Weekenders: The Methow Valley
This is the first in an intermittent series on weekend getaway destinations that are 1/2 day or less drive from Seattle. There are so many options: seashore, islands, mountains, countryside, neighboring cities and towns. We will take a look at some of the best examples of each.
On the eastern border of Cascadia, where Highway 20 touches down from a flight through the North Cascades, there is a magical place called the Methow Valley. This region, half wilderness and half cowboy country, is an outdoor recreationalist’s dream, both in the summer and the winter. Although it is a “working” valley of farms and ranches, it is also a mecca for Seattlites craving real seasons; the heat of summer and the snow of winter.
This time of year, many of the ranchers and farmers open their fields for cross-country skiers. There is over 100 miles of groomed cross-country trail in the valley. Track, skate, and back country skiers flock to the valley from December to early March. There are ample snowshoeing trails as well, and each year there are more trails (ski and snowshoe) that are open to dogs!!
Above: The dog-friendly, "Big Valley" trail just east of Mazama
In the summer, many of the ski trails continue to be publicly accessible for walking and mountain biking. There are also many great hiking trails in the national forest. Climbers scour Goat Wall. There is hiking and horseback riding. There are music festivals and rodeos.
How To Get There
Getting to the Valley is the only challenge. From Seattle in the wintertime, the drive is at least five hours. Travelers must take either Steven’s Pass (Highway 2) or Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) to Blewett Pass (Highway 97). The North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) is closed in the winter due to heavy snow and avalanche danger. However, the 20 is the undeniable route to take in the summer. Each journey is beautiful, but the 20 is unsurpassed.
Where To Stay
In the wintertime, the preferred destinations are the communities closest to the mountains. Early Winters, Mazama and Winthrop are the areas that will have the best snow. There are many affordable, little cabin motels in the Valley, including Winthrop. My favorite Winthrop accommodation, however, is the Duck Brand Hotel and Cantina. It is a comfortable spot right in kitschy, "old western", downtown Winthrop with very reasonable prices. For a more all-inclusive and swankier stay, try the wonderful Mazama Country Inn. The hearty yet gourmet meals are served family-style in the winter, and they set up a brown bag buffet so you can pack a trail lunch for your ski day. Many folks like the Sun Mountain Lodge, a classic hotel/resort on the south rise of the valley.
There is a wide selection of great, inexpensive food in the Valley. Here's just a small selection:
Mazama Country Store in Mazama
Topo Cafe (Asian) in Winthrop
Duck Brand Cantina (Mexican) in Winthrop
The Twisp River Pub in Twisp
Tappi (Italian) in Twisp
The Cinnamon Twisp Bakery in Twisp
The Blackbird Cafe in Twisp
All dining in the Valley is casual, or at least casual optional. Never worry about walking in in jeans and boots!
Winthrop Mountain Sports is the favorite outdoor clothing and equipment shop in the valley.
The Trails End Bookstore in Winthrop is your gear shop for the more snowy days.