When snow makes way for wildflowers in spring, mountain bikers flock to the Methow to enjoy hundreds of miles of well maintained, easy to access single track and scenic Forest Service roads. Winthrop is the base-camp for every type of ride imaginable. From gentle family-friendly rides, paralleling the Methow River along the Methow Community Trail, to technical, high alpine single-track, the terrain is endless. Maps and trail guides are available in town.
The locals will tell you that there is a progression of rides that open up as the snow melts off and higher trails become accessible. Consider hitting a few of these classic rides:
Pipestone Canyon (Moderate & Advanced)
Pipestone Canyon is a popular destination early in the season (or in the fall!) before other higher elevation rides have thawed out. The ride can be done as a loop of dirt roads or as a loop including single-track along the rim of the canyon.
Singletrack Loop: 14 miles, Dirt Road Loop: 16 miles
Difficulty Level: Singletrack Loop: Advanced, Singletrack & Dirt Road: Moderate
Sun Mountain Trails (All levels)
This is not a specific loop or route but rather a system of trails that can be linked together to provide just the length and difficulty of ride desired. There are Forest Service Roads, single track, and double track. Wooded sections and wide-open hillsides provide a variety of scenic options. Patterson Lake can provide welcome relief on a hot summer day. The Sun Mountain Trails are an excellent place to spend an hour or a day of riding.
West Fork of the Methow River (Moderate)
This is a Methow Valley favorite. It is a great out and back single track that features very moderate elevation change. In fact, the last mile of the trail gains almost 500 feet, so if it is left off, the ride is 14 miles with only 1100 feet of gain. At its end, the trail intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail, but no bikes are allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Singletrack Loop: 14 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Cutthroat Pass (Advanced, moderately easy to the lake)
This 12 mile round-trip ride is all on single-track in a stunning alpine setting. The trail between the trailhead and the lake is popular with hikers so ride in control. The ride is an out and back, gaining 2300ft. Because of hikers, this is a good ride to do midweek or late in the day.
Singletrack Loop: 12 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Advanced
Angel’s Staircase (Advanced)
This is THE Methow Valley Ride for the serious mountain biker. It requires fitness and an adaptive attitude. The loop reaches altitudes of 8000 feet, so being prepared for varying weather anytime of the year is necessary. This is an all single-track ride that takes a full day, and technical riding experience.
Distance: 25 miles
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Elevation Gain: 5000 feet
The Methow Valley has a series of mountain bike maps that cover even more riding options. Maps are available for purchace at the sporting good stores in Winthrop. You can also pick up a free mountain bike informational card at many local businesses.
Methow Valley road cycling is just as epic as the mountain biking. From the town of Winthrop, road riders can experience a new ride every day of the week without ever having to get in a car. Few regions in the nation can claim such a perfect combination of stunning scenery and practically empty pavement. Here are a few favorites:
Strenuous (60 miles round trip from Winthrop, 30 miles round trip from Mazama) (4 -5 hours)
A fairly strenuous climb that is well worth the effort for the outstanding views and epic descent! This is the defining ride of the valley. Follow the rolling ride up Hyw 20 to Mazama and consider fueling up on baked goods and a cold drink before starting up the Pass. The climbing starts at about mile 15 and is fairly relentless the whole way to the top. Take plenty of water, food and some layers of clothing. While it can be really warm in the valley, the summit of the Pass can be pretty frigid- especially if the wind is blowing! To shorten the ride, start at Mazama or the Freestone Inn.
Distance: 60 miles
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Strenuous Climbing (18 miles) (1.5 hours)
A quick jaunt from town on Twin Lakes Road will take you to the turn-off to the famous Sun Mountain Lodge. From there it is about 7 miles up two fairly steep but not too long climbs to the summit at the lodge. On the way, pass by Patterson Lake and take in the fields of Balsamroot flowers in the spring on Patterson Mountain. The best easily accessible views of the valley are to be found at the Lodge (as well as snacks and fine dining). Turn around for a fast spin back to town.
Distance: 18 miles
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Easy (14 miles) (45 minutes to an hour)
An easy loop ride, on quiet roads of undulating terrain. The route takes you up West Chewuch Road and then back on East Chewuch Road (can be reversed). For the ambitious, the route can be easily added to by continuing up the Chewuch Road to Andrews Creek (actually about 24 miles from Winthrop) which is a gradual climb. Or for those for whom no ride is complete without some suffering, add Boulder Creek Road which offers moderate climbing, or Falls Creek (the local Alp D'Huez) which is very steep at the start, followed by 8 miles or so of constant climbing.
Distance: 14 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy to Strenous
Easy (30 miles roundtrip) (1.5 hours)
A gradual, undulating ride up the Methow Valley on Hwy 20 (busier than some of the side roads, but with a good shoulder and visibility). Ride West on Hwy 20 for 9 mi, and turn right on Goat Creek Road for a slightly hillier but more scenic ride the last 6 mi to Mazama.
Distance: 30 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy
Phone Alt.: 800-572-0493
Address: Patterson Lake Rd, 9 miles SW of Winthrop
Winthrop, WA 98862