Methow Trails maintains and operates the Nation’s largest cross-country ski nation. The Methow Valley trail system includes over 120 miles of cross-country ski trails in the winter months and is recognized as one of the finest trail systems in North America for Nordic skiing, mountain biking, trail running, horseback riding, and hiking. Methow Trails is a non-profit organization that aims to connect users to the unique nature of the Methow Valley and support community vitality.
In 1972, the opening of the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) enhanced the potential for tourism and related outdoor activities in the Methow Valley region. Okanogan County’s Methow Valley setting is inimitable, lending a perfectly scaled geography and a diversity of natural-resource attributes for a recreation-based community. Seeing this unique opportunity as a catalyst for the region’s economic base that would maintain the spectacular natural attributes of the area, a handful of valley residents envisioned and inspired cooperation among private landowners and various agencies to form the Methow Valley Family Sports Club in 1977 and the Methow Valley Community Trail (aka Community Trail). By 1980, the organization changed its name to the Methow Valley Ski Touring Association and hired its first staff shortly after. From 1995 to 2014, the organization was known as the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.
In the fall of 2014, the name was shortened to Methow Trails, as it stands today. Since its humble beginnings, the non-profit organization has grown and has facilitated the development of the nation’s largest Nordic ski trail system, transforming the once- disconnected series of trails within the region into an elaborate network containing nearly 200 kilometers of all-season trails surrounded by more than a million acres of national wilderness and forest lands. As the region has grown with an increasing number of second homes and lodging facilities, the trails have become a central attraction and have contributed to the valley’s near-term and long-run economic stability.
The 32-kilometer Community Trail remains the central trail corridor through the valley and connects the northwest community of Mazama with Winthrop and Sun Mountain Lodge. Today the network of trails generates about $4.5 million directly, another $4.1 million indirectly, and another $2.7 million annually through related industry earnings in the Methow Valley. Additionally, some 49 full-time and 159 seasonal full-time and/or part-time jobs can be directly attributed to the network of trails and adjacent lands.
Primary winter uses of the trails include Nordic or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The trails become a mecca for mountain bikers and hikers in the summer. Other trail uses include equestrian riding, dog walking, running, nature observation, and access to fly-fishing areas. Some 52% of the trail system is on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands, with another 0.02% on U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) lands. Of the remaining lands, 2.1% is on Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land, and another 1.7% is on Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) lands secured with 20-year permits. The remainder runs over a complex of private lands on which MVSTA has entered into long-term agreements with landowners.
The Master Plan is intended to guide the management, development, and future of Methow Trails. It is based on board direction and input from staff, the membership, and the public.