Methow Valley, Washington

My husband and I first visited the Methow on a cross-country bike trip back in 1990. At the time, we loved the remote ruggedness of the area as well as the excellent roads that took us through the Cascade Mountains. We knew we wanted to return for more, and never expected that the interceding business of life and children would wedge 20 years into that time frame. Since our 1990 ride-through, the valley has continued to expand its trail system, (run by the indomitable Methow Valley Sport Trail Association,) and now boasts the 2nd largest Nordic ski trail network in the country, with over 200 kilometers of networked trails. Though originally developed as a playground for Nordic skiers, the trails have increasingly become popular for good hiking and mountain biking, and the area welcomes outdoor enthusiasts throughout the seasons. In fact, the summer months allow added attractions like enjoying a cold brew on the riverside patio at the Schoolhouse Brewery, the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Twisp.

The Methow (pronounced “met-how”) Valley sits in the center of northern Washington, just east of North Cascades National Park, and nestled into the middle of the Okanogan National Forest, and has long been popular as a premier center for Nordic skiing. Nestled into the rugged granite peaks of the North Cascade Mountains, the valley comprises the towns of Mazama , Winthrop, and Twisp. Coming from the west (Seattle area) on Highway 20, Mazama is the first town in the corridor, and the hub of the trail vast trail system. Mazama is the most remote of the three, and does not offer many amenities for travelers beyond the Mazama Country Store, a couple of hotels, and the matrix of trails. 15 miles down the road, Winthrop is the most touristy of the towns, with an old western look, boardwalk around town, several restaurants and hotels, outdoors stores, clothing and gift boutiques, and a superb book store and an outstanding bakery. Another 9 miles south of Winthrop is Twisp, WA, the base of the valley, and hub where area locals congregate to socialize, stock up on groceries, purchase hardware, or get an oil change. Twisp is also home to several good restaurants and a thriving arts community. The area is well known in the northwest as an outdoor mecca, and during the season when the North Cascades Scenic Highway (route 20 through the Cascades) is open over Washington Pass, it is a relatively easy and scenic 3 hour drive from Seattle. During the winter months, when Washington Pass is closed, travelers must access the valley from the south, coming through the town of Wenatchee, WA.

In the summer months, the Methow bustles with folks making the most of the temperate weather, and locals and tourists alike migrate to the river for fly fishing and rafting. Others log many miles on their bicycles, both in the mountains and along the roads, or venture out into the wilderness with a pair of boots and a backpack. The area also hosts 2 outdoor music festivals – no small feat for an area of this population, and a tribute to the tireless efforts on many local volunteers.

In the winter months, the valley offers the most extensive network of cross-country ski trails in the country, with a whopping 200 kilometers of meticulously groomed paths, thanks to the determined efforts of the unstoppable MVSTA. One can choose the invigorating adventure of a backcountry hut to hut vacation, or the more relaxing path of skiing by day and enjoying the comforts of the Methow by night.

In closing, it should be noted that the area is also strong in the arts and hosts several galleries which present the works of the many local artists who have been inspired by the rugged landscapes of their home, in addition to the Mercantile Theatre which hosts local productions throughout the year.

Quick Facts

Population: 1,300
Avg Temp in January: 32/12
Avg Temp in July: 86/49
Known for: Nordic Skiing, Fishng, Biking



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