The charming and historic town of Winthrop is a delightful place to visit year round! It makes a scenic weekend road trip from Seattle full of sunshine, outdoor adventure and good food. Winthrop is located in the Methow Valley on the east side of North Cascades National Park and makes a wonderful base camp for exploring the park. The Methow Valley is also home to one of the most spectacular groomed cross country ski trail network in the US.
I’ve spent lots of time in Winthrop and the Methow Valley, mostly in fall (camping and hiking) and winter (family trips and cross country skiing). I’m excited to share it with you!
Winthrop is the homeland of the Methow, Syilx tmixʷ and Nłeʔkepmx TmíxʷPeople.
There are a couple of ways to get to Winthrop from the greater Seattle area. You can head up I-5 to Burlington and then take the North Cascades Highway to Winthrop. The North Cascades Highway is closed in winter, typically sometime in November through late May. This route is 190 miles and takes about 4 hours.
The year round option is to go over I-90/Snoqualmie Pass or US Highway 2/Stevens Pass and then north to Winthrop. Each of these routes is about 240 miles and takes at 4.5 hours (longer depending on stops and road conditions).
I like to do a loop and go one way and come back the other just for variety and to see even more unique Washington landscapes.
From Spokane, it’s about 180 miles and takes about 3.5 hours.
Best time to go to Winthrop
Winthrop is a wonderful destination and a very popular one year round! Visitors from around Washington State and beyond flock here in summer for the sun, river and lake adventures and hiking. When the snow flies, Winthrop is even more popular for its incredible cross country skiing system.
Fall is also very busy between the amazing fall colors on local hikes, the ongoing sunshine and the many prime hunting areas nearby.
If you’re looking to avoid crowds, late spring might be your best bet. High country hiking is not yet accessible and the North Cascades Highway might not yet be open, but you can soak up the sunny days and enjoy the valley trails.
My personal favorite time of year to go to Winthrop are fall and winter, but it’s wonderful any time of year!
Best things to do in Winthrop
Explore the historic town (all year)
Make sure to give yourself some time to wander around the Old West historic downtown Winthrop. The actual town is tiny, just a few blocks long, but there are lots of wonderful shops and restaurants in this very small town.
The wooden boardwalks and buildings are charming and house a surprising amount of amazing food options (see below). In addition, plenty of independent shops invite you to spend some time. Don’t miss the well outfitted outdoors store and the wonderful bookstore, as well as the sweet shop!
Taste local beer, wine and cider (all year)
For those who love to enjoy local drinks when traveling, you have some great options in Winthrop! The Old Schoolhouse Brewery has great beer and a fun atmostphere in a historic schoolhouse. Head to the Methow Valley Ciderhouse to sample local cider, a long tradition in the fruit famous State of Washington!
Lost River Winery is a wonderful place to relax with a glass of wine or enjoy a free tasting of wonderful Washington wine. If you’re a wine lover, you might consider a detour to the many wineries in the Lake Chelan area, 60 scenic miles away.
Shop the farmer’s market (summer)
If you’re visiting on a weekend in the summer, make sure to wander the farmer’s market, which happens on Sundays. Nearby Twisp has it’s market on Saturday.
Winthrop is surrounded by some of Washington’s bounty of agriculture so you’re sure to find plenty of delicious food.
Pearrygin Lake State Park (spring, summer, fall)
Pearrygin Lake is one of my favorite Washington State Parks. It has a beautiful lake and a wonderful campground. If you’re camping, this makes a perfect base camp for exploring Winthrop and the surrounding area, or just spending a weekend relaxing.
There are also a couple of cabins available for rent if you want to stay here without roughing it!
The park is centered around the lake, which is a wonderful place for swimming and fishing. It’s also a great place for sitting around your campfire or reading a book and relaxing. There are also about 6 miles of hiking trails, taking you around the lake with views of the surrounding hills.
Fishing (summer and fall)
The Methow River has amazing catch and release fly fishing, and there are numerous other rivers to fish in the area for steelhead and trout. There is also an abundance of lake fishing. Washington’s fishing regulations can be a bit complicated to understand but are important to follow. I recommend heading over here for specifics about fishing in the Methow Valley and Winthrop area.
Visit North Cascades National Park (summer and fall)
North Cascades National Park is so close to Winthrop and one of the most beautiful national parks! It is often advertised as one of the least visited national parks, but the highway through it is very busy in the summer and early fall and be ready for busy trailheads.
The drive over Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, between Winthrop and Burlington is one of the most beautiful drives in Washington. It takes you from the arid farm land and hills of eastern Washington, into the drier foothills around Mazama, over the towering Cascade Mountains and along rivers into the wet forests of the west side of the state. There are plenty of pullouts with views and short walks so you won’t miss the incredible scenery if you don’t want to hike.
In addition to scenic driving, there are some wonderful hikes along the highway (see the next section).
