The following is an Internet tour designed to introduce the Methow Valley to clients who are trying to select an area or region in which they would like to purchase property. This page is also a useful web tool for finding information about the Methow Valley.
The Methow Valley is located on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains in North Central Washington State in the great Pacific Northwest. Unlike Western Washington, the climate here is dry, almost a desert climate, with the average precipitation of 10 to 18 inches annually, mostly in the form of snow. Winter snow depths range from 4 to 6 feet in the upper valley near Mazama, to 1 to 3 feet in the lower valley near Pateros at the mouth of the Columbia River.
To view the weather in real time, click on this link to the Sun Mountain Web Cam . (Keep in mind late fall and early spring are the least scenic times of year.) You can find more detailed weather information here .
The Methow Valley has almost no traffic, crime, or pollution, but there is no problem finding recreation opportunities. People will say hello or howdy to a stranger here.
Okanogan County Population: 42,000
Area (sq. miles): 5,268
Density (sq. mile): 7.8 persons per square mile
What makes the Methow Valley the premier recreation area in the State of Washington, is the diversity of recreation opportunities and unparalleled natural beauty.
The Methow Valley is a narrow island of private property surrounded by an ocean of public lands. The Methow Valley is sandwiched between two major Wilderness areas known as the Sawtooth and Pasayten Wildernesses. These areas are a part of over 2 million acres of Public lands.
The Okanogan National Forest, which makes up the majority of the public land, accounts for 1.7 million acres with over 1,600 miles of mountain trails.
At the headwaters of the Methow Valley is the North Cascades National Park. The vast area of public land is part of what makes the Methow a world class recreation area.
The centerpiece of recreation in the Methow Valley is the Community Trail System located in the upper Methow Valley.
175 kilometers of groomed ski trails meander though private land along the valley floor stopping at small lodges and accommodations along the way. Unlike the 1600 miles of FS mountain trails, the Community trail goes though 68 private properties, any one of which could have stopped the project. The spirit of the community was so overwhelmingly in support of the trail that landowners donated more than 1/2 million dollars in matching funds to complete the first phase of the project. The matches consisted primarily of the right of ways that the trail occupies though their properties. The Tawlks-Foster Suspension Bridge stands as a monument to what neighbors can do.
Today the Methow Valley Sport Trail Association is the second largest in the nation.
As the winter snow begins it's annual retreat to the high country the 1600 miles of National Forest trails start to open up like the flowers you will see along the way.
Backpackers hikers and horseman will find many excellent opportunities in Okanogan National Forest.
Pasayten Wilderness is the Methow's oldest and most popular wilderness. Pasayten starts near the valley floor in the northern Methow Valley, gaining elevation gradually to a rolling highlands plateau that gives way to rugged mountain peaks of the North Cascades. The trails are long and well suited to travel on horseback.
The Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness is the newest wilderness. The trails are shorter and steeper, generally reaching alpine meadows in five to seven miles. The Sawtooth Wilderness is an excellent choice for a shorter horse pack trip or for a backpacker that wants solitude.
Camping: If you are looking for a full hookup campsite, one of the state's favorites is Pearrygin Lake State Park. If you are looking for something closer to town you can't beat the hospitality at the Winthrop KOA . If an outhouse and a beautiful river is good enough, try one of the Okanogan National Forest campgrounds.
River Rafting: The Methow River has class 4 white water rafting, and miles of scenic river rafting as well. Several outfitters are available. I have floated with Osprey River Adventures. Some others are River Rider or Orion Expeditions.
Fishing: The Methow offers a wide variety of fishing. Visit this local guide company.
In the summer months the alpine lakes of Pasayten Wilderness, the Sawtooth Wilderness and Cascade Mountains have such spectacular mountain views they seem just like heaven for fisherman. Flowing from the high mountain lakes are streams teaming with smaller trout that I have seen bite on a bare hook. At the point where the mountain streams converge with the valley rivers the rivers are closed to fishing for salmon spawning. The lower sections of the rivers open up to fishing in the early summer.
