Visiting the Scenic, Bavarian-Style Town of Leavenworth in Washington

The state of Washington in the far northwest part of our country is a beauty, with ocean breezes, mountains, meadows, and more!

These buildings in Leavenworth, Washington, have a similar look to those in a Bavarian village.

These buildings in Leavenworth, Washington, have a similar look to those in a Bavarian village.

On the Road to Leavenworth

One day while visiting the Seattle area, my mother, niece, and I decided to take a scenic drive through the Cascades and head towards the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth, Washington. Driving east on U.S. Highway 2 going over Stevens Pass, the scenery that we got to see from this route would have been reason enough for the sojourn.

Rolling hills with mountain views and verdant hillsides covered with vegetation in all shades of green rewarded us as we traveled through this gorgeous part of the country. Wild grasses and flowers sprinkled the landscape with occasional splashes of color. The day was cloudy enough to obscure views of the tops of the mountains.

We stopped at a covered wayside along a river near Startup, Washington and picked some wild raspberries. The raspberry bushes seem to grow wild in a number of places. We stole some berries from the birds and other animals who undoubtedly find their succulence both delicious and nutritious.

A close-up of a single raspberry on a bush.

A close-up of a single raspberry on a bush.

Lovely moss covered trees lined the bank of the river. Our destination was to see the town of Leavenworth, otherwise, we might have lingered a bit longer in this beautiful natural setting. But we were intrigued by what we had read of this German-styled town, so we got in the rental car and continued with our journey.

Moss covered trees ~ Scenery east of Seattle, Washington

Moss covered trees ~ Scenery east of Seattle, Washington

Pit Stop in Startup, Washington

This cute Post Office pictured below in Startup, Washington drew our attention. Stopping just long enough to take some photos, we were once again on our way to Leavenworth.

History of Leavenworth, Washington

Indians were the first inhabitants of this beautiful valley.

Tribes from the Yakima, Chinook and Wenatchi tribes made this area home when the weather was hospitable. These migrating Indians would set up camp and the lush valley and clean water originating from high in the Cascades provided their horses with excellent water and grazing and in addition provided food for themselves.

Berry bushes flourished then as now and the salmon ran freely in the waterways. The Indians could eat their fill but also they would dry the berries and the salmon for easy transporting and eating later in the year.

Gold mining first brought white settlers to that area. In 1869 the Blewett mining camp was established and continued to exist into the early 1900's. It slowly developed into a small town with some amenities such as a post office, hotel, and store. That town's name was "Icicle."

The Wenatchee River flowed through this valley and most of the early settlement was on the south side of the river.

Wenatchee River west of Leavenworth, Washington.

Wenatchee River west of Leavenworth, Washington.

The early settlers were hardy souls. All of their supplies had to be packed in by animals through the mountainous terrain as the nearest railroad was 75 miles away at Ellensburg. Wagons finally made it using a difficult route called the Blewett trail.

In the late summer months when the Wenatchee River was lower, it could be crossed by canoe or by fording. Eventually, a cable ferry was installed by Howell Ralston. Mary Ralston, Howell Ralston's sister, was the valley's first school teacher.

The new town that was evolving was called Leavenworth, and in 1892 the Great Northern Railway started progress towards bringing tracks closer to this location.

Lots began to be sold. What was the town of Icicle was absorbed into the new and emerging Leavenworth as it continued to grow.

As was typical with many growing towns in the west, saloons and houses of ill repute sprang up and many of the crews that were working on the railroad came into town to use the facilities. At this time the area developed a reputation for lawlessness.

Wood logs at a sawmill

Wood logs at a sawmill

In 1904 the Lamb-Davis Lumber Company built a large sawmill in Leavenworth. Many camps along the river developed and this provided numerous jobs for people in the area. The river was utilized to float logs and local inhabitants prospered.

Brick buildings were constructed in that same year due to some fires that burned down the old wooden ones. Larger and more elegant homes began to be constructed. Life was good! A golf course was even constructed in 1927 for those with leisure time to enjoy that pastime.

