By John King
The Columbia Basin forms the geographic heart of the Evergreen State, yet it hides in plain sight from tourists who stick to major highways. Rocks and rivers take on an epic quality in north-central Washington — a landscape that showcases the results of an ideal blend of natural forces and the iron will of civilization.
The North Columbia Basin Auto Tour is best traversed either as a day-long loop trip from Wenatchee or broken into two half-day segments with an overnight near Grand Coulee Dam. The full-circle route covers 215 miles and takes four and a half hours to drive without stops. From its bustling start in Wenatchee, the tour heads east through sparse farmland and sagebrush steppe, turns north toward the enormous Grand Coulee Dam and returns west through rolling hillsides, sweeping river canyons and verdant fruit orchards.
Because of COVID-19, please take recommended safety precautions if you are planning a future trip. Check before you go for amenities and capacity restrictions.
Wenatchee, a city whose agricultural legacy inspired the nickname, “The Apple Capital of the World,” is the center of North-Central Washington.
See some Washington’s natural wonders along the way, including the Dry Falls. Stop by the Grand Coulee Dam and Steamboat Rock State Park.
The next phase of our auto tour briefly heads inland, away from the lakes that have dotted the trip so far, before returning to the banks of the Columbia River.
The last leg of our tour turns south to follow the eastern bank of the Columbia as it drifts back toward Wenatchee.