My family didn't do a lot of camping when I was growing up. Rumor has it that Dad took Mom on one—and only one—overnight trip before we three kids were born, and, for whatever reason, it didn't turn out so well.
But my parents did love going to Leavenworth. One of my earliest childhood memories is watching my parents dance in the German-style bier garden, while I "played" my own toy accordion along with the band.
Now, as an adult, I've discovered Leavenworth is a place with much more to offer than a quirky Bavarian theme. The whole area is an outdoor mecca, offering a myriad of activities year-round. In the summertime, Icicle Creek Road serves as the gateway to miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, backpacking and rock climbing.
Follow the road eight miles away from Leavenworth, and you'll arrive at the aptly named Eightmile Campground. This is where my boyfriend and I stayed for a weekend of hiking and climbing this spring.
Eightmile Campground is first-come, first-serve and is used by many backpackers and climbers as a launching pad into the nearby wilderness areas. The advantage to a first-come, first-serve site is that you don't need to make a reservation months in advance in order to secure a spot. The disadvantage, of course, is that the campground's 45 sites fill up very fast, especially on summer weekends. (We arrived at the campground at around 6 p.m. on a Friday in late April to find just a few spots remaining.)
Originally intending to car camp there on Friday night before departing on an overnight backpack trip up to Lake Stuart, we changed our plans later that evening. The idea of loading our packs and hiking 5 miles up to the lake, where we would almost certainly be sleeping on snow, grew less appealing as we relaxed by an easy fire, the air pleasantly crisp but not frigid.
Instead we decided to leave the tent and supplies behind at Eightmile while we ventured out for a day hike on Saturday and a few hours of climbing on Sunday. Our hike took us up to Icicle Ridge, a quick trek offering spectacular views of Tumwater and Icicle Creek Canyons and the surrounding mountains.
Other easy-to-moderate hikes in the nearby area include Icicle Gorge, Colchuck Lake, and Upper Icicle Creek (check out the Washington Trails Association website for even more options). If you're looking for a bigger challenge, many of the surrounding trails will take you up into the breathtaking Enchantment Lakes basin—an area that requires highly sought-after permits for overnight backpacking but is accessible to day hikers willing to commit to a long, steep trek.
After our hike on Saturday, we drove into downtown Leavenworth to grab a couple of beers and pretzels at Icicle Brewing Company, followed by bratwursts at the new Leavenworth Sausage Garden. We soon discovered one of the biggest advantages to car camping in Leavenworth: being able to indulge in a bit of Bavarian-themed fun before leaving it all behind to sleep under the stars, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.
More info about Eightmile Campground:
- 41 single sites, 4 double sites
- RV camping is allowed for trailers 70 feet or shorter; there are no hookups, however.
- Potable water and vault toilets are available.
- Fees are $16/night for a single site, $32/night for a double.
- A group camping site is availabe for $85/night (must be reserved in advance).
- Check out the Forest Service's web pages for more details on camping at Eightmile and other nearby campgrounds.
Got a favorite campground that you visit every summer? Have a tale about the worst camping experience you ever had? Write a review and send it and a photo of your camping trip to Annie Archer at email@example.com. We’ll feature it in the next camping column.