Explore the Apple Capital of The World
Our auto tour begins at the Washington Apple Commission Visitors Center in the heart of Wenatchee — a city whose agricultural legacy inspired the nickname, “The Apple Capital of the World.” The visitor center offers a fine introduction to the city’s history, the state’s apple output (Washington produces more than half of all apples eaten in the United States) and the basics of farming.
Wentachee Confluence State Park
Head south on Euclid Avenue through a fruit-packing industrial quarter for just under a half-mile, turn right onto Isenhart Avenue and arrive at the entrance to Wenatchee Confluence State Park (Discover Pass required for day-use visitors), perched on both sides of the Wenatchee River as it pours into the Columbia. The park features a large campground with tent and RV sites, along with a playground, basketball courts, horseshoe pits and other outdoor diversions. Additionally, the park offers access to the 10-mile Apple Capital Loop Trail, a wide strip of pavement for cyclists, joggers and walkers connecting the entire public waterfront on both sides of the Columbia.
Return to the park entrance, head west on Olds Station Road for 0.3 mile, turn right onto Easy Street for another 0.3 mile, turn left onto Penny Road, and take your first left to head south on State Route 285 — which crosses the Wenatchee River as it becomes Wenatchee Avenue and enters downtown. Here Wenatchee Avenue passes numerous hotels, department stores, restaurants (both national chains and local spots) and boutiques — many housed in red brick façades and adorned with hanging flower baskets.
Pybus Public Market
After about 2.5 miles on S.R. 285 and Wenatchee Avenue, turn left (toward the Columbia River) onto Fifth Street and, just after heading under the railroad tracks, turn right to head south on Worthen Street. In another half-mile, you’ll arrive at the Pybus Public Market; the market makes it easy to sip and sample with vendors selling local beer and wine, fresh produce, a variety of prepared foods and more. Between May and October, Pybus hosts the outdoor Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, which supports more than 50 family farms from throughout the region. (Nearby, the local AAA Office at 221 North Mission Street is open weekdays to provide helpful advice for road trips, insurance, a travel store and reservation services for hotel stays and car rentals.)
Sandwiched between Pybus Public Market and the Columbia River is Wenatchee Riverfront Park, home to a boat launch, access to the Apple Capital Loop Trail and public restrooms.
If Pybus Public Market and Wenatchee Riverfront Park show off the city’s thriving present, take a trip into its past with a tour through the nearby Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. From Pybus, head west on Orondo Street for 0.2 mile, turn left onto South Wenatchee Avenue, right onto South Yakima Street and right onto South Mission Street, at which point you’ll arrive at the museum — which hosts exhibits covering the Great Northern Railway, regional Native American tribes, early European settlers and (of course) Washington’s historic apple industry.
Seeking an alpine detour? Make a quick, 15-minute drive out of town to Squilchuck State Park (Discover Pass required). The renowned park offers year-round fun, boasting more than 10 miles of mountain bike trails, hiking paths and overnight camping opportunities in summer — as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in winter. From the museum, head one block west to South Chelan Avenue and turn left to head south as it merges with S.R. 285, becomes South Mission Street and turns into Squilchuck Road.
From Squilchuck State Park, return to Wenatchee via Squilchuck Road and South Mission Street before turning right onto Stevens Street, crossing the Columbia River and arriving in East Wenatchee. Just beyond the bridge, follow the road to the right to head south on State Route 28, where you’ll remain for eight miles before arriving at Rock Island; the small community hosts basic services (including restaurants and a gas station) and a golf course.
The highway remains in sight of the river for another 14 miles before reaching the village of Trindad, home to little more than a few vacation rentals, rental services and tour companies.
In town, turn right onto Crescent Bar Road NW, and follow the road as it curves south for about 3.5 miles before arriving in the resort community of Crescent Bar, located on its namesake island in the Columbia River. The Crescent Bar Recreation Area offers boat rentals, a golf course, a marina, a campground and other outdoor opportunities.
Return to S.R. 28, and head east for 7.5 miles to arrive at Quincy, which serves as an efficient stop for services and acts as a fulcrum point for other excursions within an easy drive to Moses Lake and the Potholes Reservoir (both covered in AAA’s South Columbia Basin Auto Tour).
Continue heading east on S.R. 28 as it speeds through Grant County farmland; regional crops include potatoes, apples, wheat, barley, onions and mint.
Golf, History and More
Nearly 18 miles beyond Quincy, Ephrata stands as the largest city remaining on our auto tour and is the seat of Grant County. At the southern edge of town, the Oasis RV Park and Golf Course greets visitors with RV and tent campsites, a nine-hole golf course and an 18-hole miniature golf course. Services of all stripes can be found here as the highway slows considerably through town. The Grant County Historical Museum and Village, located on the highway at the northeastern edge of town, hosts artifacts from the Wanapum and Sinkiuse tribes, as well as vintage farm equipment and a 30-building village.
– Written by John King. Updated by Matthew Wastradowski in September 2020