I recently had the pleasure of heading to the Methow Valley for a family reunion. This is a beautiful part of Washington State—an area so special it is what you envision when you read fairy tales about a princess coming from a land far, far away. It’s located in north-central Washington, over the North Cascades Highway. (The pass closes in the winter, so in the snowy months, you can reach the valley by going over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 or Stevens Pass on Highway 2.)
When driving to the Methow on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20), you can’t, shouldn’t—just don’t—make the mistake of missing the Cascadian Farm in Rockport. They have the best blueberry ice cream ever. Oh, and hit the fruit stand, too. I’m the biggest sucker for a fruit stand, and this is a good one.
The Methow Valley has five towns (Methow, Carlton, Twisp, Winthrop, and Mazama), and each one has a distinct feel. Methow and Carlton are pretty small, residential places. Twisp has an unpretentious local flavor with a lot of shops and galleries and restaurants; Winthrop is an old-west, cowboy-themed town, and Mazama is an outdoorsman’s haven. The valley is a great place to visit year round. There’s usually a lot of snow in the winter, and they often get Indian summers, so a fall camping trip can be a great way to stretch out your short Seattle sunny season.
On this trip, my family stayed at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop. This lodge is paradise for a family. We had cowboy cookouts. The kids got to go on pony rides, roast s’mores, and get almost within touching distance of deer. We listened to cowboys sing “git along little doggy” while keeping warm by the fire. (Check out the video below!) H and his cousins played on the play structure, and we enjoyed great food and stayed in really nice rooms.
Several years ago, I also had the pleasure of acting in a film (Ray of Darkness) that was shot in Winthrop, so I was able to spend some time trying out the restaurants and checking out the stores. It is such a cute town to take a day meandering through. It is impossible for us to go there and not get an ice cream cone and hit the candy shop at Sheri’s.
Here are a few ideas for things to do in the valley:
The Twisp River Pub is a must. The food is delicious, portions are good, prices are reasonable, and the setting is family friendly. Their handcrafted beer is brewed on site in one of the smallest commercial breweries in the world. Plus there’s outdoor seating on a deck overlooking the river and live music on Friday nights.
Stop at the Mazama Store for a treat. You won’t be disappointed. The sandwiches and bakery are amazing. You’ll also enjoy looking through their impressive natural foods selection and perusing their clothing and other odds-and-ends supplies.
Parents’ Night Out
Moms, check out the French Quail clothing store in Winthrop. The woman who owns this boutique has great taste. She also owns the Courtyard Quail (a home décor shop) and two stores in Leavenworth.
If your family likes to hike, the Goat Peak Lookout trail in Mazama has some breathtaking views, and when you get to the top, you can spend time chatting with Lightning Bill Austin, who lives there with his two dogs during the summer months and works as a forest fire lookout. It’s a pretty steep climb, but a lot of kids seem to scamper up the trail without much trouble, and the views are definitely worth it.
If your kids are young or you aren’t really into hiking, the Falls Creek Falls trail is a good option. In Winthrop, take the West Chewuch Road (across from the Winthrop Barn) north 10.5 miles to the Falls Creek Falls trail, then take a five-minute walk on the paved path to a beautiful waterfall. It’s a nice spot for a picnic.
Sun Mountain Lodge has an amazing network of trails that are used for cross-country skiing in the winter. In the summer, we love going for a horseback ride on the trails.
Sheri’s, the candy shop in Winthrop, also has an 18-hole mini golf course that’s a lot of fun for kids. There’s a nice park and swimming area at Pearrygin Lake, or you can rent boats and swim at Patterson Lake by Sun Mountain Lodge.
Stop by the Merc Playhouse in Twisp, which puts on productions year round.
It can be challenging to find a vacation spot that works well for everyone in the family. I can assure you that this is one of those sure things. Bon voyage!