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On the Loop: Discover The Methow Valley

Extending from Pateros to the crest of the North Cascades, the Methow Valley is Washington state’s eclectic mix of Wild West and thriving arts culture, and home to a whole lot of activities and lodging! Choose from riverfront hotels, rustic cabins, fully inclusive lodges and resorts.

Getting started, be sure to pop over to Pateros before you turn onto Highway 153. Dedicated fishermen from around the world come here to the confluence of the Methow and Columbia rivers. You might just see some really big fish being reeled ! Walk down along the river through Pateros’ small riverfront park to stretch your legs and snag amazing river views. There is a cute playground and a stunning new outdoor installation by award-winning Native artist Virgil “Smoker” Marchand that commemorates the Native Americans who originally lived here. Pay the Pateros Museum a visit before you head out.  

Head back the way you came across the bridge, then turn north onto Highway 153. The North Cascades can be seen far in the distance while rolling alpine desert hills form a backdrop for quaking aspen, log ranch homes and the meandering Methow River. Dry shrub-steppe hillsides give way to stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir as you gain elevation. You’ll notice evidence of the 2014 Carlton Complex Fire in places here — note how amazing nature is as bright green plant life are now growing up from the ashes in many places. Pass through the tiny towns of Methow and Carlton and head on toward Twisp, the largest town in the Methow Valley.

As you make your way, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife! This region is a regular wildlife corridor — it’s not uncommon to see bald eagles during the colder months, and ospreys in warmer months. In both cases, you might see them flying with half or a whole fish — tackle and all! Deer are also abundant throughout the area, so slow down and be cautious, particularly during dawn and dusk hours. Once you arrive in Twisp, you’ll find an incredibly welcoming community. The arts culture thrives here — galleries, music, live theater and festivals year-round. Check in with Methow Arts for complete details about the arts and culture scene in the entire valley. Speaking of which, you can explore rotating art exhibits at the Confluence Gallery & Art Center, along with an amazing gift shop featuring the talents of local artisans. Well over 100 artists and craftspeople call the Methow Valley their home, and their work encompasses practically every medium.

Visit the Methow Valley Interpretive Center to explore exhibits and their interpretive garden, located next to TwispWorks when you first enter town. If your schedule permits and you happen to be visiting the area during June this year, do yourself a favor and snag tickets early for the acclaimed Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival.

Feeling peckish? Restaurants here favor locally grown and harvested fruits and produce, as well as fair trade and sustainably sourced ingredients. As a result, the food and drinks you’ll find here taste pretty darned amazing. Stop in at nationally acclaimed Blue Star Coffee Roasters for a cup of their award-winning joe, homemade sweet treats, or a swanky souvenir. Their coffee is packaged and ready to take home, as are their cult-status retail offerings: people go crazy to get their hands on Blue Star hoodies, ball caps and beanies!

The famous Twisp River Recreation Area takes you deep into the wilderness and offers dozens of campgrounds and trails. Get outside for hiking, biking, photography, fishing, river rafting and more! Closer to town, the Discovery Ponds and Twisp Park Riverwalk both lead you on easy, dog-friendly paths. Heading north on Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road (off Highway 20/153, just south of Hank's Harvest Foods), you’ll find a meandering country road that winds around farms and ranches. Halfway to Winthrop, stop at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base for a free tour of the birthplace of smokejumping. Kids and adults alike love to see the parachutes and the jump plane (in season).

As you continue up valley, step into the old Wild West town of Winthrop. The downtown’s wooden boardwalks invite you to take photos and enjoy eclectic boutiques, sporting goods outfitters, restaurants, bakeries and pubs. Enjoy casual dining and handcrafted brews at local watering holes. If you're looking for an upscale dining experience, the Methow Valley is home to three acclaimed restaurants, each presenting their take on locally sourced, meticulously prepared cuisine: Arrowleaf Bistro in downtown Winthrop, Sun Mountain Lodge just outside of Winthrop, or the Freestone Inn in Mazama. Looking for adventure? While in Winthrop, book a horseback ride with JD Outfitters at Sun Mountain Lodge, a guided fishing trip with Methow Fishing Adventures, or float the Methow River with Winthrop Tubing! Just outside of Winthrop en route to the North Cascades, pop in to Methow Cycle & Sport to rent bikes to explore town and trails, paddleboards or tubes during warmer months or skis in winter.

