winthrop motorcycle tourWith the 2014 riding season not far off I ponder the places I love to ride to every year. Without a doubt Winthrop Washington is a favorite for me and anyone I’ve taken there. I always think these places are well known but surprised to find many riders have not been there or taken the alternate routes I’ve discovered.

You can make Winthrop a good day trip if you leave early enough in the morning, it’s about 3-4 hours each way so heading there for lunch is good excuse to go for ride, not that we need one. Originally gold brought the first settlers to the area know as the Methow valley, today Winthorp is a popular tourist town with a western theme originally conceived by local businesses in the 70’s.

To get to Winthrop you head south from Kelowna it’s about 2 hours to the border (don’t forget your passport) on Highway 97. Across the border the highway is now U.S. Route 97 you will pass through the towns of Oroville, Tonasket and Omak, I caution you to watch the 25 mph speed limits as you pass through. Just beyond Omak on 97 you will pass the fairgrounds on your right and then the local Casino watch the signs for the Hwy 20 exit to your right. You will cross over a river and make a left onto Hwy 20 also known as the Cascades Hwy. Hwy 20 is in my opinion one of the best roads in Washington and the section from 97 to Winthrop is no exception. The road climbs from desert into heavy forest and down into the arid Methow Valley, traffic is usually light and the road has many great curves and hairpin corners. Deer are a real problem in the area, as you will see by the “deer kill”signs so you have to stay alert.

As you drop out of the forested area your first town will be Twisp Washington, it’s worth checking out the downtown area on your way through. The Twisp River Pub is a good place to stop for food and they claim to be one of the smallest commercial breweries in the world? There are interesting places eat in Winthrop just 12 minutes further down the highway.

Although Winthrop can be done in a day it really is a great overnight stop so you can take your time walking the boardwalk and checking out the shops and restaurants, who can resist stopping at places with names like “Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon” or the “Old School House Brewery. If you are going to stay, the Hotel Rio Vista, just on your left as you enter the town, is a great place. I’ve stayed there many times. There are also several campgrounds close by. The best kept secret for camping in Winthrop is the Pine Near RV park, one block above the towns main street. You can set up camp and walk through the free mining museum into town. If you’re  lucky you’ll get to meet Anna, the owner of the park. You can even book a Tee-pee for a room!robot

As will all my rides I like to explore and find alternative roads so when you leave town to head home consider these - I show them on the map. Hwy 20’s a great ride in but if want to see some different scenery head back to Twisp and just as you pass through watch for Twisp Carlton road on your right, this takes you on a more scenic route and eventually hooks up back with 153, The Methow Valley Hwy.,153 takes you a little further south but it is a beautiful highway the follows the river eventually intersecting with Route 97. The next good side road is found heading north on 97 just pased Brewster you make a left on Old Highway 97, it’s easy to miss this turnoff so watch for it just as you are leaving town. This highway will take you to Highway 20 just south of Okanogan where you can take the cutoff for 97 (it's well signed). I prefer wandering through the countryside rather than blasting down the main highway, there's one more detour on the way north just before you reach Tonasket you will see a left exit for Highway 7, this road will keep you off highway 97 all the way to Oroville and the border. It’s very scenic and who know’s what you will discover along the way. Enjoy your ride!

Jeff Kumagai
Freelance Motorcycle Rider