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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 lodging and activities! Choose from riverfront hotels, rustic cabins, fully inclusive lodges and resorts. You can certainly also “glamp,“ camp or even stay in a tipi — or take it easy in an RV park on the river’s edge! 

Getting started, be sure to pop over to Pateros before you turn onto Highway 153. Fuel up and stop at Howard’s on the River for an outstanding meal with a view of the mighty Columbia River. 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 in right outside your window! 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 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 mountains 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.

As you make your way toward the Methow Valley’s largest town, Twisp, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife! This region is a regular wildlife corridor — it isn’t uncommon to see bald eagles during colder months, and ospreys in warmer months. In both cases, it isn’t unusual to 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 Methow arts scene. Stop in at the Confluence Gallery & Art Center in Twisp to explore rotating exhibits and 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 ingredients as well as fair trade and sustainably sourced ingredients. As a result, the food and drinks you’ll find here are pretty darn amazing. Stop in at nationally acclaimed Blue Star Coffee Roasters for a cup of their award-winning joe, or pick up some souvenirs. 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 r5afting and more! Closer to town, the Discovery Ponds and Twisp Park Riverwalk both lead you on easy, dog-friendly paths. Heading north on the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road (off Highway 20/153 just south of Hank's Market), 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, you’ll arrive in Wild West Winthrop, a town that “retrofitted” itself to be as close to the original 1890s storefront look as possible. Hit the downtown’s wooden boardwalks, take photos and enjoy eclectic shops, restaurants, bakeries and pubs. Enjoy casual dining and handcrafted brews at favorite 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

Downtown Winthrop is anchored on each end by pedestrian bridges that span the Chewuch and Methow rivers with viewing platforms to watch salmon spawn, as well as people 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 in the summer, too! Stop by the Methow Trails office in downtown Winthrop to ensure you have the correct passes for the trails you are hoping to access.

Head west on Highway 20. Just under 2 miles before you reach Mazama, schedule time with Early Winters Outfitting for horseback riding, a multi-day pack trip, or if you’re traveling in the fall, take a guided hunting expedition! As you continue west, you will follow the Methow River to the small village of Mazama. While Mazama may be small, 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. This is your last opportunity for gas until 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

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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
Fish On!
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Head North!
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Climbing
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Hiking
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EV Charging Station
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Cowboy Culture
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Wildlife
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Amazing Food
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Winter
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The Arts
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Twisp Fall Art Walk & Studio Tour
Christmas At The End Of The Road
Snowshoe Softball Tournament
Winthrop Balloon Roundup
Bird of the Week: Osprey
"Osprey are some of the largest and most common birds of prey in our region. We see them regularly along all our big rivers and other large bodies of water, and we probably even take them for granted sometimes, but now is the time to enjoy them because they are all about to head south for the winter. Right now, watch for groups of Osprey on nesting platforms and power pole structures. These groups are one to several full grown juveniles with one or both of their parents. The juveniles… Read More >>>>
Bird of the Week: Evening Grosbeak
Many of us see these big, colorful, and raucous finches in winter at our seed feeders, but because the Methow and Okanogan valleys and the surrounding mountains have high elevation mature conifers like Ponderosa Pine and Engelmann spruce, we are lucky to be able to see these birds year-round though we are at the southern end of their breeding range. Read More >>>>
Bird of the Week: Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpipers are "shorebirds" that are common just about all over Washington. Here in Okanogan County, we see (and hear!) them along rivers and streams though they could also be found in gravel pits, farm ponds and other wetlands. These birds are still active in July - listen for their piercing high-pitched alarm call along rivers warning you to stay back. They do this because they make nests directly on the ground, in the river cobbles, typically within 100 yards of the water's edge. The nest is just a little… Read More >>>>
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