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Best time of year to ride in the Methow Valley?

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Best time of year to ride in the Methow Valley?

Old 08-13-15, 09:34 AM
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Seattle Forrest
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Best time of year to ride in the Methow Valley?

Every spring I go to Leavenworth and do a few rides, like Icicle Road, the Chumstick Highway to Plain and Lake Wenatchee, etc. April is the right time to do these rides because it's in the 60s to 70s, there's still snow on the mountains which adds to the scenery, and some of the roads were just cleared. October is best for the Blewett/Sauk loop because of the larches.

I have some road and also some MTB routes picked out in the Methow. Is there any right time of year to be riding out there? I'm not aiming for larch season, I plan to be backpacking for that.
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Old 08-13-15, 07:48 PM
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September, October.
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Old 08-14-15, 09:37 AM
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I've always wanted to get over there before Highway 20 opens and ride to WA pass from Winthrop. If you time it right you can ride it pretty much to the pass and it is traffic free from the gate west of Mazama. You would need to coordinate with the DOT to make sure they aren't blasting or shutting sections down but it sounds like they are cool with bikes as long as you don't interfere with their work.

We rented mountain bikes from Goats Beard in Mazama November 1 last year and did a mellow loop in the upper valley. It was really nice but crisp that day. September and October are usually really pleasant, it can still get hot early September and the mornings can be really cool. MVSTA (now Methow Trails) used to organize a bike weekend in October that had both mountain and road rides. The century started early and the temps had dipped to freezing the night before so it was chilly on the ride out. By the finish we had all pretty much stripped down to shorts and short sleeve jerseys.

The Methow Trails :: Home website has trail info.

Heads up that October is hunting season and the back-roads are packed with lots of camps with a lot of hunters. We never had any issues and they seem to be mostly a friendly lot but I'd take precautions about where I rode and what I was wearing. A couple of years back we did another rental and ride on the Buck Mountain Loop in late October and the guy at the bike shop said bright colors were called for.
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Old 08-17-15, 09:06 AM
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Thanks, both of you!

I said something about this out loud, and my girlfriend said "Yes! Let's go to Winthrop!" So I spent the weekend out there. Did the Buck Mountain Loop on an MTB - fantastic! Also did the West Fork Methow River Trail on foot, it's gorgeous, and open to mountain bikes, but there's a lot of avalanche debris making the trail impassible a couple mils in. The guy at the bike shop told me to come back in late September or early October.
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Old 08-21-15, 11:17 PM
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.

Well, now isn't the time to ride it, it's all on fire.
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Old 08-24-15, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Thanks, both of you!

I said something about this out loud, and my girlfriend said "Yes! Let's go to Winthrop!" So I spent the weekend out there. Did the Buck Mountain Loop on an MTB - fantastic! Also did the West Fork Methow River Trail on foot, it's gorgeous, and open to mountain bikes, but there's a lot of avalanche debris making the trail impassible a couple mils in. The guy at the bike shop told me to come back in late September or early October.
That Buck Mtn. loop is nice. It was at the outer limits of our neophyte mountain biking abilities but still fun.

Glad you avoided the smoke and fire closures.

Definitely our favorite place in the state.
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Old 08-27-15, 09:10 AM
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Anybody think the roads will be open and people back in the Methow before the snows fall?
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Old 08-27-15, 10:44 AM
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I certainly hope so, supposed to run a marathon there at the end of September.
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Old 08-27-15, 03:28 PM
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Spring is another good time to ride the flowers are out and it is green. Of course I had to delay my annual trip this year until the weekend after Labor Day. It doesn't look good for us this year
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Old 08-27-15, 05:09 PM
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They had a huge fire there last year and the fall was nice. Still time, just need a good wet system to move through.
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Old 08-27-15, 08:03 PM
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^^ Agree, I would not give up on the area for later this fall. Last year, the last week of September, I went over with friends and rode the Angels Staircase loop. Driving up the valley from Pateros you could see the damage from the Carlton fire, but Twisp and Winthrop were open for business and the the trails were in great shape. The local business owners sure appreciated our business. Let's hope some wet systems roll through and help the fire crews out.
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Old 08-28-15, 08:56 AM
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Any comments or thoughts you can share about Angels Staircase? Do you happen to have a GPS file? I want to do this ride and I want to get an idea how demanding it is.

Here's a map showing the extent of the fires.