Hike the incredible scenery of the North Cascades and the Methow Valley (summer and fall)
Winthrop is surrounded by the North Cascades and there are some absolutely stunning hikes, making hiking one of the best things to do in Winthrop! There are so many amazing hikes nearby, probably more than you could get to in a lifetime of hiking the area. Ones in the valley are good options in late spring, however the high mountain areas are often not snow free until well into July. July through early October is the ideal hiking time around here. A few of my favorite hikes in the area include:
Falls Creek Falls
Distance from Winthrop: 6 miles
Best Season: Spring, Summer, Fall (like all waterfalls in Washington, it’s particularly impressive in late spring)
Hiking Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 750 feet
Highlights: A gorgeous waterfall in a beautiful forest without too much climbing to reach it
West Fork Methow River
Distance from Winthrop: 24 miles
Best Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Hiking Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 450 feet
Highlights: A rushing tumbling river hike with gorgeous wildflowers in late spring
Distance from Winthrop: 32 miles
Best Season: July through early October
Hiking Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1000 feet
Highlights: Blue Lake is a wonderful hike with kids, since it’s relatively short and has interesting things to see the entire way, ending at a stunning alpine lake surrounded by epic mountains. In the fall, the larches are incredible here!
Distance from Winthrop: 35 miles
Best Season: July through early October
Hiking Distance: 7 mile loop
Elevation gain: 2000 feet
Highlights: One of the most popular hikes in Washington, expect Maple Pass to be extremely crowded in the summer and especially in the fall during larch season. This hike is so worth it! It’s a loop that travels through beautiful forest, rocky areas with pikas chirping and epic mountain views in all directions. Summer has beautiful wildflowers and late September and early October bring out the golden larches as well as other fall color.
Distance from Winthrop: 34 miles (the last 10 miles are very slow on a steep, windy gravel forest service road)
Best Season: July through early October
Hiking Distance: 9.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1500 feet
Highlights: Grasshopper Pass is one of my all time favorites. This is a long hike, although a shorter distance on the same trail is still stunning. This stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail really has it all! Incredible mountain views, wildflowers, spectacular larch trees and it isn’t particularly crowded. It’s a long drive on a gravel road with steep drop offs, but it’s so worth it. This is a great alternative to the super crowded hikes in the area.
Raft the Methow River
There are a couple of companies in Winthrop that offer rafting, kayaking and tube floating rentals and trips. If you’re looking for adrenaline fueling whitewater rafting or kayaking you can do that! If you’re more into a mellow tube float on a hot summer day or a mellow kayaking experience, you can do that too!
See the stunning larch trees of the North Cascades (fall)
My absolute favorite time of year for hiking in the North Cascades is late September and early October when the alpine larch trees are turning a brilliant gold! There’s just nothing like the golden groves against a mountain and blue sky backdrop. Sometimes you even get a dusting of snow to show the color off even more.
The Methow Valley is well known around the world as an incredible cross country skiing destination, making winter at least as busy or busier than the middle of summer.
Even if you’re never skied before, this is one of the best things to do in Winthrop in the winter! The grooming is perfect and it’s easy to get information about the conditions online. On the trail report they will also tell you where the best skiing and grooming is for that particular day. There are rentals available as well as lessons and lots of beginner terrain as well as advanced.
The Methow Valley trail system stretches from Mazama further up into the North Cascades down to Winthrop making it the largest cross country ski trail system in North America (more than 130 miles!). The trail network stitches together public land and private land, make sure to note and respect all private property signs.
If you are looking for more solitude and some amazing views, I highly recommend the South Summit Sno Park at the summit of Loup Loup Pass. I’ve never seen more than two other cars here, and the views are incredible! This is a wonderful alternative to the busier trails in the valley.
Ice skating (winter)
Winthrop has an absolutely fantastic outdoor community ice rink! You can rent skates and even take lessons here while you enjoy the incredible mountain views all around you.
Balloon Roundup (March)
Arguably the most unique thing about Winthrop is the Hot Air Balloon Festival that happens every year in early March. At least a dozen hot air balloons inflate and rise over the town and the incredible mountain scenery for three days in a row! There is an evening lighted balloon float too that is absolutely gorgeous with all the brightly colored and lighted balloons.
You can even arrange for your own hot air balloon flight during the roundup event.
Best food in Winthrop
Winthrop may be a tiny town, but it has some amazing food! My favorites include Rocking Horse Bakery for really good coffee, breakfast and bakery goods and East 20 Pizza for the perfect post hike pizza (.
If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or just like really good Pacific Northwest dining, don’t miss the Arrowleaf Bistro.
At present, Winthrop is not a great destination for those driving EVs. There are not any fast chargers within 100 miles. The closest fast charging is in Wenatchee (over 100 miles away). There are some chargers for Teslas at wineries near Chelan.
There is also Tesla charging at the Sun Mountain Lodge for guests.
If you have an EV with a long enough range to make it, that’s great! My EV only has about an 80 mile range so it’s way to far from chargers for me!
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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