Ridgelines, Waffles, and Shredding In the Great State of Washington

Aug 27, 2013
by Paris Gore  
Words: Sarah Leishman Photos: Paris Gore

Leavenworth, Washington has made a name for itself as one of the best places to ride on the west side of North America. Since the hugely successful 2011 opening of the Stevens Pass Bike Park after years of ducking, dodging and finding a way through US Forest Service land policies, the world at large has begun to recognize the incredible riding this region has to offer. Even before Stevens Pass came to fruition, most seasoned mountain bikers have recognized Leavenworth and its local trail network for being full of some of the most kickass terrain in Washington…and even BC, if you’re willing to make the trek (and you should be!).

Pinkbike photographer Paris Gore, my better half Andrew Gunn, and I headed to Leavenworth this spring in an attempt to hit all of the trails we’ve missed in visits before this one, and to ride them all on our trusty trail bikes. I’m lucky to say I’ve visited Leavenworth a few times, including getting a healthy taste of the remarkable Stevens Pass Bike Park in its early days of opening. I’ve learned from the trips of my past to make sure I had big rotors on my trail bike this time around and that a 6-inch travel trail bike would be more than appropriate here for the massive descents that awaited us. Leavenworth should really be code for “sick ridgeline rides everywhere”. Open, flowing, sandy in the summer, tacky and perfect in the spring and fall. These are trails built by folks who close up their bike shop (James Munly, who owns the accommodating and informative Das Rad Haus in the downtown core) on Sundays with a sign that says “Closed For Trail Maintenance”.

Das Rad Haus.. the Raddest shop in town.
  Das Rad Haus.. the Raddest shop in town.

We reached out to Joel Martinez the mastermind behind the Stevens Pass Bike Park on advice for where to stay and he immediately introduced us to Kevin who runs the marketing at the Icicle Inn in town. This little Bavarian-themed surprise beauty had it all including a massive spread for breakfast that let Gunner make his own waffles. Perfect warm up to riding a zone that could keep you pedaling and descending for days and days.
  We reached out to Joel Martinez, the mastermind behind the Stevens Pass Bike Park on advice for where to stay, and he immediately introduced us to Kevin from the Icicle Inn in town. This little Bavarian beauty had it all, including a massive spread for breakfast that let Gunner make his own waffles. Perfect warm up to riding a zone that could keep you pedaling and descending for days and days.

31
  Munlee also welcomed us with a smile, pickup truck and his bike shop to take care of us.

13
  AMC's Hell On Wheels...on bikes? Nope. This is Leavenworth shredding under amazing skies.

23
  So many ridiculously good looking views. So little time.

27
  View spotting doesn't get old here.

26
  Sick corners to smash? Check.

24
  Crazy rock formations? Double check.

29
  Flowers on Xanadu.

21
  Open, flowing and high speed. Xanadu offers some of the raddest singletrack we've seen.

20
  Sarah samples the goods on Xanadu.

25
  Riding through old, burnt out forest, mixed with rock, buff singletrack, alpine flowers and...speed.

Leavenworth was officially incorporated in 1905 and had a long history of benefiting from the fruits of the sawmill and logging industry until the local economy ground to a near halt when the Great Northern Railway Company was rerouted away from the town in the 1950s. The locals were forced to look at options to keep people passing through so they could stay alive and in the late 1960’s, the entire downtown core was redesigned to appear Bavarian against the backdrop of their impressive mountain ranges. In addition to hosting some of the biggest Christmas festivals in the country and a year round Christmas shop, story goes that the Starbucks there is the only one in the world to have an adapted font in its logo to fit with the theme of its surrounding neighbours.

The German themed town brings tourism to the what was once a dying part of the state now turned into a yearly destination for people around the world.
  Leavenworth's Bavarian-themed downtown brings year round tourism to an area that was once a dying part of the state.

Stroll around the German themed town of Leavenworth WA. The town is filled with great food beers and amazing people.
   Sarah and Gunner set out to find schnitzel, beer, good jokes and trail advice. All four were easily located.

