For our anniversary, the boyfriendo surprised me with a weekend in Winthrop! Located northeast of Seattle, near North Cascades National Park, this town is a playground in both the winter and summer for outdoor activities–but how would the shoulder season hold up?
Mid-October in Washington in general is a mixed bag, weather-wise. You could have snow or weather in the high 60s, making outdoorsy activities require packing twice the gear to be prepared. Things I definitely needed on Day 1 in Winthrop but didn’t pack: Sunglasses and sunscreen. It was a gorgeous day out! Being our first full day in town, we wanted a shorter hike so we’d have time to wander though town and make our dinner reservations. The boyfriendo had done some research on nearby hikes, and we had a guidebook at our cabin of nearby hikes to consult as well. We picked Patterson Mountain, a quick 3.5-4ish mile hike very close to town. Hoping to see some fall color, we set off!
We parked at the trailhead, a lake surrounded by yellow aspens. A quick dart across the street and your descent begins immediately. About a quarter-mile up, you reach a gate where you have a choice to go right (on the Southern Loop trail) or through another gate to the left (for the northern loop trail). As we pondered which route to take, I had to take in the sights–not just the lake, but the Sawtooth mountains, with what looked like a fresh layer of snow on top also beckoned.
We chose to go take the Southern loop leg. The Northern loop leg is a bit steeper than southern loop, and I was already huffing and puffing (at a whopping 1500-ish feet altitude). Whatever choice you make, do be sure to close the gate(s) fully. Most of this trail is on DNR grazing land, so there could be livestock gets out. We saw no cows, but plenty of cowpies in varying states of aging, so watch your step! If you do see cows, approach tentatively and keep dogs leashed.
The southern loop option had us mostly in the open, climbing upward and closer to stunning views. We quickly reached the cairn intersection where the two legs meet at the junction for a half-mile more to the summit. For a Friday morning there was a fair amount of people around at the top–on a gorgeous day like that I couldn’t blame them! There’s a few concrete structures at the top, and some rocks for sitting and taking in the view.
And what a view! 360 degrees of mountains and the Methow Valley. I can see why people do this hike year-round–besides the view and fall color, there’s tons of wildflowers in the spring, and it’s a popular snowshoe destination in the winter (also, can you imagine a summer sunrise/sunset hike here?). You can also continue a bit further and check out the southern top of Patterson Mountain here (although now you have Jeeps to look out for instead of cattle).
For the sake of variety, we went the Northern Loop back. We could immediately tell we made the right choice for going up–this route was definitely steeper. However, it also was a bit more interesting–still some peekaboo views of the mountains, but also ponderosa pines were scattered amongst the aspens. There also is the excitement of having to cross a wire fence via a ladder! If you have problems with climbing a ladder at all, I’d just stick with the Southern Loop route both ways, but for me it was a welcome adventure.
A few more thickets of aspens and we were done–already! Maybe it was the views, maybe it was the climbing, but this hike zoomed by in what felt like a flash. I now want to check this hike out in all four seasons, just to compare! Have you ever done a hike in different seasons to compare? What hike?
Distance (Can vary, depending on route): 3.7 -4 miles
Elevation: 1070 feet
Parking: Discover Pass
Bathrooms: Honey Buckets and enclosed bathroom at trailhead (enclosed bathroom might not be year-round?)
Best Beer Bets: Old Schoolhouse Brewery or Methow Cider in Winthrop