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Views of mountain peaks and evergreen forests surround Seattle, so you might be forgiven if you forget it’s the largest metropolitan area in the PNW. When rush hour comes around, you’ll quickly remember that over 4 million people live in the greater Seattle area.
If you’re looking to ditch the city and explore more of the natural scenery that make Washington State so incredible, we’ve got the place for you.
Leavenworth is about 2.5 hours east of Seattle, nestled in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains. This small, Bavarian-themed town is home to several excellent breweries and a world-famous Christmas festival. Plus, its location on the Wenatchee River in the heart of the wine-fertile Wenatchee Valley means Leavenworth has quick access to some of the best hikes in the state.
Summer and fall are prime times to enjoy the trails around Leavenworth, with an honorable mention to springtime, when thousands of wildflowers cover the hills. From November through February, the entire town transforms into a festive winter wonderland, with the added bonus of top-tier skiing nearby.
This idyllic escape entices Seattle locals and visitors alike, who flock to Leavenworth for day trips, weekend getaways, and ski trips.
With a bit of advance planning, it’s an easy trip, but what’s the best way to get from Seattle to Leavenworth? Using our Wanderu expertise in bus and train travel, we’ve broken down several of the best, most affordable options.
Seattle to Leavenworth by Bus
Taking the bus to Leavenworth from Seattle is a fantastic stress-free option. The 130-mile ride takes just over three hours and has plenty of breathtaking scenery to enjoy as you head into the Cascades.
Amtrak Thruway buses run a Leavenworth to Seattle service that usually costs $40 for a one-way ticket. Amtrak Thruway buses depart from King Street Station at 303 S. Jackson Street in downtown Seattle and arrive at a 76 gas station in Leavenworth, 585 Highway 2. From here, you can order an Uber, hop on a shuttle, or simply walk to wherever you need to go in Leavenworth — it’s a small town and the bus station sits right at its entrance.
King Street Station
303 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104
King Street Transit Station
76 Gas Station
585 Highway 2
Leavenworth, WA 98826
76 Gas Station & Bus Stop
While this bus from Seattle to Leavenworth operates year-round, the one downside is that its schedule means you cannot plan a day trip. The buses depart from Seattle once a day in the morning just before 9:00am, arriving in Leavenworth at about 12:20pm, then turn right around and head back to Seattle at 1:00pm.
You can bring larger luggage and sports equipment like skis and snowboards onto the bus, but there may be an additional charge if it’s extra oversized (this is not common). Read more in our guide to how much baggage you can bring on buses.
Seattle to Leavenworth by Train
Another fantastic option is to take a train from Seattle to Leavenworth, WA. The Amtrak Empire Builder train runs between the two cities daily and is a very affordable way to make the trip, with tickets as low as $20. The Seattle to Leavenworth train ride takes about 3.5 hours, and traverses part of a route celebrated for its scenery.
The train leaves from Seattle’s King Street Station just like the bus, but arrives at Icicle Station in Leavenworth, 11645 North Road. Icicle Station is on the opposite side of town as the bus drop-off, but is still just one mile from downtown Leavenworth. Plus, right across from the Icicle Station is the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm, a popular year-round attraction.
King Street Station
303 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104
King Street Transit Station
11645 North Road
Leavenworth, WA 98826
You get two personal items, two carry-on bags, and two checked bags for free with your fare on the Amtrak Empire Builder, so bringing everything you need shouldn’t be a problem.
Much like the Seattle to Leavenworth bus, the train schedule doesn’t make day trips possible. The train leaves Seattle each afternoon at 4:55pm, and the only train back to Seattle from Leavenworth departs early in the morning. This, of course, is a great reason to make it into an overnight trip!
Flying to Leavenworth
Tracy Hunter / Flickr
For those who prefer to fly, there are a couple of options for getting from Seattle to Leavenworth. The town itself doesn’t have an airport, but Pangborn Memorial Airport (EAT) is in Wenatchee, about 30 miles away.
Horizon Air, a regional partner of Alaska Airlines, offers one flight per day from Seattle to Wenatchee and back. The flight takes about 45 minutes and can range anywhere from $100 to $300 each way, depending on the dates and how early you book.
There are shuttles and taxis available at the airport to help you get to Leavenworth from Wenatchee when you arrive, or you could rent a car. The 30-mile drive takes about 40 minutes.
Wenatchee itself has several great restaurants and attractions if you’d like to explore it before heading to Leavenworth. The Pybus Public Market, in particular, is a can’t-miss.