But the 1920's brought ill winds. The Lamb-Davis Lumber Company closed it's doors as it could no longer use the river for floating lumber. Then, as if that was not bad enough, the Great Northern Railroad moved to Wenatchee abandoning Leavenworth.


How Leavenworth Got Its Bavarian Style

The 1929 Stock Market Crash and subsequent Depression practically killed the town of Leavenworth and it could have become one of the many ghost towns that were left in the wake of settlement in the west.

Giving the town a Bavarian makeover is what saved it from extinction.

The remaining people living there had a bright idea in the 1960s to remake their town into a place that people would be attracted to come and visit. Creating and making Leavenworth into a Bavarian Village was their idea and they proceeded to make it a reality.

The setting was perfect! They already had the mountainous terrain and the town sat in a beautiful valley much like many of the villages in Bavaria.

Lots of hard work ensued and most everyone that visits there today can get a flavor of Bavaria by visiting this town in the State of Washington.

One can hear oompah-pah music, eat German sausage, see buildings that are reminiscent of those in the old country and enjoy the antiques and crafts offered by the many stores in Leavenworth.

Our Day Spent in Leavenworth

We were there in the summertime and the weather cooperated and had become sunny and bright while we enjoyed our visit.

As with many Bavarian villages, the shops and restaurants, as well as other buildings in Leavenworth, were festooned with flowers in the ground, in flower boxes and in hanging baskets.All those flowers along with the unique buildings presented a postcard-pretty sight.

After looking at several menus we decided to eat lunch at Reiner's Gasthaus Restaurant. We were seated at a large wooden communal table and got to visit with other diners as we compared notes of our visit to this area. We picked up some other travel tips which is always fun when one is in an area of the country that one has not previously seen or experienced.

On the menu and sampled by the three of us was goulash soup, pork roast with bread dumplings and red cabbage. Of course, there were the usual bratwursts, knackwursts, and other typical types of Germanic fare, and we heard good things about what everyone else chose to eat at our table that day. My mother and I both ordered Paulaner draft beer from Munich to accompany our food.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable day from the time we left Seattle to going back there for the night. The drive was enjoyable and the scenery lovely. For people who wish to spend more time in Leavenworth there are plenty of accommodations available.

Getting to experience a bit of Bavarian architecture, food, music and ambiance in Leavenworth situated in the Cascade Mountains in the State of Washington was fun and totally different from anything my mother, niece and I had previously seen. I had not yet been to Germany.

A big "thumbs up" to what the inhabitants of Leavenworth, Washington accomplished in making their scenic town into the attractive and interesting Bavarian village type of place that now draws visiting tourists from near and far. It is picture perfect!

Each season of the year would be special as some of the videos added to this post show.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2018:

Hi Mary,

There is obviously much to see in the State of Washington. This is certainly one place of interest. The Bavarian style makes it unique.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 21, 2018:

This place looks like an interesting one to visit. I have not been to Washington State yet. It looks beautiful. Love the Bavarian style, too.

Robert Sacchi on March 23, 2018:

I see, my in-laws have the same concept.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2018:

Hi Robert,

No we have not returned. My preference is to see new and different places when traveling. Right now we are having fun exploring places we have not visited right in our own backyard. The Houston metro area is so large that it alone could fill many years of discovery.

Robert Sacchi on March 22, 2018:

Have you gone back since your first visit?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 22, 2018:

Hi Robert,

That is true with regard to many things! In this case a site for tourism was born in Leavenworth and the town will always have a special allure.

Robert Sacchi on March 21, 2018:

With some imagination people can do great things.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2018:

Hi Robert,

The residents of Leavenworth, Washington surely did find an innovative way to make their town thrive. It is a fun place to visit.

