Icicle Creek Road, a Place to Explore

Icicle Creek

How often have you passed a road whose very name rouses your desire to leave the traveled highway and explore? Icicle Creek Road is one of these for us. We’d seen the sign many times over the years while passing through the Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth on our way to eastern Washington. This summer we took the time to satisfy our curiosity while celebrating our anniversary.
   
The road follows close beside turbulent Icicle Creek. Is it named Icicle Creek because of its cold waters? Or do icicles hang from the rocks in winter? No, the name comes from the Indian word na-sik-elt, which means “narrow canyon.” (Pronounce the word icicle with an n at the beginning and a t at the end for a good approximation of the Indian pronunciation.)

Wildflowers and wild water

The stream originates near the crest of the Cascade Range and drains Josephine Lake. The first part of its course lies through a deep, narrow canyon. After a few miles, the cleft takes on the classic U-shape carved by a glacier. Still, until it nears the town of Leavenworth and its confluence with the Wenatchee River, there is scarcely room for the road beside the foaming water.

Bicycling up the Icicle Canyon

  The creek’s watershed is the rugged, mountainous land of the Wenatchee National Forest and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The area is a magnet for campers, hikers, and rock climbers. Bicyclists pedal along the wildflower-edged road. Forbidding spires thrust into the sky in some views; in others ridges are studded with dead trees left from the Icicle Creek fire that raged through these mountains in 1994. Always, Icicle Creek plunges its way toward the Wenatchee River, growing by the mile as tributaries dump their loads of snow melt into it.

Click for a better view of fire-killed snags against the rugged spires of the Wenatchee Mountains.

We thought we saw an anniversary heart on this boulder.

Peaceful canyon drive

There are eight first come-first served campgrounds along the road, and numerous trails leading up into the mountains. But for time or mobility-challenged visitors, the drive alone, with its wild and lovely wilderness vistas, is well worth the effort.

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