Small North Central Washington Towns: Coulee City & Ellensburg

Vacation in Washington State
Vacation in Washington State

Washington’s North Central region is home to small towns representing the state’s frontier past as well as its incredibly active present. Investigate remnants of Washington’s wild west and partake in spectacular fishing, climbing and outdoor exploring.

Read the other articles in our series about Washington small towns, organized by region (in no particular order): Metro Seattle, North Cascades, The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast, The Gorge, The Volcanoes, Wine Country, Northeast and Southeast.


The frontier spirit lives on, thanks to the town’s Old West–themed buildings. It’s also a spectacular launch pad for fly-fishing, mountain biking and more.

Located at the southern end of the Methow Valley, Twisp is the largest of the area’s three towns. The community vibe is strong with little galleries and natural markets showcasing the artistic and edible fruits of the valley. Fuel a tour of the burg with a visit to award-winning Blue Star Coffee Roasters.

At the turn of the century, seven gambling halls graced this tiny town. Things have since settled down: While it retains its frontier spirit, there’s more walleye fishing now than Wild West attractions. Don’t miss Dry Falls, a giant Ice Age ex-waterfall once five times the width of Niagara.

Legend has it that native tribes used to come to the mineral-laden waters to heal. Now its shores are often packed with the town’s Russian and Ukrainian immigrant cohort, whose influence is reflected in Mom’s European Foods and Deli, with its fascinating comestibles: from poppy-seed confections to little dumplings.

Stone Age artifacts have been discovered near this town at the core of the state’s apple trade. Now, the historic downtown’s streets are lined with shops and cafes, and nearby is Pybus Market, a restored warehouse by Riverfront Park, that’s full of specialty eateries and a farmers market.

Once a coal-mining town, Roslyn was largely abandoned with the advent of diesel — until it was discovered by Hollywood: Its 1886 church was showcased in a 1979 Dick Van Dyke flick; its streets were the faux-Alaska setting for the 1990s show "Northern Exposure."

This riverside hamlet
is the perfect base for outdoor exploring, be it around Suncadia Resort or in the 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.

Located smack in the middle of the state, brick-lined Ellensburg holds a heap of annual events, like January’s WinterHop BrewFest, February’s Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering, June’s infamous dachshund races and the crowning glory, Labor Day Weekend’s rodeo. Find more events in Washington >>

The basalt pillars nearby are so popular with climbers that there
 are more than 700 routes. That’s not all that draws people here; there’s also the Gingko Petrified Forest, with its rare preserved trees, and killer milkshakes
 at Blustery’s Burger Drive-In, the lone restaurant in town.

Learn more about Washington's towns and regions >>

—Anne Larkin


Photo credit: The Gingko Petrified Forest in Vantage, Flickr/Alexandra MacKenzie