Named one of the “Fifty Next Great Adventure Towns” by National Geographic Adventure, Leavenworth is known largely for wineries, Octoberfest, never-ending Christmas, rock climbing and a downtown core that is typically bustling and full of people. Its population of just over 2500 is full of skiers, climbers and avid mountain bikers of the absolute best kind: those “I don’t give an eff about my jersey” types have built an epic trail network in this town.

Tim Wesley local flavor. Tim ride an old school Kona and rips harder than you. In the winter Tim builds custom Snow Surf boards catering to the massive backcountry snowboarding crowd that lives in the area.
  Tim Wesley, local flavour, greeted us with a smile and truck full of beers. Tim rides an old school Kona and rips harder than you. He shuttled us around, shredded and gave us the tour of a lifetime of the area. In the winter Tim builds custom Snow Surf boards that cater to the massive backcountry snowboarding community in the area.

Sarah s Norco get s a quick fix at the Das Rad Haus.
  Gunner's Range gets a quick fix at the Das Rad Haus.

15
  Gunner getting flowery.

28
  Sarah throws shapes on Xanadu. A hot lap shouldn't take more than a half hour - but it feels like an endless, perfect descent.

14
  "Tibbits" is further down the road and offers more steep, sandy riding...fitting, as the closer you get to Wenatchee, the drier the ecosystem seems to be.

22
  Xanadu singletrack heaven.

Leishner riding into the epic views of the North Cascades.
  Sarah riding into the epic views of the North Cascades.

Ghost trees
  Ghost trees

Long dark clouds coming down..
  Long dark clouds coming down..

We encountered riders of all types in our days while shooting in Leavenworth. We were lucky enough to run into Tim, who played a huge role in the original bike trails in town and is now working on the Stevens Pass Bike Park trail crew. We also found intermediate riders, mega shredders from Bend seeking refuge from an enduro race that was in their town for the weekend and a few other dedicated descent-earners all over the network. The trails in Leavenworth can suit any type of rider: I’ve been scared here on a big bike and I’ve seen little kids riding out on the green Freund trail as they earned their stripes for bigger stuff down the road.

30
  Local favourite "Freund" trail has both reasonable climbing (about an hour for most mortals) and a sick descent that's mellow enough for the kids and rad enough to find mini berm/wallrides. Sarah demonstrates the fun factor.

Shuttle people
  The perfect shuttle cannot be achieved without a post-ride brodown, complete with beer and a few jokes. Pictured right here.

Out of the desert and into the green. The area has a diverse ecosystem ranging from rattlesnake ridden desert lush forest and high alpine.
  Out of the desert and into the green. The area has a diverse ecosystem ranging from rattlesnake-laden desert, lush forest and high alpine.

Just up the road.... Custom Knife sale
Custom Knife edge riding. Ridge lines everywhere and there is no falling down here..
  Custom Knife-edge riding. Ridge lines everywhere: there is no falling down here..

Sarah Leishman
  Sarah Leishman

Andrew Gunn
  Andrew Gunn

Rock N Roll on Xanadu. Mostly a flowy trail except for the massive rock face halfway down.
  Rock N' Roll on Xanadu. Mostly a flowy trail except for this massive rock face halfway down.

Between the kitschy downtown core of Leavenworth, the mind blowing descents of Xanadu, Rosie Boa (one of Leavenworth’s original and contentious local pieces of single track), the gnarlier Tres Hombres and many other gems laid neatly just outside of town, the trip to this mountain town just outside of Seattle is absolutely worth the trek for big and little bikers alike. Local trailbuilders in this town have run the gamut of trail use conflicts over the years and love their trails like they were their own children. The experience you get on your bike as a result is absolute soul riding, mixed with some high speed, face melting shredding down some of the most beautiful terrain you’re likely to see in your lifetime.

