Off the Grid Snowshoeing in Winthrop

I am incredibly fortunate to have my in-laws live in an amazing location: Winthrop, Washington. There’s year-round outdoor activities here, including some great snowshoeing!

I’ve written about two snowshoeing trails in Winthrop before, at Sun Mountain and Pearrygin Lake State Park. But there’s tons of other options in town, including some free-roaming options. If you want to just explore and likely have some solitude while doing so, the various land around town belonging to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, known as the Methow Wildlife Area, is just the ticket!

Know Before You Go

There’s a few big things to know about off-the-grid snowshoeing on public lands. You’ll likely still need a parking pass, in this case a Discover Pass. Sometimes, you’ll also need a SnoPark pass in addition. Even if you’re not on legitimate trails, this is still public land. Another thing about not being on an established trail is that it is far easier for disaster to strike. It is extra-important to have both your ten essentials and winter essentials in your pack. I always make sure to have maps of the area I’ll be in saved on my phone from Gaia. While this particular day we had cell service the entire time, that is not always going to be the case. Tell someone at home what area you’ll be hiking in and your planned return time. Lastly, while it’s certainly not required, I always hike with my Garmin InReach with SOS capabilities, too.

During President’s Day Weekend, the fiancé, pup, and I hit town. In winter, Highway 20 is closed, so to reach Winthrop from the west you need to go the long way and take either Highway 2 or Highway 90-Blewett Pass-Highway 2 until Wenatchee and then Highway 97 until Pateros. It adds on time to the journey, but it’s worth it for the solitude on the trails.

Our first full day there, we headed to the Bear Creek area just minutes southeast of town. In winter, Bear Creek Road is closed before the official parking lot off of FS 5008-100, so maybe don’t plan on relying on a GPS to get there. I linked above but again, the DFW website is great for more info on the area.  It was clear enough to us where the parking area was, so we set off. Initially we had just spikes on, but lashed our snowshoes to our packs just in case. With no fresh snow, previous steps were packed down enough, and while there was no ‘trail,’ we operated under the assumption whoever was there before might have had a destination in mind, so started out following that. Pretty instantaneously, it was gorgeous, with crisp white snow, blue skies, and sienna-red pines.

I love the contrast of red pines on white snow.
Off Schooner goes!

Unlike Sun Mountain Trails, which don’t allow dogs at all, dogs can be off-leash on this land from October 1st through March 30th. While Schooner would likely take off if he saw a deer, we made sure the coast was clear and let him romp about. As this land an be shared with hunters at times, orange on dogs would be wise, especially if they are off leash. It was great seeing him get to explore, and he did stay close mostly, as we stayed on the prior trail and went up towards a ridge. Sometimes, following prior tracks when snowshoeing can be disasterous, if they were ambling randomly or lost, but turns out whoever was here previously was staying on an actual trail. While wandering can be fun, odds are what is a trail in snow-free times leads to good views.

We continued climbing upward, until we came to a high point. From here, fiancé had had enough of the packed down trail, he wanted to explore. We stepped off-trail, snowshoed up, and began exploring every which way. While this was more fun than walking with spikes on, it’s had for a planner like me to really let loose and enjoy the unknown. We walked somewhat parallel to our previous steps, and even crossed the FS road a couple of times while ambling about. We didn’t really have a mileage goal in mind, just wanting to get some exercise, so when we saw another high point, we decided to aim for that and then call it a day.

Along the way, we came across another hiker, who must have been a local as she was actually facetiming someone on what was probably a routine morning walk. It’s hard to imagine having such beauty be that much of a routine, but it must be nice! We saw a few other hikes that day, but not even ten total, so I’ll again iterate the amazing solitude that can be found here (speakerphone-talking hikers notwithstanding). We almost needed to bust out the heel-lifts for our big push up the hill, but made it with just a little huffing and puffing. We were rewarded with a stunning crest overlooking Pearrygin Lake.


We made our way back to the trailhead. Afterwards, we were admittedly a little bummed to have only done 2.5 miles total, but without a destination in mind to end up at, it was hard to gauge how many miles we wanted to do and how to achieve that. At least my pup got tons of exercise being off-leash!

Not quite yet ready to go fully off the grid? Other options in-town that allow a bit of the freedom but can still have trails for you to go off of include the Riser Lake/Lewis Butte area. Of course, don’t forget the requisite stop at Old Schoolhouse Brewing after!


3 Replies to “Off the Grid Snowshoeing in Winthrop”

  1. More breaks are needed during snowshoeing. Bring a thermos of a hot beverage and enjoy the view for 20 minutes.

    1. A buttpad helps keep you warm and dry during those breaks!

  2. Mama Boots says: Reply

    Looks like you had sunny skies with some puffy clouds. I especially like the photo of Schooner marching ahead in the snow.

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