The Best Summer Getaways: Methow Valley, Washington

Bomb the Cascades

May 14, 2012
Outside Magazine
North Cascades detour

North Cascades detour    Photo: Dan Barham

The best way to celebrate June in Seattle: head east toward the dry side of the mountains with skis and a mountain bike in tow. At dawn, double-park beside big, lingering snowdrifts on the North Cascades Highway’s 5,477-foot Washington Pass for some lazy spring ski turns beneath the granite thumb of 7,720-foot Liberty Bell. (Pick up Rainer Burgdorfer’s 100 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes in Washington, then slap on the skins at the Blue Lake Trailhead.) Ski the abundant spring corn back to the car, then point the tires downhill to the Methow Valley, a handsome fold in the lion-colored hills that’s home to hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails (daylong rentals, $45 at Methow Cycle and Sport). Opt for the 13.5-mile Buck Mountain Loop, just north of Winthrop. It’s not the most taxing route in the area, but the scenery is unreal. Climb the 1,300-foot Forest Service road that begins the route beside exploding bouquets of arrowleaf balsamroot, a relative of the sunflower. Then the trail shifts to singletrack, swooping and rolling for miles among open hillsides, as tall white peaks loom on the western horizon. Finish the trip at the bottom of a local IPA on the Twisp River Pub’s river-front deck.