Updated: May 28, 2021
Lake Wenatchee State Park is sort of the life of the party. It is BIG, there is a big beautiful lake with actual waves, surrounded by mountains, a river that attracts floaters and fishers, and Leavenworth is just a hop skip and a jump away (not Wenatchee, strangely enough.) It is also one of my favorites, with a festive vibe.
Pictured: The view from my "room," tent all set up. It's a pretty great view.
It may well be this is my impression because I have been there twice, but both times, it was on Labor Day Weekend~ which is a busy busy weekend in any WA State Campground, but very much so in this one, which is right in between Eastern and Western Washington, in the sun but up in the cool of the mountains, with gorgeous Lake Wenatchee and the fun of Leavenworth very nearby. I mean, what's not to feel like a party in all that?! I'll have to go on a different weekend to see if the vibe is more chill.
Pictured: Love my skylights
There are two camping areas at Lake Wenatchee State Park - the southern one includes the main lake access, swimming area, rentals, etc. It seems ideal for families, but true confessions, I've never camped there. In fact, I've only ever camped in one spot, in site #131 in the north campground. With trails through the forest and down along the far eastern part of the lake, much less populated at lake's edge, it is more my slow, quiet camping style, even in the midst of the sort of convivial spirit that is this campground. It's where people camp with their friends - families in adjoining spaces, groups of girlfriends (who may have wine around the campfire and talk LONG into the night, not realizing they are not in a silent bubble, and sound carries, and even joyous raucous laughter isn't welcome at 2 am. Yes that may have happened to me.)
The camp spots here are pretty apparent to each other. There isn't a lot of ground greenery, but there are lovely tall trees with the wind whispering through them at the tops. You WILL be visible to your neighbors on either side and across, maybe even a few. That's okay. If you are solo camping, you can still be "in your bubble." Just know that you'll be more in a community of campers here than in some of the other places I've taken you. You'll hear more sounds, smell more wonderful thing barbecuing, give a few waves and nods here and there.
Pictured: My campsite as viewed coming back from the restrooms
Since you are near Leavenworth over on the Eastern side of the mountains, the days are often sunny and warm, the nights can be cool because you are in the mountains. Hiking, fishing, lake play... so much to day-drive to if you want - the charming valley that houses Plain, WA on the winding back road to Leavenworth. There's so much to do, if you choose, and there'e still lovely-nothing that can be done if you so choose. I like a mix.
Pictured: There may be folks to the left and right, but here is my little slice of LWSP heaven
I arrived late in the afternoon, two hours later than I wanted to (par for the course for me) because I'd taken my time doodling across the mountains, stopping for espresso where the giant carved Bigfoot is along SR2, dipping over into Index. I didn't rush setting up though - no need to, and setting up, creating my little nest for the next few days, is one of my favorite things about a camping trip.
Pictured: Me, Solocamping Lake Wenatchee State Park... clearly in my happy place.
This trip, I felt like traditional fare... hot dogs struck just the right note for dinner. I was starving, so I set dinner up as soon as the tent was set. Chips, fruit, hot dogs with everything... camping at its simplest and also, its finest.
After dinner, the sky turned amazing, almost as if there were a forest fire, though I knew there wasn't. I raced through the trees to capture it - but you almost can't, you know? Sometimes it's best to just experience it, soak it in.
Pictured: Gorgeous dusk setting in
Pictured: And then there were S'mores. Of course.
The evening was... a bit eventful. First, we'd been cautioned that a black bear had been seen near the perimeter, and cautioned to keep all food sealed up so no smells, and placed in the car, and the car locked (apparently some bears once got into an unlocked car and pretty much tore it apart getting snacks.) After I got all settled down, I heard what CERTAINLY seemed like a large something snuffling in my camp. Suddenly my tent seemed very flimsy, and my headlight seemed very small. Upon later tentative inspection, it was my imagination. :) Then, neighbors in a motorhome came in around 10 pm. I don't care how quiet you are trying to be - and they were - you can't set up tents etc. in the dark without some noise. Once they settled down, the aforementioned ladies got very audible in the quiet of the campground. I was pretty close to getting dressed and stomping over there - not my most patient hour - when they wound down.
Pictured: Me, wondering if it's a bear outside and this is the last picture of me ever, lol
The next morning I woke oddly well-rested and relaxed, given the night. I made my fire, made my coffee, and read and pondered what to have for breakfast. The answer was, as it often is, pancakes. REALLY satisfying for a breakfast outdoors. But I guess, most 2-burner wonder breakfasts are satisfying. It's just lovely to spend a leisurely morning in a beautiful setting by a fire. Everything tastes better.
Pictured: Krusteaz buttermilk mix pancakes (just add water) pre-cooked browned sausages, maple syrup. GOOD morning!
