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West Fork Methow River

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth
View map below

Length

15.8 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1600 ft.
Highest Point: 4280 ft.

Rating

3.60 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2017
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

This valley hike has beautiful flowers in spring and early summer, along with the sounds of the spring runoff in the West Fork Methow River, Rattlesnake Creek, and Trout Creek. The up-valley views show the extent of the devastation done by the 2003 Needle Creek Fire.

This trail was a good low elevation access route for the Pacific Crest Trail, but since 2012, it has received little maintenance beyond the first 2.4 miles to Trout Creek. With the collapse of the Trout Creek Bridge in 2017, the crossing is now a dangerous spring ford, or a late summer rock-hop. Consequently, it also makes for a shady turn-around point for day hikes.

The trail starts in open forest on a decommissioned road, found at elevation 2680 feet, to the abandoned Rattlesnake Campground site and Rattlesnake Creek. The shade from the trees is welcome and flowers bloom along the way, including sunflowers and yarrow.

The trail crosses Rattlesnake Creek on a footlog, installed by WTA in 2016, and enters a large burn zone from the fire, with little shade and lots of early summer flowers. After this, the trail gradually climbs the steep walled valley, alternating between pockets of trees, brushy sections, rockslide crossings, and approaches to the river.

At 1.4 miles is a good break location on hot days, in a pocket of surviving forest along the river with a rock seat and footrest! Sometimes, there is even a cool breeze flowing down the valley just above the river.

Until significant maintenance is done on the trail beyond Trout Creek (elevation 3090 feet), the only real draw is a campsite just after the Trout Creek crossing. The trail itself continues with the same pattern of pockets of trees, rockslide crossings, and approaches to the river, but the dense brush and downed logs make travel very difficult. It steepens somewhat over the last 0.6 miles before the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (elevation 4280 feet) alongside aptly named Brush Creek at 5.5 miles beyond Trout Creek.

As a nice 4.8 mile (roundtrip) hike, this trail has a two narrow seasons. The flower display is in mid-May to mid-June, which is usually after the ticks and before the rattlesnakes. Fall colors are in October and November, potentially with some snow.

 

West Fork Methow River

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.6515, -120.5623 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Methow/Sawtooth

West Fork Methow River (#480)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Getting There

From Winthrop, go west on State Route 20 for 13.2 miles, or from Marblemount, go east on State Route 20 for 73.3 miles. Turn onto Lost River Road, heading toward Mazama. After 0.4 mile turn left to stay on Lost River Road and follow it an additional 6.6 miles. The road enters the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and becomes Road 5400.  Follow Road 5400 for an additional 2.3 miles to a junction with Road -060 to Riverbend Campground.  Turn left (straight) onto Road -060 and follow it for 0.7 mile to the Rattlesnake Trailhead (West Fork Methow Trail #480).

 At the trailhead is a signboard, picnic table, stock loading ramp, hitching rail, and vault toilet.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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West Fork Methow River

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