Welcome to the North Cascades Mountains
The North Cascades Mountains that surround the Methow Valley have been dubbed the American Alps. The North Cascades highway is the highest route in the state across the Cascades mountains, reaching 5470’ at Washington Pass. You will climb out of the Puget Sound Basin, over the Cascade Crest and down into the Methow Valley on State Route 20, recognized as a National Scenic highway. Our section of the North Cascades Mountains are comprised of the Ross Lake National Recreation area, the North Cascades National Park, Okanogan National Forest, Pasayten Wildernessand the Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness, combined, make the largest assemblage of public land in the lower 48 states.
From its inception, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex was envisioned primarily as a wilderness park, and in 1988 the Washington Park Wilderness Act designated 634,614 acres, or 93%, as the Stephen Mather Wilderness Area. The Complex is the core of over 2 million acres of federally designated wilderness, one of the largest such areas in the lower 48 states. The U.S. Congress set aside this expansive wilderness area as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, in the words of the 1964 Wilderness Act, for “the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” The North Cascades National Park Service Complex includes 684,237 federally protected acres near the crest of the Cascade Mountains from the Canadian border south to Lake Chelan.
The Complex is the core of a greater ecosystem which includes 3 million acres of protected public land spanning 2 nations and a range of cultures, communities and ecological life-zones. This expansive landscape provides a rare opportunity in North America for biodiversity to reach its full potential with minimal human impacts. An almost intact system of this size benefits an abundance of migratory animals as well as providing habitat to threatened and endangered species.
The U.S. Congress established North Cascades National Park Service Complex in 1968 to preserve “certain majestic mountain scenery, snowfields, glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes and other unique glaciated features” … “for the benefit, use and inspiration of present and future generations.” The beauty of these landscapes has inspired poets, writers and artists for centuries, including indigenous people, 1950’s beat poets and writers Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, who served here as fire lookouts, and others.
The Methow Valley is a narrow Valley cut by the Methow River, its head waters start high in the North Cascades mountains running approximately 50 miles until it spills into the mighty Columbia River. The “Old West” town of Winthrop sits in the upper Valley at the confluence of the Methow River and the Chewuch River. It’s location is central for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, rafting & skiing but it is also a great town for shopping, eating, art galleries or just enjoying the 300 days of sunshine that Eastern Washington receives.
Activities In the North Cascades MountainsThe Methow Valley sits on the eastern slopes of theCascades Mountains, less then 30 miles from the Canadian border. Spring, Summer and Fall, the towering peaks, some 10,000’ high are an effective wall from the pacific coast moisture that falls frequently west of the mountains. In the winter months, weather patterns bring down cold, dry air from the far North to blanket the Methow Valley in an average of 90 inches of dry powder snow every year.
200 K of groomed Nordic trails connected by the Community trail
With over 200 kilometers of groomed, interconnected trails, and surrounded by more than a million acres of wilderness and forest lands, the Methow Valley is a winter wonderland like no other. The Methow Valley’s skiing, scenery, and trails are world-class – our extensive trail system provides 120 miles of skiing in peaceful, freshly groomed and uncrowded conditions.
The Nordic ski trail system is divided into three areas - all connected by the Methow Community Trail, 31K of excellent skiing that includes the main trail head within walking distance of the Chewuch Inn and the “Old West” town of Winthrop.
The Methow Community trail has 31K that run from the town trailhead just one block from the Chewuch Inn all the way to the tiny town of Mazama (15 miles from Winthrop by road). The Methow Community trail is very popular as it is easy to access from the majority of lodging in the Winthrop area. There are a variety of loops of all levels off of the town trail head. The majority of the trail is wide and flat, perfect for beginners or Skate skiing. It meanders at an easy grade up Valley, in and out of open meadows and along the river. The community trail also is the main connecter trail to more challenging terrain leading to Sun Mountain and the Rendezvous area. Sun Mountain consists of 54k of mixed technical trails with fun loops and incredible views. The Rendezvous is consider one of the more difficult areas offering remote skiing over 48K and finally the Mazama trails have 33k of easy to intermediate trails looping in and out of the trees through the scenic upper valley.
MVSTA or Methow valley Sports trail association is responsible for the Valleys incredible ski trails.
