A Trip Full Washington’s Gems

The Northeastern part of Washington is diverse creating an experience unlike any other for exploring the PNW. On this trip you’ll see multiple landscapes ranging from field to mountains. Some of these roads can be closed during Winter due to snow so please check the website for road conditions. There is an incredible amount of diversity on this itinerary, so lets get going!

Day 1: Seattle to Wenatchee Valley State Park (About 110 miles, 2 hour 10 minuntes)

Instead of starting in the grind of  i90 you can take the VW pace through Highway 2 East over to Stevens Pass. You can stop if you’re ready to grab a bite in Maltby, at Maltby pizza for some great food and then get a sweet treat down the street with some locally made ice cream at Snoqualmie Creamery. 

If you’re looking to push on a bit farther before grabbing a bite, then you can always stop in Sultan at Sultan Bakery for some delicious comfort food. 

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Into the mountains you go! If you’re geared up and ready to hike, you can start off your PNW Adventure with a short hike at Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls Trailhead right as you’re coming into Index.

Next on your voyage through Stevens Pass, you can take a caffeine break at a local favorite, the Espresso Chalet for a quick peek of the mountains. This great pit stop is accompanied by a little PNW charm including a bigfoot statue.

Crossing the pass you can wind your way through ponderosa pines until you stop for dinner at the 59 er diner.  To stock up on any last minute groceries before heading to the campsite there is Midway Village & Grocery in town.

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Day 2:  Lake Wenatchee State Park to Lost Lake Camping Area ( About 3 hours 42 minutes, 182 miles)

You made it to through the first night of #vanlife.  Heading out on day 2 you’ll get back onto Highway 2 to make your way through one of Washingtons unique towns called Leavenworth.  This town is filled with shops, restaurants and a few grocery stores.  Summertime activities include river rafting, kayaking and plain old inner tubing as well as fishing, horseback riding and even wagon rides.

An amazing coffee shop here is: J5 Coffee nestled in between bakeries and artisan shops.  If you’re in the mood for something of a little more substance head to the Leavenworth Sausage garden for outdoor seating and great atmosphere.  Leavenworth also has some amazing breweries but one of our favorites is Icicycle Brewing.

 

After seeing downtown Leavenworth, you can then stop at Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery (2 miles south on Icicle Road on the western outskirts of town), where there is an excellent interpretive visitor’s center.  From there is a nature trail to walk along the river, seeing the Black-throated Gray Warbler and hearing the clucks, whistles and squawks of the ever elusive (and unseen) Yellow-breasted Chat.

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Back on the road again, the drive on Hwy 97 up the Columbia River and its series of dam-impounded lakes showed the intersection of rock and scrub with abundant water and human settlement and agriculture.

 You’ll pass through Chelan County on Highway 97, which is wine country. If beer isn’t your shtick or even if it is, then check out Mike Stowe and the WAVE (Winery Assault Vehicle Excursion), a Pinzgauer mobility vehicle distantly related to our VW Vanagons, at Chelan Valley Tours for a unique and fun way to tour the local vineyards!  

After the tour you’ll hit Tonasket.  This is where you can end the day grabbing any last minute groceries at Tonasket Natural Food Co-Op.


Insider Scoop: This campground is very quiet of human activity.  Only non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake.  When winds are calm, one hears absolute silence – interrupted occasionally by the beautiful haunting call of the Common Loons nesting on the lake.  With such quiet, one can hear small sounds far away while experiencing the space as vast and expansive. Many bird species nest in that forest habitat.  We saw Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, Hairy Woodpecker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Mountain Chickadee, Western Tanager, and Evening Grosbeaks.  The campground also hosts a colony of Columbian Ground Squirrels; and deer and elk occasionally pass through.

 There is an easy mile-long trail starts in the campground and leads through the forest to gigantic Western Larch trees that are nearly 1000 years old. At night watch the moonlight reflect in the lake’s ripples while listening to the croaking frogs and the winnowing sounds of the flying Common Snipe’s tail feathers. 

 

Day 3: Lost Lake to Curlew Lake Campground (About 41.3 miles, 1 hour 13 minutes)

Today you have a short drive and a lot of flexibility.  Continue on NF-050 until you hit Bonapart Lake Rd.  You’ll pass through Bonapart Lake where you can kayak, fish, or take a quick hike around the southern most loop at the Pippisewa Trail. 

Head East on Highway 20 until you hit WA-21 N where youll pass the town of Republic which could be a great stop at a brewery, Republic brewery before taking the rest of WA-21 all the way to your campground.

When you get to Curlew Lake Campground there’s many different activities to engage in. Camping at Curlew lake you can enjoy swimming and boating on the large lake’s waters bordered by homes.  There are many campsites here set amidst the Ponderosa Pines and beautiful views.  This state park has some warm showers that can be a nice refresher.  There’s an unexpected bonus were the trails along the lake and into the grasslands that lead out of the campground to the south – and that is where you can find close-up views of nesting Great Blue Herons and Osprey.

