Thawing out
Spring getaways in North Central Washington
In a year when the snow was piled high and  1sometimes patience came up a little short, a lot of Washington residents are only too happy to bid adieu to the Winter of 15-16. Spring is here.

And that means it's a good time to travel to North Central Washington, where you'll find one of the best menus you'll find anywhere in the country for fun travel adventures -- an incredible smorgasboard of fun towns, events, getaways and outdoor recreation.

You probably already know that there is amazing mountain scenery and Alpine charm in Leavenworth. And you already know that Lake Chelan, with its 55 miles of water and mountain backdrops, has the look and feel, in places, of a European fjiord. Those are easy calls, and both areas beckon tourists from the entire Pacific Northwest and beyond.

But there are many other fun options you might not have heard about. The city of Wenatchee is a good base of operations for your vacation, and here are a few NCW getaway options to consider:

Twisp River getaway

The Methow Valley is gorgeous throughout the year and less than two hours from Wenatchee. That makes the Twisp River Suites a great option because of its fun and scenic location along the river. It could be considered a hidden gem.

 1The 16 suites are more like condo units that motel rooms. They're well appointed with a full kitchen and stainless appliances, synthetic leather furniture, local artwork, washer/dryer, gas fireplace, a separate bedroom with memory foam mattress, large screen TV, and free WIFI. Just outside your door is the Twisp River with its calm, sleep-inducing sounds and scenic splendor.

The breakfast is served in the lobby area and we're talking fresh baked quiche, bread pudding, fruit, hardboiled eggs, toast and English muffins, and build-your-own yogurt parfait with a variety of toppings. There are also some fine local eateries like the Cinnamon Twisp bakery and Tappi Italian restaurant.

This part of the Methow Valley is perfect for outdoor exploration, whether you're hiking or fishing or visiting the western-themed town of Winthrop, just nine miles away. The setting is peaceful and rural, the mood tranquil -- just the antidote you need from a busy week on the job.

For more information on Twisp River Suites, check out www.twispriversuites.com, e-mail info@twispriversuites.com or call 1-855-784-8328.

Majestic Pines family retreat

Tucked in between mountain landscapes that might as well be the Bavarian Alps, the Lake Wenatchee area is sometimes forgotten. It seems like Lake Chelan or nearby Leavenworth get all the press. But Lake Wenatchee is an especially good option if you want to hike, fish or just explore the scenic backcountry. It's also a great area to rent a vacation home.

Longtime residents will remember  1the old Cougar Inn at the west end of the lake, a favorite place for boaters to launch for a day of fishing or water skiing. Sadly, the Cougar Inn is gone -- but the lake and all its beauty remain. Along with it you'll find many spectacular vacation homes including some you can rent for the weekend.

One such home, Majestic Pines, is located deep in the forest but just a short walk from the lake. It offers anything most vacationers would want in a modern vacation home. It's 4,000 square feet and accommodates up to 14 people. The home is decorated in earth tones, wood and slate and just has the feel of a mountain lodge with large wooden beams and lots of sunlight coming through the mammoth windows. There is a gourmet kitchen and a hot tub, ever popular with the kids we brought along -- as was the widescreen satellite TV and games.

Using the Majestic Pines as a base of operations, you can explore trails, rivers, the big beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park and lots of back roads that take you even deeper into the gorgeous Lake Wenatchee wilderness. Locals really like the trail to Hidden Lake, a perfect family hike because of its minimal elevation gain (200 feet), wide trails and accessibility. It's a gentle walk -- even with small kids in tow -- and is only 1.2 miles roundtrip. It takes you through thick forests, up hillsides and through meadows to a pristine little alpine lake where you can put in your own air mattress and float in peaceful harmony with nature.

For more information on booking Majestic Pines, visit www.destinationleavenworth.com or phone 866-904-7368.

North Cascades Highway

Normally impassable in winter, the North Cascades Highway is cleared for travel once the winter snowstorms have subsided, and visitors wanting to drive deep into some of the more untouched parts of Washington state would do well to consider this six-hour drive that will take you from Wenatchee to the Seattle area.

 1Depending on the weather, the route usually opens in early April and will take you through North Cascades National Park -- a land of towering peaks and wonderful scenic vistas combining the mountains, forests, lakes and streams pictured on popular postcards of the region. It's not a route that you want to hurry through; the best thing to do is to just make the day of it, stopping at places along the way at your own pace.

Yes, it will double the normal travel time between Wenatchee and Seattle, but it will be worth it.

You skirt the Columbia River from Wenatchee all the way to Pateros and then head northwest on Highway 153 toward the Methow Valley and the Wild West town of Winthrop. With its themed storefronts, the town attracts hordes of tourists who enjoy visiting the western themed buildings and local attractions. Winthrop is also the perfect place to stop for lunch with several restaurants offering a variety of food specialties.

Leaving Winthrop it's only a half hour before you reach some of the highest mountains in the state and travel over Washington Pass where the most spectacular site of your journey will be the view of 7600-foot Liberty Bell Mountain from the Washington Pass Overlook. The mountain completely dominates the skyline and makes this part of the pass look almost impassable.

Further west, you'll enter the North Cascades National Park and, just a few miles into the park you come across the overlooks above Ross and Diablo Lakes, ideal stops for taking great pictures. You'll notice that Ross Lake is teal, while Diablo is jade-colored -- a distinction that is caused by the rock dust that is suspended in the water and actually reflecting the colors of the forest and the sky. You'll go by the spectacular 540-foot-high Ross Dam which, along with two other dams in the area, produce power for the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

You leave North Cascades National Park as you head past Newhalem and then pass through the small towns of Marblemount, Rockport and Concrete. The road meanders through the foothills and then lowlands on your way to the western terminus of the highway at Sedro Woolley, where you'll connect up with the I-5 freeway for the drive south to Seattle.
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos by Cary Ordway
RECOMMENDED LODGING: North Central Washington lodging
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