Shallow draft river boats move silently over the many deep holes along the lower Methow River. In the early spring the lower lakes of the Methow and Okanogan valleys produce nice size firm fish until summer.
For the hard-core never-say-die fisherman, the Columbia River is the place to go. Only 45 minutes from Winthrop, the Columbia has many varieties of fish. In Lake Pateros behind Azwell Wells Dam you will find good Walleye and Steelhead fishing. Rufus Woods Lake behind Chief Joseph Dam at Bridgeport has excellent kokanee, trout and walleye fishing. Trout fishing here is for lunkers of state record sizes. Both lakes have little to no traffic and fishing is good year round.
Mountain Biking: Endless trails through public and private lands for all levels. You can ride for days along trails looking into mountain views in total privacy. The Methow Valley, a high, dry, Colorado-type oasis in the otherwise soggy Cascades, has become globally famous for its sprawling cross-country-ski trail system. Many people don't realize that the whole network, ranging from the gentle 17-mile Methow Valley Community Trail between Mazama and Winthrop to gear-grinding single track climbs in the Rendezvous Trail System, is open to bikes in the "off-season."
Horseback Riding: The Methow was first visited on horseback and it might still be best appreciated on the back of a horse. There are a number of day ride outfitters available: Walking D Ranch .
If you have your own horses the day rides are endless. You can follow spring flowers all the way to alpine meadows in August. One of my favorite places is Twisp River Horse Camp. Yep, it's a camp for horses. Feed bunks and hitching rails are available. Access to 5 mountain trails are nearby and the camp is on the Twisp River. The Methow Valley Backcountry Horsemen have several rides throughout the year.
Horse Packing and Outfitting: There are a number of outfitters in the Methow Valley. With 1600 miles of trails a pack trip can be a great choice to see more of the beautiful countryside. Drop camps are available to backpackers and horseman. North Cascade Outfitters
Most folks come to the Methow for the cross country skiing. The groomed trails have a track for the classic skier (Diagonal stride) and a platform for the skating skier. The 175 kilometers groomed ski trail system has three major sub systems each offering challenges to different ability levels. Special trails are also set aside for snowshoeing.
Cross Country Skiing: Mazama is very scenic and a great area for beginners learning to ski.
Sun Mountain area is good for beginner and advanced skiers. The Eagle Nest Lounge at the lodge is a great place to enjoy a hot drink after skiing.
Rendezvous area is for the intermediate to advanced skiers. The views are outrageous looking into the Cascades and Sawtooth Mountains. You can rent a fully outfitted hut for a memorable overnight experience.Backcountry Skiing: For the adventurer contact North Cascades Mountain Guides.
Helicopter Skiing: Includes snow boarding and back county telemark drops that take you up high, drop you off and then you ski back down to the valley floor. North Cascades Heli Skiing
Downhill Skiing: The Loup Loup Ski Bowl has no lift lines and ticket prices of $30, the hill is 1200 vertical, the terrain is challenging by any standard. Fun hogs have put away 50,000 vertical in a day.
Snowmobiling: Snowmobilers come from near and far to cruise on the more than 300 miles of groomed trails located on Okanogan National Forest lands. One of the unique things about snowmobiling in the Methow is you are up and out of the valley floor away from private lands. This means the average person visiting the valley would never even know there are hundreds of snowmobiles enjoying deep snow and sunshine on an average day.
Accomodations: The premier resort in the Methow Valley is Sun Mountain Lodge. Outside of hotels and motels in the Twisp and Winthrop most of the accommodations are small inns and lodges located on the trail system. Some inns like the Mazama Country Inn have tennis courts and recreation centers. Others offer quiet seclusion, as does Timberline Meadows. Many cabins and homes along the trail are rented on a nightly basis and make popular choices for families that have come to the Methow to enjoy the outdoor recreation.
Transportation/Roads: State Route 20 is the only route though the Methow Valley. The northern portion of the highway closes in November or December and reopens in March or April due to heavy snow conditions in the North Cascades. Travel time from Seattle via the southern route is approximately 4 hours and 3.5 hours via the North Cascades Highway.
Taxi Service: Originating in the Methow to all points in Washington. Mountain Transporter