Every time I visit the Methow Valley, I love it a little bit more, and this latest trip was no exception. Last week we headed over for a short vacation during our daughter’s mid-winter break from school. Tom and Rowan were excited to ski, and I was looking forward to riding my new n+1, a Diamondback El Oso Grande (fatbike) that has been keeping me sane this winter.
My broken ankle continues to heal, but progress is slower than I’d prefer (i.e., not immediate 😉 ) and so I’ve returned to biking – my very first endurance love – to satisfy my need for long, self-propelled days outside. So far this winter that’s included road riding, gravel grinding, a bit of MTBing, and a new favorite: fatbiking.
I knew from research and word-of-mouth that there were plenty of fatbike-friendly trails in the Methow, and the area definitely did not disappoint. Because this was a family trip, I “only” had a couple hours each day for riding, but I made the most of my time and checked out Pearrygin State Park, Llloyd Ranch, and Gunn Ranch during our short visit. Methow Cycle and Sport is a great place to find information on most of the fatbiking trails in the valley, including maps to Pearrygin and Lloyd Ranch. (Soon, I hope to put together a complete list of fatbike-legal terrain in the Methow – and then ride them all!)
Pearrygin State Park:
We left Seattle on Wednesday morning, arriving in the Methow around 1 pm. Tom and Rowan dropped me off at Pearrygin Lake State Park (just a few miles outside of town) and then ate a late lunch and wandered around town while I explored the state park.
Fatbikes (and snowshoes) are allowed on all the groomed trails at Pearrygin, which is pretty awesome. I warmed up on a few of the shorter trails around the closed campground area, and then headed out to circumnavigate the lake using the Rex Derr trail, which was the highlight of the afternoon.
To loop the lake, I recommend parking at Lake Creek trailhead, which is the trailhead closest to town. This will give you less driving, more riding, plus you get right down to the good stuff by starting with a traverse along the southwest side of the lake. Riding around the lake does require a bit of road riding on the north end, along Bear Creek Rd, but this road is fairly quiet and was covered in packed snow and ice, which made for reasonable fat-bike riding.
Fun times along the Rex Derr trail.
The next morning, I woke up early and headed out to Lloyd Ranch. (Lloyd Ranch is just across the street from Pearrygin State Park, and the two areas could easily be combined into one longer ride.) I knew from reading the Methow Cycle and Sport description that there were good views to be had from Lloyd Ranch, and I was hoping that would make it a great place for a sunrise ride. It was!
I headed straight up the ridge for sunrise, and then looped around a bit, enjoying all of the many mountain views. It was a lovely morning on the bike. A few of the trails were a little soft, so I aired down a bit using a low-pressure tire gauge recommended to me by Shawn Pedersen of NW Fatbike. Shawn has been a great resource as I get up to speed on fatbiking in the PNW, and has some very cool pics and trip reports to share from his fatbike adventures. (Ask him to show you video of the pine marten chasing a snowshoe hare!)
On my way home I stopped at Rocking Horse Bakery, which was delicious as always, and then I also stopped at the pedestrian bridge in Winthrop to watch the Methow River. The water was cold enough that small ice floes were forming, but still warmer than the surrounding air, which made for some mesmerizing fog over the partially-frozen river.
Later that afternoon Tom tried out his new skins for the first time, with a short ski tour up the hill behind Alison and Sam’s house. Thanks to Sam of Cascade Endurance for setting the skin track and being super encouraging in general.
On our last day in the Methow, I woke up early again and headed out to enjoy sunrise from Gunn Ranch. The Gunn Ranch trail is a relatively steady climb on a nice grade up to Grizzly Hut. The wide trail has occasional undulations, which give your legs brief respites from all the climbing on the ascent, and the opportunity to climb and warm up a bit on the otherwise speedy descent.
When I was there, it had been groomed the night before and conditions were damn near perfect. The only “imperfection” were a bunch of large feline tracks about half-way up, proving that perfect is boring anyway! It was fun to follow the tracks and guess what the animals were doing. In some places the tracks stuck to the road in a no-nonsense straight line, while in other places the cat(s) had wandered back and forth. Sometimes they were walking, other times running. I wasn’t sure if they were large bobcat or small mountain lion, but either way it was cool to see so much activity.
After approximately 4 miles of climbing, you reach Grizzly Hut, which is a dog-friendly hut available for nightly rentals. The hut was occupied when I was there, so I tried to give them some space and privacy, which means I don’t have any pics of the interior. Next time!
That afternoon, on the way back to Seattle, we stopped at Loup Loup so Tom and Rowan could ski (my ankle still isn’t up for it). There are at least a few miles of fat bike trails at the Loup, if not more. I didn’t have time to check them out during this trip, but that’s just another thing to look forward to next time!