After my usual fireside reading and doing the dishes, I... well did some more reading and pondered the day. It was just such a pretty one, I HAD to get out and explore. So I took a daypack and my devotional, in case I found a contemplative spot, made a PBJ and grabbed water, an apple, some nuts and a cookie, and headed out on one of the trails to the lake. Oh, if only I'd grabbed sunscreen. Made a note, later :)
That was where I took this pic which is also on my main screen - I consider it just a magical picture. It looks like I think Heaven looks, to me... and there it was, just between the campground and the lake. No filters or anything. Still doesn't capture it.
Pictured: my favorite pic from my adventures, ever, thus far
I found several sweet spots by the lake as I meandered; in one, I dabbled my feet in the warmish top layer of the cold lake water and read my favorite camping (or anytime) devotional, Just One Word by Susie Crosby. And wished I'd brought my fishing gear this trip, as there sure looked like there should be trout out there. In another, I rested my back against a giant driftwood log and soaked up the sun as I looked out on the lake and listened to the waves lap. Kinda napped. This is where the sunburn came in. Worth it.
Pictured: The lake was a bit choppy in the breeze. Made for gentle waves to listen to.
Even in late summer, the wildflowers were out in abundance. They made for a lovely meander hike. While there were not a ton of long trails stemming from the campground - they were mostly leading down to and along the lakeshore~ it was a lovely afternoon's excursion just to wander along and soak up my surroundings. More trails of course are just a hop skip and a short drive away.
Pictured: Some pretty flora along the path
Back in camp, I felt a bit of a nap come on. This was in my pre-hammocking days, when I didn't know what all the fuss was about (I do now, and a hammock is a must on my list!) although Site 161 doesn't really have the properly spaced and sized trees for it within the site, more right on the perimeter between sites. So I did a bit more reading, and dozing in my camp-chair-with-the-other-chair-as-a-stool.
As suppertime approached, I had a craving flung on me for something that *should* have been in my camp pantry, and is now a staple, but wasn't at the time: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Sometimes when I am solo-camping, I like to be resourceful. Sometimes, I like to be indulgent. Since there is no one to please or consider but me, I get to pick, and I chose to hop in the car and toodle along the back roads through Plain, Washington - a beautiful little valley with a terrific little hardware and gift store that is great fun to poke around in, very windy roads past sweet little ranches that lead to pretty much the back door into Leavenworth, RIGHT by the Safeway.
Pictured: Some prettiness on the drive on the backroads from the campground to Leavenworth
Thus fortified with Mac 'N Cheese plus some other things that sounded good - fresh apricots and strawberries, fig newtons, an Opal apple and an Icicle Creek Brewery Coconut Porter - I went back to camp with my goods, in time to start my evening fire and the water boiling for the M&C.
Pictured: I definitely don't always eat fancy - but I almost always eat exactly what I'm craving
S'mores sounded like just too too much after all those noodles~ but I did want something sweet... So I took the Opal apple, and cored it out, added butter and crannies and walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon from my pantry, wrapped it up tightly in tripled heavy duty aluminum, and put it in the coals edge (and played with it every once in awhile, for about 20-ish minutes) I've done this since and come up with a charred inedible mess - but THIS time, it was a perfectly baked apple that tasted glorious. I only wished for a bit of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, neither of which of course I had - although I may put a can of whipped cream in my next ice chest. 'Cause you never know.
Pictured: An experiment in apples and campfire embers that paid off
The next morning, as is typical, I still like to be kind of leisurely, even thought packing it all up lay ahead; after coffee I made oatmeal-in-a-cup, so the dishes are at a minimum, just coffee cup, French press, and a spoon. I like to have it most every camp trip on leaving day , I just vary what is in it a bit. Fruit, nuts, maple syrup, or just butter and milk.
Pictured: Packing-Up Oatmeal Cup and fruit right out of the carton
Packing up to leave, especially on a 2-night weekend trip, is always kind of a drag. I have a tradition of having a chocolate milkshake from some little mom n' pop place on the way home, which always tastes really good after the flurry of loading up the car etc. A little reward, it gives me something to look forward to. But on the way home from Lake Wenatchee State Park, I kick it UP a few hundred notches - because right past the turnoff to get here is THE favorite roadside diner of all time, in my book - The original (there is also one in Cashmere... I prefer the original, by a lot. It's just... my fave) 59'r Diner. It burned down and was recently rebuilt and re-opened, and it touted that it has (and it does) the world's best milkshakes, in TONS of flavors. They ask if I want whipped cream and sprinkles on that. Why yes, Yes I Do! AND while I am at it, my all time favorite diner lunch - a patty melt, with American instead of Swiss cheese. It is so good, it almost makes leaving camping okay.
Pictured: Just some of the yumminess that can be found at the original 59'er Diner West of Leavenworth, WA SR 2 , Icicle Canyon. You HAVE to have a shake. And get the blackberry cobbler to go. Trust me.
I like to go home going that back way into Leavenworth, then through Icicle Canyon toward Seattle, which takes me forever because around every turn it is beautiful and goes right by the river, so I am constantly careening off the road into pullouts and taking pictures. It's okay. If not taking the long way home, what on earth is solocamping FOR?!
Pictured: One of the many lovely spots on Icicle Canyon drive home; the long way well worth taking.