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33 Comments

  • + 8
 The trail that is referred to at. "tibbits" is actually called jumpstart. Its located in Cashmere Washington, about 11 miles east of Leavenworth. Also, there are more trails here than this article shows! And fall is on its way!!!! Love eastern Washington!
  • + 0
 Leavenworth is a great place but it is NOT eastern Washington.
  • + 4
 I think a point the article failed to address was the legality of the trails, which, with the exception of Freund, they are not. Granted the Forest Service is well aware of them and hasn't done anything about it, plus everyone rides them, but it seems like the fact that these are all illegally built and maintained trails should be something to note. But don't get me wrong, this is very well-written and beautifully represented visually, it's so nice to see high quality content of our local mecca.
  • + 7
 For those interested in the deeper story of trails in this area: pedaldriven.howellatthemoon.com
  • + 2
 Awesome documentary. It was streaming on netfilx recently too. might still be.
  • + 7
 End of Sept road trip planning just got easier
  • + 10
 Check the fire report before you head out: none of the trails are currently on fire, but the smoke in the area from some burns is pretty thick. Not trying to be a Debbie Downer--the trails there are rad! But I'd hate for you to show up and get smoked out.
  • + 2
 Thanks Colin!
  • + 1
 Colin's right - it's going to be a dry summer. Good thing is that once in that area, you have a lot of stuff within range. You can easily have a Plan B, C, and D.
  • + 3
 There is also a terrific network of trails starting out of nearby Lake Wenatchee. Check out Nason Ridge, Chikamin Ridge, Mad Lake, Klone Peak, and Alder Ridge. Big, big all-mountain days. All accessible out of the Lake Wenatchee State Park. My friends from California just made the trek up last week and were all smiles. Leavenworth is a great destination.
  • + 1
 Do you know where I could get maps of the area? My family and I are going to stay in a cabin in June at the lake and I'd like to check out some trails.
  • + 1
 Sure! I regularly visit cascadesingletrack.com and the trail wiki for our state's IMBA chapter: trails.evergreenmtb.org/wiki/Main_Page
Head over to greentrailsmaps.com and start with #145. Basalt Ridge, Chikamin Ridge, Alder Ridge, Mad Lake, Nason Ridge, Klone Peak, then the Entiat area - all awesome destinations. You'll want to check out conditions ahead of time via those sites or MTBR because there could still be a lot of snow in June, even at the end of the the month. See also Devil's Gulch and Mission Ridge.
Post up some pics after your trip, why don't ya?
  • + 2
 Wow, amazing article. I've driven through this place a few times with my parents and was just taken into awe by those ridge lines and mountains. It's really quite a funky town and I'd love to go back except this time with my bike, a few days time and some knowledge of where to go trail wise. Over all one of the best articles I've ever read here on pb.
  • + 3
 Gotta give props to the folks at Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance's Central Chapter for making many of the trails over there a reality, and keeping them well maintained for all of us to enjoy!
  • + 1
 The picture of the rock face...holy balls. Made my hands sweat just looking at it. That is impressive. Is it just a trick of perspective, or is the rock face actually around 45 degrees?
  • + 2
 Haha no it doesnt look that gnarly standing at the top of it, that picture makes it look pretty damn steep!
  • + 1
 Trick of perspective, but it is fairly steep. Quite rideable for most A.M. riders.
  • + 2
 went there for July long weekend....39 deg C weather and a crazy rainstorm..but epic biking...on hot days, start that ride no later than 7 am....wicked trails!
  • + 2
 Went for the climbing, stayed for the biking. Awesome place, friendly people, great beer & incredible weather. Can't get back soon enough!!
  • + 1
 That's my Trek on the stand in the first picture. DAS Rad Haus is top notch service and they stock tons of parts that many westside shops are only willing to order. But the trails around there really aren't very good.;(
  • + 3
 That classic KONA STAB Supreme!
  • + 1
 I just bought my new ride at the end of June....I was an hour away from here till the middle of June....I feel like I failed on this one.....
  • + 2
 Xanadu is easily one of my favorite trails ever. I can't wait to return. Nice write up guys!
  • + 2
 A Leavenworth writeup with no reference to Woody Goomsba? He's like the Animal Chin of Leavenworth.
  • + 2
 Gotta take a trip here. You had me at Bavarian themed.
  • + 2
 Great article but you gotta get the name right...James Munly is the man.
  • + 2
 Whoops, we had it right in one caption, just not in that opener. All fixed, thanks for the catch!
  • + 1
 Reminds me how awesome it is to live here. Great article and photos!
  • + 2
 Where's Rex???!!
  • + 1
 Probably riding up to Xanadu or Tres as I type.
  • + 2
 Killing it Paris!
  • + 0
 rode Xanadu and Tres amigos a few years ago, good times!
  • + 3
 Tres Hombres?

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