Insider Scoop: An unexpected bonus are the trails along the lake and into the grasslands that lead out of the campground to the south – and that can take you to close-up viewing areas of nesting Great Blue Herons and Osprey.

Day 4: Curlew Lake Campground to Big Meadow Lake Campground ( About 82.8 miles, 2 hours)

Crossing Stevens County taking WA-21 S and then on WA-20 E, you’ll pass through some big towns before heading out to Big Meadow Lake in the farthest northeast of Washington state, in Pend Oreille County. 

If you’re looking to get outside for a quick hike then there is the Sherman Point Loop trail that is great for all ages. 

You’ll keep driving on WA-20 E until you hit Colville.  Before you head out of Colville, the last town before your camp spot for the night stop at either Northern Ales Inc and Fired Up Brewing for a quick refreshment.

Either head to the campground via Aladdin Rd or take a few hours to explore the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge located 40 miles to the south of the campground. 


The Colville National Forest campground is designated as primitive camping:  no potable water (make sure your Westy’s water talk is topped off), and no camping fees.  There are picnic tables, fire pits, and vault toilets (which are kept very clean by the volunteer campground host).  The site is apparently popular on weekends.  The lake is beautifully set in forests, bogs and meadows.

Birds and other wildlife are a constant source of interest and entertainment here.  From, Black-capped Chickadee, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, and Cedar Waxwing in the shrubs and thickets.  Common Ravens, Rednaped Sapsucker, A Willow Flycatcher, A Common Loon fished and Killdeers can be seen throughout the landscape.  Butterflies, bunnies, and deer can all be seen if you’re lucky as well. 

Day 5:  Big Meadow Lake Campground to Sun Lake Dry Falls State Park (About 154 miles, 3 hours 15 minutes)

You’ll come back through Colville until you reach I395 S-through Addy on Addy-Gifford Rd.  Weave through Huckleberry Mountain and the Columbia River on WA-25 S until you hit US W-2 where you can follow this into Grant County.  The nearby Dry Falls interpretive site is an excellent place to stop and see what was the recurring massive falls that drained Missoula Lake numerous times during the last ice age.

You’ll also be so close to the Grande Coullee Dam, that you can stop, browse and learn. This mile wide Grand Coulee Dam produces more electricity than any other facility in the United States. Grand Coulee also lifts water from Lake Roosevelt to Eastern Washington creating the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project providing water for thousands of acres of new farmland.

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Your camping destination at Sun Lakes/Dry Falls State Park is in the shrub-steppe habitat of Lower Grand Coulee in the Columbia Basin.  This spot offers water, flush toilets, and warm showers – always popular attractions which bring in more campers, especially on the weekend.

Here you can go boating, rent a ski-doo or just go swimming. Dry falls is over 3.5 miles wide, 400 feet tall and was once estimated to be under 400 feet of water. This area, called the scablands, stretches as far as Eugene, Oregon, was created when ancient ice floods swept through the area

The water in the lakes, marshes, and riparian habitats within the park also bring in the birds.  You can walk through trails through the sagebrush along a creek, finding Bullocks Oriole, American Goldfinch, and flocks of Violet-green Swallows gathered around pairs of birds tussling in the air and on the ground.

Day 6: Sun Lakes Dry Falls State Park to Naches, Washington (About 128 miles, 2 hours 10 minutes)

There are a few trails that you can take today if you’re feeling adventurous including, Cowiche Canyon Trail and Tieton River Nature Trail, and if you’re looking for more of a cool place to walk through, Lenore Lake Caves is only a 10 minute drive from Sun Lakes Dry Falls State Park.

Once you shake your legs out, take i90 from WA-17 and stop along the way for some great fruit and refreshments at Johnsons orchards

When you come to Ellensburg head South on i82 through Selah until you hit Yakima.  Enjoy a beverage break at one of the many breweries here including, Bale Breaker Brewery-Yakima. Remember that you’re still in wine country if you want to stop and check out one of the many wineries located here.

You’ll continue West through Yakima and head to Haus Creek Campground for the night. This campground is located near the Tieton River which provides abundant opportunities for fishing, scenic walks, etc.

Day 7: Naches, Washington to Mt. Rainer National Park (About 140 miles, 3 hours)

Don’t fret, even though you’re nearing the end of the trip you still have some amazing sights left to see. 

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Start your day with a walk through some wondrous natural areas in Washington including Boulder Cave Trail.  This trail is located near this campground where you can explore the natural wonders of Washington Caves.

Then head on US-12 West around Mt. Rainer until you hit Cougar Creek Campground.  Stop and marvel anywhere on this drive at the landscape, lush and green. Hikes and pit stops for photos are abundant mile by mile.

Day 8 : Mt. Rainer National Park to Peace Vans (Approx. 101 miles, 2 hours 20 minutes)

You end your trip camped in the mountains.  Spend the morning making coffee in the mountains and then on your way back to Seattle you can stop at Northwest Trek to see some other Native Northwest wildlife through tours, ziplineing etc.  From here head NE from 706à161à167ài5 North.  We’ll see you back at Peace Vans. We can’t wait to hear about your trip!

Thanks Neil Miller!