The Trails & Lakes Region lies to the east of the Cascade Mountains in north-central Washington. From hamlets of 100 to those with up to around 10,000 residents, smaller communities offer visitors a more laid-back alternative to bustling cities. Many of these communities fall within Okanogan County, a family friendly outdoor destination.

Read on to find out why these destinations are worth exploring.

Small Towns in the Trails & Lakes Region


Nestled on the shores of Lake Chelan, this town 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 a hot spot for wine lovers. Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2009, Lake Chelan features more than 30 wineries dotting the shores of a breathtaking lake.

Cle Elum

Winter in the Cascade Mountains: A man presents a plate of food to a table of diners.

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.

See Also: Farm-to-Table Dining in Washington

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.


Downtown Leavenworth at night is decked out in holiday lights and dusted with snow.

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 explore Leavenworth’s streets and admire the intricate buildings and storefronts. The destination is especially magical during the winter, when the town is decked out in holiday lights and snow sports abound.


A mother and her son sit on paddle boards.

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. Located along the Okanogan River, the town also offers laid-back outdoor recreation.

See Also: Discover Washington’s Ghost Towns


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 head out to explore the Molson schoolhouse and ghost town.


Left: Two women browse for books inside a bookstore. Right: Two couples walk down the street past The Brick Tavern in 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.

See also: A Perfect Winter Getaway in the Cascade Mountains


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.


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.


A woman walks across the street in front of an Old-West style building in 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, or a visit to neighboring Twisp.