Downtown Winthrop is bookended by stunning pedestrian bridges that span the Chewuch and Methow rivers with viewing platforms to watch salmon spawn, as well as fly-fishing, river rafting and tubing. The surrounding hills provide vast opportunities for mountain biking, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and rock climbing. North America’s largest Nordic ski trail system, Methow Trails, spans much of the Methow Valley, making it a winter mecca for skiers to enjoy more than 120 miles of groomed trails, with select trails specifically for fat biking, snowshoeing … and even for skiing with your dogs! The trails are great for hiking and biking, too! Stop by the Methow Trails office in downtown Winthrop to ensure you have the correct passes for the trails you hope to access.

Head west on Highway 20 following the Methow River to the small village of Mazama. While Mazama may be tiny, it has some wildly good shopping and food. It’s surrounded by incredible vistas, ranch lands and soaring mountains. Mazama is also a world-renowned rock climbing destination, so plan a little extra time here if hitting the rock is part of your travel itinerary. Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies is an outstanding outdoor shop in Mazama full of everything you could possibly need before heading into the North Cascades or hitting the rock. Mazama is your last opportunity to fuel up before you reach Marblemount on the other side of the pass.

As you head further west, you’ll see immediately why this Cascade Loop Travel Guide presents the route in a counter-clockwise direction — the eastern approach to Washington Pass offers jawdropping views you don’t see when you drive from west to east!

Next Region: North Cascades

Methow Valley Visitor Services:

Current Conditions

WSDOT Traffic Conditions & Cameras


Heritage & History

The Methow Tribe lived in pit houses and traveled in canoes carved from cedars. Early in the 1900s, horses assisted in seasonal travel, beginning a love of horses that remains in the valley today. The tribe suffered after smallpox epidemics of the late 18th century. Many joined the Confederated Tribes of the Colville.

By the mid-to-late 1800s, fur trappers, followed by miners and settlers came to the valley. The settlers brought cattle, sheep and horses to graze. Farming, ranching and logging were prolific. Inspired by the discovery of gold at nearby Brewster, prospectors came to the valley next. Farming continued to thrive and by 1913, there was an estimated 1 million fruit trees in Okanogan County. 

In 1972, the North Cascades Highway was built as a connector between the Methow Valley and Western Washington. This inspired the town of Winthrop to reinvent itself and restore buildings to an early frontier appearance.

Your Methow Valley Adventure

Wildlife & Birding
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Fish On!
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Head North!
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EV Charging Station
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Cowboy Culture
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Amazing Food
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The Arts
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Images from Methow Valley

Upcoming Events in Methow Valley

Stories from Methow Valley

COVID and Methow Trails
Join Methow Trails in choosing to #RecreateResponsibly. They are planning on operating a fairly normal season this year, with nightly grooming of nearly all of our 120+ miles of trail, free skiing for all kids 17 and under (and seniors 75+), and perfectly groomed trails for all abilities. We have implemented numerous changes to keep folks safe. Read More >>>>
Salmon Viewing Locations on the Loop
Fall marks the season when Salmon can be seen in the waterways along the Cascade Loop. Check this list for some of our favorites! Read More >>>>
Watchable Wildlife - Blue Heron
As you are driving along the waterways of the Cascade Loop, be on the lookout for the majestic Great Blue Heron. They are regularly spotted wading in shallow water, patiently watching for small fish or frogs, their most common meals. Read More >>>>
Top 10 Fall Color Corridors on the Cascade Loop
The thing that folks love most about the Cascade Loop is its diversity of views throughout the byway, and fall colors are no exception. The colors are wild and vibrant and showcase a range of colors and textures as you explore the route. Travel counter-clockwise for the best views and know that as always, Mother Nature sets the schedule for when and how the colors change. Typically however, travelers can expect peak colors from the last week of September through mid-October. Special note: due to COVID-19 most Autumn public events… Read More >>>>
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