Exploring the Methow Valley in Winter: A Weekend Getaway Guide

The Methow Valley in winter offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, and more.
The Methow Valley in winter offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, and more. Chris Langston
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If you've been feeling that seasonal depression that's so common this time of year, here's some good news: There’s a whisper in the air hinting that the cold and rainy season in Seattle might be starting to wind down. But if you are a snow lover, no need to start mourning winter's departure. There are still at least few more weekends to get in a couple more snow-covered hurrahs—and there is no better place in Washington to do so than the Methow Valley.

The last few months dumped more snow on the Methow than it had seen in about a decade, providing the perfect landscape for your winter sport of choice, from cross country or alpine skiing to fat biking to snowshoeing. Post-adventure, down-home watering holes are just the spot for a pint or two with the locals. So get out now and explore the Methow Valley in winter, before spring begins to melt the white stuff away. Here's what to know and where to go.

Where to Fuel Up

The coffee van is an iconic sight at the base of the trail.
The coffee van is an iconic sight at the base of the trail. Samantha Larson

There are three towns within half an hour of each other nestled in the valley along the Methow River: Mazama, Winthrop, and Twisp. Each of them is well worth the visit. The Mazama Store is a classic stop, and a great place to grab a latte and pastry before a day out exploring. The Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop is famous for its freshly baked bread and sandwiches you could take to go for later on. The namesake pastry at Cinnamon Twisp ’s is also beyond delicious. Or, on weekends keep an eye out for the coffee van at the Big Valley Trailhead!

Where to Cross-Country Ski (and More)

If you haven't tried it, skate skiing is surprisingly hard—and surprisingly fun.
If you haven't tried it, skate skiing is surprisingly hard—and surprisingly fun. Samantha Larson

The Methow Valley is a cross-country skier’s paradise. Methow Trails maintains a network of more than 120 miles of groomed Nordic and skate skiing trails. They are divided into three main areas: Mazama has the flattest and easiest trails, The Rendezvous is known for being hillier more difficult, and Sun Mountain the most extensive, with lots of varied terrain suitable for whatever you’re looking for.

The Methow Community Trial is an 18-mile loop that travels from Mazama to Winthrop, connecting all three areas. It is possible to do in a day—or you can stay at one of Methow Trails’ huts to make a getaway of it. Day passes to use the groomed trails are $24, or free if you stick to the five miles of trail accessible from the Big Valley Trailhead.

Fat biking is also quickly becoming one of the most popular activities to do on these trails. It is allowed on Methow Trails’ Big Valley, Rendezvous, and Town Trailhead, at the Loup Loup ski bowl, and at Pearrygin Lake State Park.

Where to Downhill Ski

Loup Loup is a family friendly ski area with great views.
Loup Loup is a family friendly ski area with great views. Chris Langston

While better known for its extensive Nordic options, the Methow Valley actually has some superb alpine skiing, too. Loup Loup Ski Bowl , located on Highway 20 between Twisp and Okanogan, is a relaxed, family-friendly ski area with fun runs and beautiful mountain views. Its 300 acres provide plenty of room to play, and the short lift lines will be a refreshing change from the ones typically encountered at the resorts closer to Seattle.

Where to Snowshoe

The serene Methow River provides a wonderful backdrop for a snowshoe.
The serene Methow River provides a wonderful backdrop for a snowshoe. Samantha Larson

Snowshoeing is the perfect fit for anyone who prefers to experience winter at a slightly slower pace—and the Methow’s scenery is certainly worth taking the extra time to absorb. The Methow Trails guided snowshoe tours are a fun way to learn about winter ecology, wildlife, and snow science. (Next up is a two-hour tour leaving from the Sun Mountain Ski Lodge at 11 am on Saturday, Feb. 20, and a special 3-4 hour tour leaving at 11 am from the Town Trailhead parking lot.)

For those who prefer to adventure on their own, plenty of other options are available. For an easy excursion, check out the half-mile Horse Trail. For a more strenuous trek, the 3.1-mile loop in Pearrygin Lake State Park, the 5.6-mile round-trip snowshoe to Cedar Falls, or the 3-mile round-trip climb to Lewis Butte all deliver.

Where to Wind Down

Three Fingered Jacks Saloon embodies Winthrop's western vibes.
Three Fingered Jacks Saloon embodies Winthrop's western vibes. M I K E M O R R I S

Winthop and Twisp are chock full of good options for places to grab a bite and a drink after a long day outside. In Winthrop, grab a slice at the East 20 Pizza , and then head to Three Fingered Jack's Saloon , where you’ll be able to fully embrace the town’s quirky western theme over a beer and a game of pool.

In Twisp, check out the Twisp River Pub, a favorite among locals for grub and brews. And if you’re there on a Friday night don’t miss out on the opportunity to sing karaoke at BJ’s Branding Iron Saloon—because singing your heart out in a little Pacific Northwest town can be almost as fun as exploring the surrounding winter wonderland.

The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The NFF’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org.

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