Explore Small Cities & Towns in Washington's Trails & Lakes Region

Explore the state’s frontier past and embrace the outdoors in the small towns in the Trails & Lakes Region.

Get to know some of the small cities and towns in each region, from hamlets of 100 to those with up to around 10,000 residents. These destinations offer visitors a more laid-back alternative to bustling cities. Read on to find out why these small towns are worth exploring.

Chelan

This town nestled on the shores of Lake Chelan is a year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. In summer, visitors flock to the lake’s clear waters for swimming and boating, while spring and autumn is the perfect time to enjoy hikes in the nearby Cascade Mountains. The area is also home to more than 30 wineries, which dot the hillsides around the lake.

Cle Elum

This riverside hamlet is the perfect base for outdoor exploring, either around Suncadia Resort or in the surrounding woods. Get a dose of history on the Coal Mines Trail, a 5.5-mile trek that traces the path of the old Northern Pacific Railway. Foodies will appreciate dining options ranging from causal to a multi-course tasting menus at The Orchard.

Coulee City

At the turn of the century, seven gambling halls graced this tiny town. While it still retains its frontier spirit, this town on the end of Banks Lake is now known more for its prime fishing than Wild West action. Don’t miss Dry Falls, a 3.5-mile-wide chasm of basalt that was once five times the width of Niagara. At the other end of Banks Lake, visitors can explore the massive Grand Coulee Dam.

Leavenworth

This picturesque town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is known for its Bavarian style, festivals, and prime location for outdoor recreation. Explore the Nutcracker Museum, sample local beers at Icicle Brewing, or simply wander Leavenworth’s streets and admire the intricate buildings and storefronts. In January, the town hosts Bavarian IceFest, which features live ice carving.

Omak

Break out your cowboy boots if visiting in August. Each year, this small town hosts the action-packed Omak Stampede and World Famous Suicide Race. The event, established in 1933, includes a carnival and rodeo, plus a heart-pumping race and an Indian Encampment and Pow Wow sponsored by the Colville Confederated Tribes. The traditional gathering features an authentic teepee village, singing competitions, and more.

Oroville

A vacation destination on the south end of Lake Osoyoos at the border with Canada, Oroville offers fun for all ages. Hit the lake for water sports, swimming, boating, and fishing. History buffs should visit the Depot Museum downtown to learn about the area’s rich history. Visitors can also enjoy fruit stands and wine tasting or play a round of golf at the Oroville Golf Club.

Roslyn

Once a coal-mining town, Roslyn was largely abandoned with the advent of diesel — until it was rediscovered by Hollywood. Visitors may recognize its quaint streets from the 1990s TV show Northern Exposure, where the town stood in for fictional Cicely, Alaska. The town is now home to a distillery, bookstore, and local staples such as The Brick Saloon and Roslyn Café.

Twisp

Located at the southern end of the Methow Valley, Twisp is the largest of the valley’s towns. The community vibe is strong, with local galleries and farmers markets showcasing the artistic and edible fruits of the valley.

Vantage

The basalt pillars nearby are so popular with climbers that there are more than 700 routes. That’s not all that draws people here, however. There’s also the Gingko Petrified Forest with its rare, preserved trees, and milkshakes at Blustery’s Burger Drive-In, the lone restaurant in town.

Winthrop

A former gold rush town founded in 1883, Winthrop underwent a makeover in 1972 to capitalize on its pioneer past. The result is a fun Old-West-inspired town that approximates a frontier outpost from the early 1900s. It’s a spectacular launch pad for fly-fishing, mountain biking, camping, and more.