Great Escapes 2010: Methow Valley

The stress of daily life falls away as you drive to the Methow Valley over the spectacular North Cas

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The stress of daily life falls away as you drive to the Methow Valley over the spectacular North Cascades Highway. Surrounded by the glacial peaks of the North Cascades, and gateway to the vastness of the Okanogan National Forest, the Pasayten Wilderness and the Sawtooth Wilderness, the Methow lures Seattleites back again and again. A trio of small towns in the 50-mile-long valley attracts bold adventurers and seekers of quiet. From Mazama to the Western-themed Winthrop and finally to Twisp, outfitters will take visitors to secret fishing spots and on hot-air-balloon rides, river-rafting trips, mountain climbs, horseback rides and mountain-bike adventures. Or they'll happily let you kick back and do nothing.

Travel time from Seattle: About 3.5 hours in summer

What’s New:

In March, Winthrop welcomed a new Mexican grill and cantina, Carlos 1800, at the former Winthrop Palace. Owner Carlos J. Perez will host his first Cinco de Mayo festival May 1–5, with Mariachi Estrella de Mexico performing May 5. The French Quail, a women’s boutique that opened in the valley in 2007, is moving this month to a new building on the site of the Last Trading Post in Winthrop.

What To Do:
The Methow Valley Ranger District in Winthrop has information on more than 1,600 miles of hiking trails in the Okanogan National Forest. Get wet while tubing, kayaking or rafting the Class III and IV rapids of the Methow River with River riders. Browse the Methow Valley Farmers’ Market in Twisp on Saturday mornings April through October. Can’t decide between road biking or mountain biking? The Methow makes room to do both, with quiet, scenic roads for the touring set and plenty of wooded trails for the vélo tout-terrain crowd. (Travel light and rent your gear at Methow Cycle and Sport.) Even if you don’t care to leave the comfort of your car, taking the rough but scenic switchback road up to Slate Peak (elevation: 7,000 feet) will allow you to say you drove the highest road in Washington state. Remodeled last December, the funky  MAZAMA STORE is known for its fabulous chocolate emmer espresso cookies. It also makes fresh bread from local flours, and a selection of pastries guaranteed to fuel any ambitious—or sedentary—activity. Sheri's SWEET SHOP in Winthrop has dreamy caramel apples, plus an outdoor ice cream stand. Also in Winthrop, Arrowleaf Bistro offers gourmet dining from a menu that changes almost weekly. Tappi, in Twisp, names its wood-fired pizzas after family members—try the Uncle Felix, featuring fennel sausage from the local butcher. The cookies and the focaccia from the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery shouldn’t be missed.

Where To Stay:
The Freestone Inn ($139–$745 per night) rents lovely Northwest-traditional lodge rooms (with sunny balconies) as well as rustic cabins, all facing a sparkling lake at the edge of Mazama. Steps away from the lodge, jack's hut has gobs of outdoor gear for rent, and it can help plan hiking, biking, horseback-riding and hot-air-ballooning trips. At the Mazama Country Inn, comfortable but spare rooms ($95–$145 per night) may remind you of Grandma’s house and generous meals come family style. The inn rents mountain bikes and can point you to hiking trails or book your next adventure on horseback. The distinctive rolling huts AT wesola Polana ($95–$105 per night), designed by Seattle architect Tom Kundig, put a modern twist on camping. A new café on site operates Thursday through Monday. Winthrop’s River Run Inn has comfortable rooms ($75–$145 per night) and cabins ($140–$200 per night) situated on the river right outside town and within walking distance of many activities.

Modern-day von Trapps
Sun Moun