Let's hope they get a lot of rain this weekend.
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Old 08-28-15, 01:11 PM
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I really like the Angels Staircase loop. But it's not really a mountain bike ride...it's more of a backcountry experience where you bring your bike along and occasionally you get to ride it

I would break the ride into five parts:

1. The climb from the trailhead to Cooney Lake. Mostly rideable on good trail. Big climb though, you'll need to be in shape. Cooney Lake is spectacular especially when the Larches have turned.
2. The climb from Cooney Lake to Angels Staircase. Total hike-a-bike all the way up. I've even carried my bike on my back up this part. A real ball-buster. But the views from the top are worth it on a clear day.
3. The descent off Angel's Staircase. Exposed, rocky and VERY technical. Mostly rideable if you have the skills, but the consequences of a fall are nasty.
4. The ride over to Boiling Lake and the climb to horsehead pass. About 50% rideable, except the climb to horsehead pass is mostly a push. Really, really scenic. Even when pushing I always enjoy this part.
5. The descent from horsehead pass to the trailhead. Super fun. Technical in spots and a couple of shorts climbs thrown in to keep you honest.

If you are in good shape, you will enjoy the loop. I'd allow 8+ hours to complete it, even though it's only around 23 miles for the loop. If you PM me your email address I can send you a .gpx file

I can never resist - a photo from the top:
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Old 09-10-15, 09:29 AM
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My girlfriend and I spent Labor Day weekend in Winthrop. I did a couple of road rides and a MTB loop. Fall is definitely settling in. We got snowed on on Slate Peak. The air is clear, there's no smoke or smell of it. Highway 20 is open.



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Old 09-18-15, 07:33 PM
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Thanks for the update on conditions. I am hoping to start in Newhalem and ride to Winthrop, then turn around after an exploring day and ride back to Newhalem. 150 mi round trip. Will have to be in mid Oct so watching weather will be the thing.
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Old 09-29-15, 09:18 AM
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Was were just over there this past weekend and the weather was perfect, cool in the mornings and pushing 70F by the afternoons. They had a lot of activities going on, a couple of which got pushed back from their August dates because of the fires. It should be nice for a few more weeks although with temps getting cooler as fall sets in.

A lot of the businesses had a tough summer and it sounds like the crowds haven't returned in full yet so they would probably appreciate your patronage.
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Old 10-01-15, 10:49 AM
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I just got back from a week in the Methow.

Larches are approaching peak at Harts Pass and above Washington Pass. Plenty of yellow to see from the highway.

It's approaching freezing at night and into the 70s by the afternoon.

I rode over Washington Pass, did a loop to Twisp and back, and took a rented MTB over Cutthroat Pass. Had plans to camp at Grasshopper Pass but we got snowed on for hours, it was 30F in the afternoon and we predicted it would be in the single digits at night, we had 20F bags and didn't want to push it, so spent the night in a hotel instead. (The bike shop held my road bike for me while I hiked. )







And yours truly.

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Old 10-01-15, 12:31 PM
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^^ Beautiful SF. Love this time of year. Thanks for posting.
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Old 10-01-15, 03:02 PM
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I should probably say that Methow Cycle and Sport held my bike for me while Beth and I set out to backpack from Harts Pass. So I wouldn't have to keep it in the car and worry about it being broken in to. They didn't even charge for it. (I bought a shirt from them and rented a MTB though.)
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Old 10-01-15, 04:17 PM
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I always try to give that shop some business when I am in town as they have always been very welcoming and great with advice on trail conditions and routes.
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Old 02-04-16, 06:15 PM
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We rode from Twisp to the Pictographs a couple of years ago in late June. Here are our notes...
This was one of our all time favorite rides. Perfect weather, light winds and spectacular scenery. We started at Twisp. We talked to a lady in the Community Center Visitor Information Center that was a long time resident and a bike rider. She suggested that we use the Winthrop Twisp Eastside Road instead of SR20 to get to Winthrop. Great suggestion. Very light local traffic, courteous drivers and spectacular scenery. We were constantly pulling over for a digital moment. She also suggested that we continue on through Winthrop (instead of going to Mazama) and ride out on Bluff St (becomes Eastside Chewach Rd.) to the pictographs. She told us that they were "on a large boulder that doesn't belong there". We would know when we got there. We got out about 8 miles and the road became really deserted. We wondered how much further we had to go. We came across three women that were hard core cross country ski racers. They were summer training on the road version of snow skis. One woman said she had lived in the area all her life and didn't know where they were. Interesting. We decided to continue. At exactly 11 miles from Winthrop, we saw the boulder. The sides of the road had been lined with pine trees with no visible rock. Yet, here was this huge boulder right beside the road. Sure enough, we looked around the backside of the boulder and there they were. Unfortunately, some lowlifes had defaced some of them, but a few were still very prominent. Very cool.
We retraced our route back to Twisp and had a late lunch (6pm) in the park next to the Community Center.
What a great ride. Highly recommended. Total miles: 44. Total ascent 1733'. No big climbs, just rolling terrain.
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