Icicle Ridge Trail
This hike gains 1800 feet of elevation, with a round trip distance of 6 miles. Often free of snow as early as April, this excellent early season day hike offers lush green forest with maples, Ponderosa pines and understory wildflowers, sunny open areas teeming with wildflowers, and stunning views: picturesque townships, meandering blue Wenatchee and Icicle rivers in checkerboard valleys, the Tumwater canyon with whitewater and waterfalls, and all around rugged mountains, a few snowpeaks, and expansive foothills.
The trail is well laid out, switchbacking up the steep slope, a dirt trail with occasional rocks or roots and a steady approximate ten percent grade all the way up for an 1800 foot gain in three miles. The trail has a mixture of forest and sun-exposed areas so you can alternate walking in the sun with resting in the shade as much as you like.
Admire the black scars on the Ponderosa pine bark from past fires – this species has very thick bark that protects them against fire, unlike Douglas fir. Enjoy the teaser views of the Icicle Creek valley as you ascend the trail.
If you are there in the spring, marvel at the huge variety of wildflowers. It is fascinating to see the changes in the types of flowers and their stage of blooming as you gain elevation.
When you can first see the ridgeline above you, you are about halfway. When you get to the ridge crest at a saddle, you will see three tree stumps that provide a nice resting and lunch place in the shade of a grove of large trees. To conclude the day hike, turn right at the saddle and follow the trail for a couple of hundred yards.
The trail ends at a small clearing with a couple of horizontal logs where you can see Leavenworth lying beneath your feet. However beautiful it already is at the saddle, it is definitely worth the few minutes extra to go to the right, because of the additional views and wildflowers.
From the ridge crest, looking northeast you have a view into the Tumwater canyon. The Wenatchee river winds below, alternating white rapids with placid blue. Snowmelt streams glint silver on dark green slopes. To the north, on the west side of the canyon, Drury Falls races down a vertical rock precipice.
Only the 600 foot upper tier of the falls is visible from this vantage point - to see the full 1270 feet you would have to hike Tumwater Mountain – not an easy task.
If you’re there after mid-August, Drury Falls may be dry, as it is a seasonal waterfall. Behind Drury Falls, the formidable rock walls of an unnamed mountain spur – unnamed except for Josephine Crag – reminds us of what makes the Cascades so exciting and beautiful.
From the east end of the trail, you can see down into Leavenworth, the Wenatchee and Icicle river valleys, and the foothills of the Cascades. There is an almost 360 degree view of the entire area. There is a thicket of snowbrush (Ceanothus) at the end of the trail protecting the viewer from seeing the steep dropoff beyond.
Wildlife that has been sighted includes chipmunks, bluebirds, snakes, bald eagle, and grouse. Many species of wildflowers can be seen in April and May. Those that hikers have reported include spring beauties, anemones, glacier lilies, Tweedy's Lewisia, balsamroot, lupins, Cat’s Ear lilies, larkspur, penstemon, paintbrush, silvercrown, spreading dogbane, spear-leaved agoseris, western starflower, prairie starflower, wild onion, geranium, coral root, honeysuckle. Flowering shrubs include thimbleberries, roses, and abundant snowbrush (Ceanothus). For a complete list go to the website of the Washington Native Plant Society and look up the Plant List for the Icicle Ridge Trail.
Pro Tip: There are several patches of poison ivy on this trail. Watch out for these leaves and avoid contacting them. The trail is steep in some sections, so be careful making your way up and down.
Extending your hike
When you get to the saddle, it is also possible to turn left and proceed along Icicle Ridge in a western direction. You have to go several miles from the saddle before you get better views, but then you’ll be able to see the Enchantment peaks, Mount Stuart and Mount Cashmere.
Remember that as you go higher, you may encounter snow in the spring.
The trail continues to climb along the ridge until it reaches a junction with Fourth of July Creek Trail 1579, at about 9 miles, where it also meets the Alpine Wilderness Boundary. The entire Icicle Ridge Trail is 29.6 miles long and is beyond the scope of this description.
This hike is fairly suitable for experienced young hikers, just keep an eye that they don't touch any poison ivy!