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The Icicle Ridge Trail, WA
The Icicle Ridge Trail,
outside the town of Leavenworth, Washington, boasts an impressive 25 miles of well maintained trails that follow the crest of the Icicle Ridge, with stunning panoramic views of the Enchantments, the Icicle River, the Leavenworth Valley, and the Tumwater Canyon. The trailhead is conveniently located just a few miles outside of town, where a person could just as easily ride a bike as drive a car to get to. Because of the extensive length of the trail, it inspires a good number of equestrian traffic, but the Icicle Ridge Trail has a lot to offer hikers as well.
The Icicle Ridge Trail is beautiful in its simplicity, following the line of the mountain ridge from point-to-point without interruption, all the while drawing hikers through beautiful landscapes typical to the Cascade Mountains: Coniferous forests, fields of wildflowers, and snow capped alpine mountains in the near distance.
What to Expect on the Hike:
The trail starts out steeply with a well graded slope that switchbacks up the mountainside behind a few residential houses. It soon becomes high and lonely, leading into a pine forest where people can glimpse the town of Leavenworth through gaps in the tree trunks as it grows more distant. Charred timber sticks up out of the grassy slope here and there, an interesting clue as to the recent history of the trail.
The trail reaches the ridge crest and a T-junction after almost a mile's climb. Turn left to continue on the main trail (turning right leads to a camping area). The trail continues to climb. At two miles in there is a small flat area on the ridge top where there is a good place to enjoy the views, stop and eat, or turn around (round trip, about three hours). Further on, the trail finally relents its steep climb and changes to more of a gentle rise and fall. Possibly the most amazing viewpoint on the trail is at the junction to the Fourth of July Creek Trail about nine miles in, the highest-point of the ridge, and allowing pretty much a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and Valleys.
The great part of not having a particular destination to reach, such as a lake or a particular peak, is that hikers can choose how far they want to hike, and then turn back without feeling like they did not "make it." People can go a few miles in and then hike back out, or they can bring along a tent and go the whole 25 miles.
Even walking just half a mile up the trail will take people well above Leavenworth and allow for some great views of the valley.
With that fact in mind, hikers need to be aware of a few things:
- Although the trail is smooth and easy to follow, it is steep, and so some people might need to think twice before attempting to climb it, or before bringing pets along.
- Wear shoes with decent traction (most tennis shoes would work, but not flip flops).
- Wear weather appropriate clothing. Hats, coats, wind breakers, shorts, tank top, whatever makes sense for the day.
- Bring at least one bottle of water per hiker, and some energy laden snacks to share.
- It would also be a good idea to apply sun block if the day is warm.
The best times to hike the Icicle Ridge Trail is in the late spring through early fall. Spring will ensure an abundance of wildflowers, summer is hot and sun-shiny, and the autumn brings beautiful red and yellow colored leaves and undergrowth.
Video of the Icicle Ridge Trail, Leavenworth, WA
Directions to the Trail Head:
Travelling west on Highway 2, go all the way through Leavenworth and turn left onto Icicle Road at the far west end of town. Go 1.4 miles and turn right at the sign marked Icicle Ridge Trail (opposite Shore Street). There is a large parking area on the right.
A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking. It costs 5$ for a day pass and is available at the Leavenworth Ranger Station.
During your visit, you may wish to acquire acommodations for the night instead of camping. If that is the case, there are many Hotels with great reputations in Leavenworth. The Blackbird Lodge, and the Bavarian Lodge, are some, to name a few. The Enzian Inn is perhaps the most popular to stay in, due to its beautiful rooms with a European Atmosphere and impressive complimentary full breakfast buffet complete with made-to-order omelettes. But there are also many budget friendly places to stay, some with access to the walking trail around the Leavenworth Waterfront Park, and others that are near to the downtown Bavarian Village. Leavenworth describes itself to be family friendly, it has lots of great stores for shopping, and many festivals and attractions to keep people coming back again and again to see what is new.