The Hidden Gems Western Washingtonian’s Often Miss Out On

Brokers Patrick Thier and wife, Karen Thurston exploring East of the Cascades
Brokers Patrick Thier and wife, Karen Thurston exploring East of the Cascades


Most Washingtonians at one time or another have either heard or said something like: “There’s nothing but sage and hayfields between Snoqualmie Pass and Spokane.” Or from those outdoor concert goers, “Outside of the Gorge, there’s nothing in Eastern Washington besides wheat fields and cows. It’s just flat wasteland.” Even though most of us know about the orchards and vineyards by now, I still hear those descriptions today. Especially from those travelers who don’t take the time to venture off of I-90. Ah but alas, this adventurous real estate broker, originally from the great state of Iowa, has a thing or two to say about these assessments.

I’ve had the opportunity to live in the Evergreen State for 22 years now, and I am still taken aback by the hidden gems I run across on a regular basis. With a little time, an automobile that you don’t mind getting dirty, and a spirit of adventure, most people would be amazed by what they can find only a few hours away from Western Washington’s wet metropolises.

North Cascades Highway

Take the North Cascades Highway, for example. It’s a scenic byway that crosses from Burlington on the west side, to Winthrop on the east. Although this road is closed in the winter, it’s perhaps one of the most scenic travel routes in the state. It rivals those found in the Rockies of Colorado. The sad thing is, I have friends from Washington who haven’t even been on it! Here you will find countless hiking trails, hundreds of camping sites, and spell-binding vistas like those of the azure waters of Diablo Lake (technically still on the west side of the pass, but getting there). Once you get to Winthrop, dust off your cowboy boots, grab a bottle of wine from one of several local wineries, seek some shade under a big ponderosa pine, and exhale.

Potholes National Wildlife Refuge

Another area of the state that Interstate 90 travelers pass by, is called the Potholes. Anyone who travels from Seattle to Spokane drives right by Moses Lake. Well, just a 10-minute car ride south of town is the Potholes National Wildlife Refuge. Once you get off the blacktop, and then off the gravel, and then onto the dirt paths that wind their way into this amazing find, you will think you have just arrived in another state, or perhaps another planet. The opportunity to fish, hunt, hike, camp and photograph this seemingly endless landscape of rocky canyons, basalt bluffs and seep lakes, is…seemingly endless.

Patricks Picks for staying and playing:

Highway 97: Columbia River & Okanogan County

Most people who travel the east-west corridor through Washington are very familiar with the Columbia River. North of the I-90 Vantage crossing, about 75 miles or so the way the crow flies, the Columbia is joined by the Okanogan River near the town of Brewster. From there, the Okanogan river flows from the north, originating deep in British Columbia. This river system is essentially paralleled by Highway 97, another designated scenic byway, and offers more orchards and vineyards than one would imagine, so visit a fruit stand, enjoy some more wine. Hike the hills that sandwich the valley, play golf atop neat plateaus overlooking the river, or ski the less-crowded slopes on the looming mountainsides.

If you continue north on this highway, you will find yourself in Okanogan County. This county is huge, and it alone offers about as much diverse landscape as you will find in several other western states combined. Gorges and bluffs can be found along the river valley’s sage-filled edges, thick pine and tamarack forests blanket the endless mountain tops, a plethora of pristine, sub-alpine lakes are home to kokanee and rainbow trout, and on the benches by the river, more grapes, apples, apricots, cherries, plums, and pears.

The county also boasts some very cool western towns. These are the real deal. So saddle up for a cold one and a bison burger in the Chesaw Tavern after the 4th of July rodeo, or visit the quaint shops that line the main streets of Conconully, Twisp, or the town I mentioned earlier, Winthrop.

Okanogan Highlands, Oroville & Wannacut Lake

The Okanogan Highlands is an expanse of the county that is perched above the river valley floor. Ranging from 3000 to 5000 feet in elevation, this area tends to be a bit cooler year round, and receive a tad more precipitation, as well. The views? Some of the best in the country. Seriously. The lack of population here provides not only an opportunity to escape to serenity with as much solitude as you desire, it offers very reasonable real estate prices. About 10 years ago, my family took advantage of such bargains, and bought a chunk of ponderosa and sage ground high in the hills. It’s an escape; a reprieve from the bustle of our everyday life in Olympia. Sure it’s a bit of a drive to get there, but with just one peak at a brilliant starry night, its way worth it.

Don’t worry! The real estate prices haven’t skyrocketed there, just yet. Remember those fishing lakes I mentioned earlier? Wannacut Lake is a 15 minute drive west of Oroville, and is considered one of the best fisheries in the state. If you want to spend a night or two when you’re there, check out Sun Cove Resort on its sunny, eastern shore. With cabins, guest houses, RV spots, tent spots, swimming pool, motor boats and paddle boats, the opportunity to recreate and relax is as big as the Okanogan sky. Oh, and this hidden gem just happens to be for sale!

These are just a few of the many hidden gems that the less populated part of the state has to offer. So go find one! If you have a free weekend coming up, and you want to experience Washington like you never knew possible, hop in the car and go east. Get off the interstate and go explore. There’s wild adventure and natural beauty waiting for you over the mountains, and just around the bend.


Turn-key fishing resort! Sun Cove Resort is an established fishing/vacation destination nestled on the scenic shores of popular Wannacut Lake in sunny Okanogan Co. This amazing property on 11+ acres w/1200′ of lakefront consists of 10 cabins, 2 rental homes, RV and tent sites, swimming pool, general store, restaurant, lounge, & owner’s quarters. And room to expand! Everything from tackle to linens to boats are included, allowing you to make an income immediately. Stop dreaming and start doing!

To own such a pristine piece of lakefront, combined with a turn-key, money-making business, is a rare and invaluable opportunity.”

For information regarding purchasing Sun Cove Resort, Contact Patrick Thier

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