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Alpine Lakes Wilderness, in Washington, was originally established as “Alpine Lakes Limited Area” in 1946, but because this classification didn’t protect it from mining operations and commercial endeavors, nature lovers lobbied for several years to increase the protections. In 1976, President Ford agreed and signed an act to reclassify it as a wilderness, “Alpine Lakes Wilderness.” He was heard saying about Alpine Lakes, “anywhere so beautiful should be preserved.” This pristine slice of wilderness is the home of several endangered and threatened animals, including the golden eagle, goshawk, spotted owl, and lynx.
The closest large town is Leavenworth, WA, which is a charming Bavarian-themed town. Many businesses, restaurants, and shops center around this niche, and visitors will find confectionaries, chocolatiers, and quaint taverns lining the main street. It’s also the closest town with a hospital equipped to handle emergencies. Leavenworth is about 40 miles to the southeast.
Encompassing over 400,000 acres of wilderness, Alpine Lakes Wilderness is one of the most rugged and challenging regions in Washington state to explore. The terrain is steep and wild, with very few access roads to ease travel into the heart of the mountains (the access roads, if any, are limited to park officials and rangers). There are around 600 miles of trails, many of which traverse through boulder-strewn mountainsides, around crystal alpine lakes, and up to summits of mountains. A portion of the 2,600-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) also passes through Alpine Lakes Wilderness; it’s strongly recommended that PCT thru-hikers time their journey to avoid winter travel because the region frequently sees several feet of snow, rendering the trail all but impossible to navigate.
Rock climbing, particularly on the Cashmere Crags near Enchantment Lakes, is especially popular. The sheer granite rock walls, from a distance, seem simply impossible for people to scale. If one were to venture closer to the climbing crags, the multitude of handholds would become more readily apparent. The routes range in difficulty from 5.6 (extremely easy) to 5.11, which is moderately difficult. Increasing the challenge is some routes are “multi-pitches,” requiring climbers to re-affix their ropes multiple times as they ascend the maximum length of their rope, which is usually around 200 feet or so.
Hit the slopes while visiting Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The ski area at Stevens Pass is one of the few ski areas that allow late-night skiing. The slopes are open until late in the evening. Watch the stars as you drift gently through thigh-deep powder snow. Stevens Pass typically averages around 35 feet of snow each winter. The ski resort has 37 major runs and a terrain area for snowboarding.
A common reason to rent an RV is to gain more immediate access to nature. In the morning, step out of the front door with a steaming cup of coffee and bask in the wilderness. Listen to birdsong in the trees. Watch as deer cautiously sip from a babbling stream.
There are several campgrounds in Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and though most don’t have hookups, the upside is most are quite small, with space for only a dozen or so RV sites. This means a quieter, more serene camping experience.
Rock Island Campground has 20 sites arranged in a single loop. Though there are no hookups, potable water and vault toilets are available.
Another candidate to consider is RV camping at Kachess Campground near Snoqualmie Pass, WA. This campground is larger, able to accommodate up to 100 sites. All sites have fire rings and picnic tables, and drinking water is available. Reservations are highly recommended.
Though the Washington state wilderness is a major draw for many travelers and adventurers, the charming mountain towns are not to be ignored. They feature restaurants dishing up delicious, mouthwatering meals, historical museums, and landmark markers that detail the area’s history. Hit the road in an Airstream rental. One of the more unique attractions is the Telephone Museum in Cle Elum, WA. The museum houses one of the last still-functional telephone switchboards that was used until 1966 (most towns had retired their switchboards in the 1950s). Also on site are several telephones and communication devices that were in use between the 1890s and 1970s.
One of the best burgers and milkshake diners in the country is found in Washington. In Easton, to be precise. Mountain High Hamburgers dishes up delicious greasy fare that’s accompanied by homemade milkshakes and steaming hot, crisp french fries. Dip salty french fries into the milkshake. A divine combination that cannot be beaten anywhere else.
Retreat into the comforts of a travel trailer rental and enjoy watching stars appear in the night sky, as you find your bliss when you rent an RV in Chelan County.