Robert Sacchi on March 19, 2018:

Another beautiful place you found. Some towns and cities do some imaginative things to stay alive.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 07, 2012:

Hi Rajan,

Yes...the residents of Leavenworth, Washington were very smart to have converted their town into a Bavarian style village. It now draws many tourists and like you said, it is a beautiful place. Thanks for your votes and the Google +1 share.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on December 06, 2012:

Leavenworth is a very beautiful place no doubt and thanks to the residents for converting it to a Bavarian style of living, a beauty to behold. The pictures are bewitching and awesome with a wonderful splash of color and gaiety.

Voted up, beautiful and shared on G+1.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2011:

Hi RTalloni,

Leavenworth, Washington is a town worth visiting! I was there with my mother and niece while on vacation many years ago. Hope that you get to see it for yourself the next time you are in that "neck of the woods." Thanks for your comment.

RTalloni on December 10, 2011:

So glad to see this posting. We visit that end of the country periodically and would love to see this little town. Thanks much for sharing your trip with us--how nice that you were able to be with your daughter and granddaughter for that special time.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 05, 2011:

Hi Cheryl,

Visiting Leavenworth is like seeing a bit of Germany, Switzerland or other similar places for those who have never traveled over there. I saw Leavenworth first and then traveled to those other countries overseas afterwards. It is amazing what they have created in that town! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 05, 2011:

Hello craftybegonia,

Leavenworth, Washington truly is a lovely place. Thanks for your visit and comment.

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on October 05, 2011:

A wonderful and beautiful hub on Leavenworth in Washington State. I am inspired by the breathtaking photos you have captured of this lovely Bavarian village. Great videos and information.

craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on October 05, 2011:

Lovely place, nice hub!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 28, 2010:

Hello wanderingpops,

Seeing the very scenic Leavenworth in Washington State by bike would have been fun and an easy way to get around. It is such a beautiful Bavarian-like town and then going on up into the mountains would have been wonderful. Have you written about that? Am sure people would be interested. Thanks for the comment.

wanderingpops on November 28, 2010:

Oh Leavenworth! I saw it as a surprisingly easy place to cruise around and see by bike. Then head on out along Hwy 2 into the mountains. Your photos really make me want to go back. Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 07, 2010:

Hello danatheteacher,

It must be beautiful visiting the Bavarian-like town of Leavenworth in the winter! We loved seeing it in the summer with all those blooming flowers, but the twinking lights and crunch of the snow would add another great element, for sure. Thanks for the comment.

Dana Rock from Pacific Northwest on September 07, 2010:

I've been to up to this quaint town many times, but it has always been covered in snow!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 06, 2010:

Hello ss sneh,

Nice to be able to share what we learned about the very scenic Leavenworth, Washington with you. This was a memorable portion of our vacation trip one year. Happy to hear that you liked it. Thanks for the comment.

ss sneh from the Incredible India! on July 06, 2010:

Hi! Useful info! Yet another beautiful hub! -- Thanks

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 03, 2009:

Hello loveroflife,

Comparing the buildings I got to see in Germany and Switzerland some years later, Leavenworth, Washington would certainly give people an idea of what they might see in the "Old Country." Yes...they do deserve a hand for making their community into something more viable, pretty and interesting.

Thanks for your comment.

loveroflife on August 03, 2009:

Kudos to the people of Leavenworth for accepting the challenge to remake their community. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the story.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 15, 2009:

Hi Mighty Mom, Glad that you liked this hub regarding Leavenworth. To have all the inhabitants working together for the common good of the town and achieving what they did is an amazing accomplishment. It is also in such a beautiful natural setting. Thanks for your comments.

Susan Reid from Where Left is Right, CA on May 14, 2009:

This a a wonderful find! I had never heard of this village. Especially given the state of the economy, the chance of my getting to Germany anytime soon is remote. But Washington, only 2 states north -- yes, I could see myself going there! Thanks for the beautiful introduction. The photos totally make the hub!! MM

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 14, 2009:

Thanks kiran. Photos were always my favorite souvenirs when going on trips. Of course many of these were taken with film and I would not know if they were good or bad until I got home and had them developed. REALLY having fun with my new digital camera!

Glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for commenting.

kiran8 from Mangalore, India on May 14, 2009:

You have a great way with pics :)

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