11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Winthrop, WA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Feb 22, 2021

Winthrop is a charming mountain town nestled into the Methow Valley of Washington. This famous adventure is known for its unsurpassed mountain scenery and sunny weather. The city itself stands out thanks to its themed downtown district resembling the 1850s Old West.

With a population of under 500 residents, Winthrop hosts thousands of visitors each year. This influx of guests adds unique community tourist attractions to the area, including immersive museums and seasonal ice rinks. The town also supports the many local businesses occupying the Old West storefronts lining the downtown boardwalk.

The real draw to the community, however, is the access to the outdoors. An extensive network of multi-use trails connects the Methow Valley throughout the year. Come winter, this network is the most extensive Nordic trail system in the country. Many of the routes spread throughout the surrounding Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

The town is also a prominent stop on Highway 20, also known as the North Cascades Scenic Byway, which passes through North Cascades National Park. With such a surplus of outdoor landscapes and community flavor, the Methow Valley is one of the state's most visited regions. Find a reason to check out the town yourself with our list of the top things to do in Winthrop.

1. Cross-Country Ski the Methow Trails

Skiers on Methow Trails

Winthrop and the surrounding Methow Valley are world-renowned for Nordic pursuits. The non-profit organization, Methow Trails, maintains a remarkable 200 kilometers of groomed trails - one of the nation's largest Nordic networks. The plethora of paths couples with consistent snow and stunning mountain scenery. For these reasons, Methow Trails attracts skiers from across the country.

The Methow Community Trail connects Winthrop and the neighboring community of Mazama and is a gateway for several other trail systems. Within Winthrop, a standalone trail system is popular to explore on the other side of the Spring Creek Bridge. Other notable trail systems managed by Methow Trails include the Rendezvous Winter Trails and Sun Valley Winter Trails.

The fun doesn't end after the snow melts on Methow Trails. Much of the system easily converts into hiking, biking, and horse-riding trails in the summer. This extensive network makes Winthrop a signature destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Some of the routes travel through private property where land-use agreements are in place. Visitors are asked to respect these agreements and stay on the trail.

Official site: https://www.methowtrails.org/

2. Mosey around Downtown

Western Village of Winthrop

Winthrop's downtown has a distinct Western appeal. A wooden boardwalk connects the shops of this central area, all of which sport a Western facade. This reminiscence of the Old West is no mistake, and much like the Bavarian village of Leavenworth two hours away, the town transformed itself in the 1970s to fit this American West motif.

Moseying down this 1900s main street is a fun way to spend any day. The Western theme details go beyond the storefronts. Several establishments, like the Farmers State Bank, also have Old West interiors. Other Western considerations include wanted signs and fun photo stand-ins.

Not only is the downtown area alluring with its Western theme, but the stores and restaurants here draw crowds on their own. Shoppers are well suited with a variety of local boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores.

The Trail's End Bookstore is the number one spot for bibliophiles and casual readers alike. Next door, the Winthrop Gallery features works by local and regional artists. For those with a sweet tooth, Sheri's Sweet Shop delivers with a variety of candied confections. And sporting goods are also well-stocked downtown at places like Cascades Outdoor Store and The Outdoorsman.

3. Camp at Pearrygin Lake State Park

Pearrygin Lake State Park | Brian / photo modified

This approximately 1,200-acre state park is accessible from Winthrop with less than a four-mile drive. With many activities enabled throughout the year, this popular state park also features many campsites. Some activities commonly encountered at Pearrygin Lake include hiking, boating, swimming, and picnicking.

Pearrygin features over 160 campsites, many of which are in high demand during the summer season. Two prominent areas host the campgrounds, with every site close to flushing restrooms, picnic areas, and swimming beaches. The state park also features two furnished cabins and a vacation home available to rent.

With over 11,000 feet of waterfront on Pearrygin Lake, the state park is a popular place for boating. Motorized vessels often make good use of the boat launch at the East Campground. The park also features a concessionaire that rents paddleboards and kayaks by the hour.

Hiking is also a favorite pastime at Pearrygin, with trails like the 3.1-mile Rex Derr Trail offering fantastic lake views. Come winter, the state park transforms into a mecca for snowshoeing and other forms of snow travel.

Address: 561 Bear Creek Road, Winthrop, Washington

Official site: https://parks.state.wa.us/563/Pearrygin-Lake

4. Step Back in Time at the Shafer Historical Museum

Antique wagon wheels at the Shafer Historical Museum

Atop the hillside overlooking the Methow River, The Shafer Historical Museum offers a fantastic look into Winthrop's past. The museum centers around a log cabin built in the late 1800s known as "The Castle."

Several outdoor exhibits surround this carefully crafted abode, containing artifacts from Winthrop's homesteading era. Artifacts span approximately from the 1880s to the 1940s. The grounds are also home to a village of buildings representing this era. Visitors are welcome to "Take a Peek Inside" the facilities for a glance into history.

The museum fluctuates between summer and winter hours. In both seasons, visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the outdoor exhibits. Winter may provide an icy approach on the hillside. The museum offers free admission but encourages a suggested donation of five dollars.

Address: 285 Castle Avenue, Winthrop, Washington

Official site: https://www.shafermuseum.org/

5. Visit North Cascades National Park on the North Cascades Scenic Byway

Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The North Cascades Scenic Byway (Highway 20) spans 140 miles between Methow Valley and Skagit Valley. It crosses by stunning views of the North Cascade Mountains along the way. The route connects Winthrop to the neighboring North Cascades National Park, offering an easy gateway to this magical alpine environment.

