The End of the Road

Mid-summer in the eastern Cascades usually means hot temps and endless sun, so any chance to get in the water is readily welcomed. Spencer Paxson takes whatever refreshment he can get on the trek up Angel’s Staircase. NIKON, 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000

The End of the Road Methow Valley’s Truly Wild Offerings

Main street may be paved, but it’s not hard to imagine John Wayne moseying past the wooden boardwalks and weathered storefronts of Winthrop, WA, headed toward the swinging doors of Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon as he prepares for a shoot-out with some villain inside.

Everything from the general store to the gas station to fonts on the signs could be pulled straight from an old Western movie, an appearance the town has cultivated for more than 45 years.

The irony, however, is that while Winthrop’s current appearance may be artificial, the iconic cowboy style was actually born in this tiny, rural hamlet of barely 450 people. Owen Wister’s 1902 novel, “The Virginian,” is regarded as the first true American Western, and was inspired by his honeymoon to Winthrop. More than a century later, Wister’s muse may seem far tamer, but it remains a frontier for backpackers, rock climbers, mountaineers and—most recently—mountain bikers searching for rowdy, wild terrain.

Located in North Central Washington, Winthrop sits in the upper end of Methow Valley, a roughly 50-mile stretch running south from the crossroads of Mazama to the agricultural town of Pateros, at the confluence of the Methow and Columbia rivers. Along its rapid-filled course, the Methow River passes through sage and grasslands, towering stands of ponderosa, and steep, thick Douglas Fir forests of the deeper Cascades.

 

This article is for our Subscribers and Plus Members.

Gain access by purchasing an online or print subscription.

Basic Free Subscription
$0 / Year

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Sign Up

Plus Online Subscription
$19.95 | Year

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

 Get Plus 
Free Trial

Premium Print Subscription
$34.95 | Year*

  • 4 Issues/year of our print magazine mailed directly to your front door

  • Online access to the latest print issues the day they hit newsstands

  • Download print articles and take them with you on the go for offline reading

  • Access to the FH Dashboard

  • Bookmark favorite articles for easy access

  • Browse articles by issue

  • Receive our weekly newsletter for the latest content and special discounts

Go Premium

Already a Member?

Login