on our travels. So whenever possible, we try to get a hike into our itinerary. Not going to lie – I didn’t really expect that Leavenworth was going to offer us much in the way of hiking. Again- not a lot of research done for this trip- my bad. I blame COVID for that…
Nonetheless- our friends at the visitors center pointed us in the right direction. We were deciding between the Eight Mile Lake and the Icicle Gorge trails. In the end, we decided we wanted to have very little elevation gain for the day so Icicle Gorge won out. See the details on all the available hikes in the area here.
Enchantment Lakes Hiking Trail
A close friend of ours originally from Seattle informed us of a very popular all day hike in the area called Enchantment Lakes. My husband and about 10-15 of his friends go on a boys hiking trip every fall someplace in the Western US (this friend is one of them). They have been doing this together for over ten years and are always looking for new places to go.
The more we looked into the Enchantment Lakes Trail, the more excited my husband got about planning next years hike here. So part of our day ended up being a recon trip for his future hiking adventure. Honestly I love planning so much – this gives me enjoyment to help my husband get excited about his next guys adventure.
We even did a little bit of research as to where the guys should stay as a property like the Posthotel is usually not on their itineraries for these trips 😂. We stopped by the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort and think that will likely be a great fit for his group when they go! Plus when I help stake a joint out with him like this- I get a little bit of an idea where they are going and what they are going to see and do. That property has plenty of multi-person cabins and truly looks like a super fun place to stay!
Icicle Gorge Hiking Trail
The drive to the trailhead parking was about 30 minutes from the Posthotel with the last five or so miles being on a well packed but bumpy dirt road. We weren’t even sure we were driving in the right area – but as long as you are on the dirt road portion of County Highway 76 – just know you are indeed in the right place. Icicle Road turns into Co Hwy 76…
This road is where the majority of the trails in the area are located btw. In fact, if we had changed our minds at the last minute and decided to get some elevation gain in for the day- we would have had a multitude of trail options available to us along this road.
This trail was a perfect 3.5 miles in length with very little elevation gain. Which was exactly what we were looking for for this last day of our trip. We did a little bit of early leaf peeping too – which again with my lack of planning, it hadn’t even dawned on me that we would be in a place with fall foliage for this trip. I know, I know – I really did VERY little advance research or even thinking about this trip 🤷♀️.
It just means everything about this trip was a pleasant and unexpected surprise though -right?
Dinner and Evening Back in Leavenworth
After we got back to town, we parked our car in our hotel garage and went straight to dinner at Stein – another visitor center recommendation. Although I am not sure if it was the Sasquatch paraphernalia or the 55 beer options that sold my husband on this recommendation. Nonetheless, we ate outside on the dining set up on Front Street as we did some people watching.
We then did a tad more shopping in town and stopped in the store Der Sportsmann to buy a trail map with details about the Enchantment Lakes Trail. Told ya this ended up being quite the reconnaissance trip for my husband 👍🏻. It’s okay though because I got a super cute Patagonia shirt and skirt out of this store stop so it totally worked for me!
After a little more window shopping in town we called it in early. We had to leave at 4:30am the next morning to drive to the Seattle airport for our 9am flight so getting to bed early was helpful. The drive from Leavenworth to the SeaTac airport is about a 2 hour and 20 minute drive and we had to return our car at the rental car facility so leaving around that time was ideal. Since it was an early Sunday morning drive too – we hit zero traffic.