Distance: 9 miles Great for: Run, Hike, Bike
Elevation Gain: 1,850 feet High Point: 3,050 feet
Mountain Bike Difficulty: Advanced. Single track trail, at times rough, rubbly, and rutted. Sustained climbs.
Trail Overview: This trail is like no other in the Methow Valley. Its cliffs and canyons feel more like Utah than Washington State. It melts our early in the spring, making it a great place to be in April. The fall is also nice, but it can be downright hot in mid-summer. The trail is single track right off the start, which rolls up and down on a series of ridgelines and bluffs. This ridge-top travel is nothing short of spectacular. After plummeting back down to the valley bottom, and travelling about a mile up it, you’ll enter Pipestone Canyon proper before having a short bit of dirt road travel back to your car. It does bear mentioning that this is not an official trail built by an official government agency. It has been pieced together from cow paths, walked in ridgelines, and old double-track jeep tracks. There are no signs whatsoever out there. But if, generally, you follow the ridgeline up, head along it until it descends down to farmland, and then walk back through the obvious valley/canyon, you’ll be fine. And you’ll have a fine adventure along the way.
Getting There: From the 4-way stop in downtown Winthrop, follow Highway 20 east for .4 miles. Instead of crossing the river on a bridge, bear left on the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road. Drive this road 1.8 miles, turning left onto Bear Creek Road towards the golf course. Travel uphill on Bear Creek Road until it turns to dirt in 1.7 miles. Take an immediate right onto gravel Lester Road and drive it uphill for 2.3 miles. You will park in the wide spot on the left hand side of the road, at the Y where the road splits in two. Note: Occasionally, the upper reaches of this road wash out in the spring. If that is the case, just find a wide spot to park in and hoof it up to the trailhead. It’s longer, but still pleasant.
Route Description: From your car, head up the left hand branch of the road for .15 miles. Look to your right to find the obvious single track trail heading up the hillside and along the fenceline.
At mile 1.0, a side trail takes off to your right and heads down to Campbell Lake and the road you drove up on. Pass by this trail, heading left, uphill.
Soon thereafter, you’ll cross over a section of trail that has been washing out in recent years, creating a couple interesting ravines. Take your time and pick your way across these.
Soon after the washouts, you will pass by two trails that take off to your left. You should bear right at both. Note: Occasionally in the spring, the ridgeline after the second turn right hand turn is closed for nesting falcons. If this is the case, bear left at that second junction, down the little valley, and look for a steep trail heading up to your right to regain your place on the ridgeline, but past the falcon nests.
Assuming the falcon babies are not hatching, bear right at that second junction, ascending to the top of the ridge. At the top, when it seems like you will walk right off the end of the cliff, the trail (which is faint) takes a hard left hand turn and starts to descend this first hilltop. Once you find this trail, look ahead at the undulating ridge high in front of you. That is where you are headed. And you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get there. And looking down to your right, you can see into the depths of Pipestone Canyon.
At mile 2.75, cross through a gate a head towards the high point of your trip.
At mile 3.0, start your gradual and rubbly descent.
At mile 5.3, after a long but viewful downhill, reach the valley floor and what is now a doubletrack trail. If you headed left, you would soon reach the southern Pipestone trailhead off of Beaver Creek Road. Your route, however, goes right, up the canyon.
At mile 6.5, cross through a gate and soon enter Pipestone Canyon proper. As you travel through the canyon, look way up high to your right, which is where you were when on the ridgeline.
At mile 7.75 cross through a gate and reach a dirt road. If you wanted to just walk in the canyon and not do the entire loop, this is where you’d park. To get back to your car, head up this road.
Pass Campbell Lake.
Reach your car at mile 9.0
For trail info, gear, or to pick up a map stop in to Cascades Outdoor Store. We look forward to seeing you before or after hitting the trail!