Valley of the Trails

Mountain Biking Washington's Methow
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The Methow Valley sits in the center of northern Washington, just east of North Cascades National Park. The valley has the"east of the Cascades" advantage: dry weather. In summer, temperatures in the daytime are moderate, while nights are cool. Sunny days are the standard fare.

The drive to the valley on the North Cascades Highway/WA 20 is great. The highway takes off from Interstate 5 near Burlington, south of Bellingham. As it proceeds east, the highway passes between the north and south sections of North Cascades National Park through some of the highest and wildest mountains in the state; it is incredibly picturesque. This stretch of highway is also a favorite with experienced touring bicyclists.

Dropping 3,600 feet from Washington Pass, the highway enters the open spaces of the Methow Valley. The valley is world-famous for its network of cross-country ski trails. It is becoming equally well-known for its mountain biking. Surrounding the valley is the Okanogan National Forest, which contains hundreds of miles of outstanding single-tracks and scenic forest roads.

The valley has long been courted for its downhill ski resort potential. Developers fancy the area's plentiful snowpack, rolling hills, and high peaks. Valley residents have resisted this type of growth for over 25 years. Many would like to see the continued development of trail-based resorts. (One such resort is the elegant and already thriving Sun Mountain Lodge.) Some envision gondolas to a mountaintop for access not to alpine skiing but to a massive trail system.

This"trail-friendly" attitude gives the area a wonderful ambience. The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association has been a catalyst for community pride and trail development. The association was originally formed to maintain the area's cross-country ski trails. Now its members maintain many of the bike routes in the region as well. The association produces an excellent quarterly newsletter, "Trails," and brings the popular Methow Valley Mountain Bike Festival to the valley each October.

Winthrop is the center of tourism in the Methow Valley. The town operates on a western theme—with wooden sidewalks, storefronts, hitching posts, and so forth. It is quaint and quirky, with many fine accommodations, restaurants, and interesting shops.

Less than three miles out of Winthrop is Pearrygin Lake. Nestled in sagebrush hills, this state park provides visitors with camping and hot showers. Camping is also plentiful in the surrounding forests. Stop in at the national forest ranger station in Twisp for information.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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