If you’re traveling to Washington from further away, you can book a flight to Wenatchee with a layover at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but it is generally cheaper, faster, and easier all-around to fly to Seattle and then take a bus or train to Leavenworth.
Seattle to Leavenworth Day Trip
If you want to sit back and relax while someone else plans all the travel logistics, a private guided Leavenworth day trip from Seattle might be exactly what you need!
This private tour includes round-trip transportation from Seattle with an experienced local PNW tour guide, two hours of free time in Leavenworth to explore at your leisure, and then a journey over Blewett Pass and a stop at spectacular Snoqualmie Falls on the way back to Seattle.
During your time in Leavenworth, you’ll enjoy hopping around to great restaurants, shopping, and taking in the unique Bavarian architecture on Main Street.
Getting Around Leavenworth
Luckily for those without a car, Leavenworth is a pretty small town where a car isn’t totally necessary. Much of the town is very walkable and bikeable and as a bonus, there are several well-maintained trails nearby.
There are also several local shops in town that rent bicycles during the late spring into early fall. If you want to venture a little further outside of town, you can hire a shuttle, taxi, or call an Uber, all of which are readily available.
Traffic is generally not much of an issue in Leavenworth, due to its small size and great walkability. Parking is easy to find in one of the four paid lots or metered parking on the street. You can also find a few free parking options, but they’re usually a bit further away from downtown. There are no rental car companies in Leavenworth itself, so you’ll have to pick one up in either Seattle or Wenatchee.
Things to Do in Leavenworth
Leavenworth may be a small town, but it packs an impressive punch when it comes to activities! The town is surrounded by world-class hiking, biking, and water recreation so there’s plenty to experience whether you’re a solo traveler, on a couples’ or friends’ trip, or vacationing with your family.
One of our favorite activities in Leavenworth is visiting the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. Open year-round, it offers fun tours where you can get up-close and personal with reindeer! The tours are educational, especially great for families and kids — but truthfully, everyone will love hand-feeding one of Rudolph’s cousins!
A really fun, unique way to explore Leavenworth is to take an e-bike tour. E-bikes, a.k.a. electric bikes, help you pedal so you won’t get tired during the 16-mile trip. The tour takes you through downtown Leavenworth, past the Leavenworth Ski Hill, the canyon of Icicle Creek, and more. Thanks to the e-bike doing most of the work, the trip only takes about 2.5 hours, so you can even squeeze it in on a short Leavenworth day trip.
Summer in Leavenworth
Leavenworth is a hugely popular hiking destination, especially in the summer. The Enchantments draw hikers from all around the country, and for good reason. The scenery of these alpine lakes and the peaks around them is absolutely stunning.
Another popular summer activity is floating down the Icicle or Wenatchee Rivers. There are a few outfitters in town where you can rent inner tubes or rafts. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding is popular around Leavenworth, as well.
Winter in Leavenworth
Winter brings a unique experience to Leavenworth at Christmas. Christmas-themed activities and events completely take over town from late November through the end of February, with Christmastown displays and an elaborate, European-style Christmas market. Nearby, the Leavenworth Ski Hill provides fun, relaxed skiing and snowboarding on its two groomed ski runs, a great alternative to much busier ski resorts elsewhere in the state.
Dining Options in Leavenworth
There are obviously stellar Bavarian restaurants in Leavenworth, but its other restaurants bring their A games, too. Sulla Vita offers casual fine Italian and Mediterranean dishes, while Watershed Cafe brings farm-to-table food featuring local PNW ingredients. Icicle Brewing Company is great for beer lovers and South has Latin-inspired dishes from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico for some south-of-the-border flair.
Looking for a place to stay while you’re in town? Check out some of our favorites:
- Bavarian Lodge – Classic Bavarian hospitality and style mixed with a bit of luxury, within walking distance of the riverfront
- Mrs. Anderson Lodging – Cozy and intimate lodge-style hotel with full kitchens and mountain-view patios in some rooms
- Linderhof Inn – Family-friendly hotel with a pool and hot tub located in the heart of downtown Leavenworth
- Beaver Valley Lodge – Upscale lodge property with a beautiful garden and a rustic farm atmosphere just outside of town tucked away in the national forest
- PostHotel Leavenworth – High-end, adults-only luxury hotel considered among the best of the best in Leavenworth
So there you have it — all the best ways to get from Seattle to Leavenworth. Whether you’re a local exploring the Enchantments over a weekend or a visitor to Seattle who also wants to check out Oktoberfest or Christmastown in Leavenworth, just know that you may never want to leave this charming alpine town!