North Cascades is one of Washington's best parks for a reason. The jagged peaks of this northern mountain range catch the eye like no others in the nation. The highway lends access to the park on a seasonal basis, typically between May and November (dependent on snow conditions).

Some of the park's most stunning features are a short drive from Winthrop. The incredible views presented by Ross and Diablo Lakes are approximately 60 miles west. Several other scenic roadside perspectives line the route. And the North Cascades Visitor Center is nine miles west of Diablo Lake. The visitor center is a great place to visit for more information about the area.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/noca/index.htm

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6. Skate the Day Away at the Winthrop Rink

Once known as Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink, the Winthrop Rink has provided a fun place to gather in the winter since 2007. This NHL-sized ice rink is situated along the Susie Stephens Trail, on the other side of the Spring Creek Bridge from town. It's an outdoor rink, and one of the most aesthetic aspects of the facility is the towering Mt. Gardner in the background.

Thanks to newly installed refrigeration, the rink offers guaranteed skating throughout the winter. The typical season spans between December and March. The facility also includes a 6,000-square-foot building with changing rooms, showers, and a second-story warming and viewing room.

Alongside dedicated free skate times, the rink features an array of programs throughout the season. A few of the regularly scheduled programs include drop-in hockey and freestyle figure skating. The rink is also home to a youth hockey tournament series that offers a family-friendly spectating event.

Address: Winthrop Rink, 208 White Avenue, Winthrop, Washington

Official site: http://winthroprink.org/

7. Take the Family to Falls Creek Falls

For a family fun adventure into the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest, the hike to Falls Creek Falls has something for everyone. The trailhead is relatively close to town, accessible with a 12-mile drive, partially on forest service roads.

The first waterfall encountered on the Falls Creek Falls trail is less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. For those traveling with little kids, this short and flat path is a worthwhile destination on its own. The trail continues, however, and navigates switchbacks to reveal more rushing waterfalls.

The trail ultimately extends over five miles to near the peak of Birch Mountain. This total length of the trail climbs more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain and is considered strenuous. However, nobody needs to travel this far to see waterfalls, with a series of plunges found in the first two miles.

8. Paddle or Float the Methow River

Fall on the Methow River

Winthrop's signature river, the Methow River, is one of Washington's best white water rivers. This winding river begins near Mazama and cascades throughout the Methow Valley before meeting the Columbia River. Along the route, with sections including the Black Canyon Gorge, a variety of rafting and paddling trips are available.

Methow Rafting is the go-to guiding service based out of Winthrop. This well-reputed outfitter offers half- and full-day trips through Black Canyon and its Class III-IV rapids. The company also provides half-day trips on the Lower Methow for slightly tamer excursions.

It's not all white-water action on the Methow. Kayaking and floating are also popular on calmer sections of the river. Expect to see loads of locals and tourists utilizing the river this way during the hottest days of summer. Methow Rafting offers tube rentals and a shuttle service.

9. Tour the North Cascade Smokejumper Base

North Cascade Smokejumpers Base | Eli Duke / photo modified

The Methow Valley is known as "the birthplace of smokejumping." The region played a vital role in developing this high-stakes fire-fighting method throughout the 1930s. Today, the North Cascade Smokejumpers Base proudly displays this heritage. It also still trains brave smokejumpers to parachute out of planes and extinguish forest fires.

Citizens can tour the Smokejumper Base throughout the fire season, spanning June 1st to October 1st. Tours are self-directed and free to enjoy. It's a casual observation at the Smokejumper Base, as everyone employed is there to fight fighters. If a loud air horn blasts two signals while visiting, stand back and watch as the smokejumpers suit up and fly off in under 15 minutes.

10. Find Fresh Ingredients at a Farmers Market

The Methow Valley has two prominent farmers markets on either day of the weekend. The Winthrop Farmers Market occurs on Sunday, while the neighboring town of Twisp hosts theirs on Saturday. Each market runs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the Twisp Farmers Market extending beyond both holidays by a couple of weeks.

Alongside a bountiful selection of produce from local farms, the markets also feature local artisan crafts. Casual live music usually provides a soundtrack to these community events. Each market features different vendors and rotating seasonal produce.

11. Learn about the Salmon Life Cycle at the Winthrop National Fish Hatchery

This National Fish Hatchery helps increase native salmon populations otherwise negatively affected by the Grand Coulee Dam. The Winthrop facility works in conjunction with the Leavenworth and Entiat Fish Hatcheries. The site provides vital stages of the salmon life cycle. It also offers an invaluable resource for visitors to learn more about the environment.

Visitors are welcome to tour the 42-acre site on their own, with the opportunity for guided tours throughout the summer. A viewing window in a two-story concrete building on the property enables a look at the adult salmon that return to the hatchery each year between May and late August.

A particular reason to visit on the second Saturday of June is the Winthrop Kids Free Fishing Day. This free event offers children the chance to catch a fish out of the property's pond. It also features guided learning opportunities around the hatchery. The hatchery is accessible from town via the Methow Trails system.

Address: 453 Twin Lakes Road, Winthrop, Washington

Official site: https://www.fws.gov/leavenworthfisheriescomplex/WinthropNFH/IndexWNFH.cfm

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