Sarah Leishman Photos:
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.