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Scenic Driving Tours
The Route
Vital Statistics
Winter Travel
The Itinerary
   Day 1
   Day 2
   Day 3

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Scenic Driving Tours in Washington
Seattle to Leavenworth

The Itinerary

Day 1 - Seattle to Leavenworth

On this first day, you will be on US2 east, all the way to Leavenworth, following the route of the northernmost railroad over the Cascade Mountains. Starting in Seattle, take US2 through Monroe, Sultan and Gold Bar. As visible from the highway, these towns offer plenty of chances to obtain supplies (gas, coffee, food, recreation equipment). If you haven't packed a lunch, we suggest buying a takeout, which can be eaten up at Steven's Pass.

As the built-up areas turn to dairy farmland and then to wilderness, you will follow the pretty Skykomish River through its flat valley into the awesome Cascade Mountains. The 69-mile section of US2 known as the Stevens Pass Corridor, from Gold Bar to Leavenworth, is designated a National Forest Scenic Byway. In addition Skykomish River is a federally designated wild and scenic river. Both designations have helped limit development in this area. Sultan's local bridge crossing is a good place to get out of the car, listen to the river, take photos, breathe in the first of that country air. Wallace Falls to the north, can be seen from the highway, and in summer you might choose to do the 4-hour return hike to the 265-feet falls.

North Fork Skykomish River at IndexThe tiny town of Index, about a mile off the highway, is worth making the turn-off to visit, and offers more photo opportunities of the river & mountains (now looming close). Here you are at an elevation of less than 600 feet, which explains why the river runs broad and slow.

Returning to the highway, the four lane US2 now winds beneath jagged peaks, and the Skykomish River begins to show whitewater. See if you can spot tracks of recent avalanches, particularly in the "avalanche chutes" where no trees grow due to the regular scouring by falling snow. Skykomish just south of the highway, offers lodging closest to Stevens Pass; in fact Skykomish Hotel is given over to pass employees. The proximity of Skykomish to the Stevens Pass ski area might go someway to explaining the number of bars and hotels here! Pull into the car park on the north side of the pass, facing the ski slopes on the south side. Eat your picnic lunch in the car, while watching the skiers and snowboarders negotiate the runs.

If you are wondering what has happened to the railway as you continue east, it has disappeared into a 7.8 mile long tunnel, the second longest railroad tunnel in the western hemisphere. On the descent into the Wenatchee River Valley and Leavenworth, notice how the forest changes from predominantly Douglas-fir and cedar, to predominantly ponderosa pine, now that you are on the "dry" side of the mountains. The drive down follows Stevens Creek, then Nasan Creek, and finally Wenatchee River that flows as dramatic rapids through Tumwater Canyon. You might like to take a detour to Plain and Lake Wenatchee. We recommend you make your overnight stay in Leavenworth. This Bavarian themed village is a favorite get-away for Puget Sounders, and even in winter, it is probably best to book ahead for accommodation, unless you are flexible about the standard, or willing to go on to Wenatchee. You might be able to squeeze in some serious browsing through Leavenworth's famed specialty shops before the roughly 6 o'clock closing time.

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