Loup Loup Downhill ski bowl
Just 30 minutes away, our local ski area is a great hill which offers 1,240 vertical feet, the mountain (Little Buck) is serviced by a quad chair lift, installed in 1998 with an amazing community effort. A platter surface tow and a beginner rope tow give sliders a chance to practice their skills without going to the top. Runs are groomed nightly with modern Bombardier snow cats. The Loup Loup Ski Bowl also has 23 kilometers of groomed and track set Nordic trails on Bear Mountain, with another 50k two miles away at the Washington State Parks South Summit Sno-park.
Back Country Touring and Heli skiing
For those that choose to ski outside the boundaries, back country ski touring and Heli ski programs, education and guided tours are a safe way to experience untracked snow.
Ice skating, snow shoeing, sledding
If skiing isn’t your past time, you can slip into a pair of Ice skating boots and enjoy the new Winthrop, WA Ice Skate rink at the town trail head. This beautiful open air rink is just a block from the Chewuch Inn. In the winter months it is used for ice-related sports such as skating, hockey, and broomball. During the summer, it is used for soccer camps, outdoor movies and concerts.
The Methow Valley has numerous places to careen down a snowy hillside in a sled or snowshoe up a mountain. Snow shoe tours are available several weekends throughout the winter where local naturalists help you identify animal tracks and wildlife. You can stick to a marked snowshoe trail or make your own tracks in the Okanogan National forest or Wildlife refuge
There’s more...Snowmobiling - Okanogan National forest has hundreds of miles of groomed Snowmobile roads and three snow parks within driving distance from Winthrop. Sleigh rides, Winter festivals, ski races, Hot Air Balloon Roundup, Snowshoe Softball, and...
The Other Seasons
Hiking, Biking, Running, Rafting, Horseback Riding, Fishing, Climbing,
did we say Hiking
Hiking & Trail Running
Your playground combines the North Cascades National Park, Ross lake National Recreation area, the Pasayten Wilderness, Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness and Okanogan National Forest, millions of acres to explore, with something for everyone. An easy stroll along the river or thigh burning hike to an Alpine lake. Most trailheads are easy to reach by car and you can choose an outing to fit everyones needs. Rain Shadow Running and MVSTA both sponsor Trail & Road running events.
River Rafting & Floating
The Methow River is a classic whitewater destination in Washington and arguably the best. Unlike most rivers in the state the Methow’s rapids are close together offering lots of excitement without all the flat water paddling. The Methow River has something for everyone. There is a great family run which has class II and III rapids. The Gold Creek run is a fantastic run with wildlife, swimming opportunities, and great scenery. The Black Canyon run is geared toward those looking for a little more adventure. Black Canyon offers 8 class III rapids and one great class IV as well as numerous class II’s. The dry climate promises warm and sunny weather during the river rafting months of May, June, and July, perfect for getting out and getting soaked! By August the summer heat and long lazy days have tamed the river, luring travelers and locals alike to float the Methow river in tubes or Kayaks. For more information try Blue Sky Outfitters.
Mountain Biking and Road Riding
Many of the Valley trails we ski on in the Winter convert to Mountain Bike trails in the Summer. The rolling hills of the Methow valley are covered in sunflowers in May and June and as the summer heat builds in July and August, a plunge into Patterson Lake will keep you cool while riding the Lakeside trail. There are many country roads that loop through scenic and quiet valleys great for Road Riding. For rentals, repairs, tune ups and local advice try Winthrop Mountain Sports or Methow Cycle & Sport.
Horseback Riding and Pack trips
Whether you want an hour, a day or a full on overnight trip, the North Cascades Mountains and the Methow Valley have wranglers, guides, and horses to ride. Local Outfitters offer day rides by the hour or if thats not enough an overnight camping trip. You can choose to hike in on foot and have an Outfitter drop your gear at that Alpine lake you have always wanted to see. You could also choose a full pack trip, a guided trip where you can enjoy the experience of a true cowboy meal around the campfire, day rides or hikes from camp and a lot of local story telling.
Fishing - The Methow River is home to resident Cutthroat, Rainbow, Bulltrout and Whitefish. In addition to the resident fish population, anadromous runs of Chinook and Steelhead are significant. Methow river trout fishing can be great July - September. This river is listed as a closed river for Steelhead and Salmon unless there is an "emergency opening". We do however fish the Methow regularly for trout July - September and look forward to showing you this beautiful watershed.
There is more...
General Methow Valley information:
Winthrop Chamber of Commerce
Twisp Chamber of Commerce
Cascade Loop travel information:
Washington State Tourism information: