Seasonal Sights in the Methow Valley

From summer sightseeing along the North Cascades Highway to cross-country skiing in the winter, the Methow Valley offers a bounty of attractions.

Spring in the Methow Valley is announced in iconic, yellow arrowleaf balsamroot blooms popping up on almost every hillside, bikers rolling down the county roads linking Twisp, Carlton, Winthrop, Wolf Creek and Sun Mountain, and the reappearance everywhere of hiking trails.

In summer, the stunning North Cascades Highway—with its Alps-like views—is lined with sightseers, and Winthrop polishes its cowboy boots to welcome them. The Methow Valley Rodeo is here on both Memorial and Labor Day weekends, while in mid-July the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival measures beats against blue sky. The town also draws fishermen, campers, horseback riders, river rafters, rock climbers and more. Locals, meanwhile, head for remote locations—such as the Pasayten Wilderness, with its more than 500,000 acres of peaks, at least 160 bodies of water and wildlife such as bighorn sheep, wolves and grizzlies—and nearby swimming holes, such as the Methow River beachfront under Highway 153 in Carlton or Pearrygin Lake near Winthrop.

In fall, Saturday-morning bike rides are detoured through small town Twisp for the Methow Valley Farmers Market, open early April through October. Here, local fruit, produce, plants, crafts and cheese are the stars, and visitors come away with bags of fat squash, glossy peppers, leafy kale and sweet honeycrisp apples.

Daylight hours shrink in autumn, but in their place come sunny blue-sky days and spectacular changing colors. Hikers head for the alpine zone to admire the larch trees that punctuate the evergreens with bursts of color and to look for snow to begin dusting the craggy peaks.

Come winter, the valley is home to a network of 120 miles of cross-country trails, maintained by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association, many groomed for both track and skate skiing. Experienced skiers love hut-to-hut overnight excursions on the Rendezvous Trails outside Mazama.

Also popular is the tiny downhill ski resort 15 miles east of Twisp. With just 1,240 vertical feet, one quad chairlift and a poma lift, Loup Loup Ski Bowl draws locals aplenty, but precious few crowds.

—Giselle Smith