More cross-country ski trails are being developed in a valley that stretches from Lake Wenatchee to Leavenworth.
When you hear the words “cross-country skiing” and “Washington state,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most, it’s the Methow Valley.
While the cross-country trails in the Methow are famous and the trails delightful, it’s also a really long drive from Seattle. In winter, it easily takes more than five hours each way.
The thing most people don’t realize: There are dozens of pristine cross-country trails that can be reached in half that time.
If you go
The Upper Wenatchee Valley, located 30 minutes east of Stevens Pass around the communities of Plain and Leavenworth, Chelan County, has been steadily growing into one of the state’s premier cross-country destinations.
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So why does everyone still think the Methow is the place to go?
“Marketing money,” says Rob Whitten, Plain Hardware owner and cross-country devotee.
Whitten rattles off the names of groomed trails within a few miles of his store. Soon the dedicated cross-country mileage is over 100, plus another 185 miles of groomed multiuse trail.
The terrain includes everything from epic frozen lakes, to mountain peaks or gentle, gladed river trails.
Two years ago, Whitten began negotiating with neighboring farms and ranches to build a network of ski trails through Plain. This winter, the route will grow to more than 12 miles when it includes a new section through the Thousand Trails camping property near Lake Wenatchee.
With base levels ranging from 2,000 to 5,500 feet, the Wenatchee Valley is blessed with favorable conditions that cross-country skiers adore. It’s close enough to the Cascade crest to experience big dumps, but the snow is usually dry with frequent bluebird days, says Whitten.
Routes around Lake Wenatchee State Park, Plain and Leavenworth are flat, making them good places to learn. But experts need not travel far to reach mountain trails and backcountry slopes with tremendous views.
Here are just a few areas you can ski on an overnighter, or even a day trip.
Plain Valley Nordic Ski Trails
Leaving from Plain Hardware, more than 12 miles of groomed cross-country trails wind through farms and valleys. The first 1.5 miles are a nice sampling because you pass the picturesque Mountain Springs Lodge, where you can stop for hot cocoa or a sleigh ride.
New routes this winter will include loops through Thousand Trails, which features meadow and mountain views.
Day passes: $10. Ski gear can be rented at Plain Hardware, across the street from the trailhead.
Lake Wenatchee State Park
At the end of enormous Lake Wenatchee, this is a great novice location with some killer views of the lake.
The frozen edges at the headwaters of the Wenatchee River make for interesting views. You’ll be entertained with little bumps and bends as you cruise over 10 miles of double-tracked loops with a narrow skate lane.
Trails are at the North and South shore areas. Sno-Park permit or Discovery Pass plus daily ski pass required.
Kahler Glen Golf & Ski Resort
A few minutes from Lake Wenatchee, Kahler Glen Golf Course transforms its fairways into groomed ski trails during winter months. Navigate miles of gentle paths ducking in and out of Ponderosa pine forest with views of Natapoc Ridge.
There are lots of options for short-term accommodations surrounding the golf course, for ski in-ski out opportunities. Sno-Park permit required.
For a leg-burner, try the expert terrain at Nason Ridge. The 12 miles of groomed and backcountry trail depart from the Sno-Park at Kahler Glen. Climb a total of 1,500 feet in elevation, with a butt-whopping 8-mile loop at the top. If you have the stamina, it’s a sweet view to Lake Wenatchee and the Cascade Range. Sno-Park pass required.
Scottish Lakes High Camp
This super-cute backcountry retreat is a great place to spend a few days. The cluster of rustic cabins and a large communal lodge is a great base from which to explore miles of rolling high country.
Deep, gentle powder is waiting for experts, or newbies can ski the snowmobile track for an easy wander. It doesn’t matter which direction you travel, the setting is serene and solitude is plentiful.
Cabins $66-$96 per person, per night, plus transportation fee. scottishlakes.com
Fish Lake Sno-Park
The 180 miles of trails that depart from Fish Lake have traditionally been known as snowmobile country, but they’re actually multiuse trails that make good cross-country terrain — especially in the early mornings. It’s also popular with dog owners because canines are allowed. Sno-Park pass required.
On Feb. 25, 2017, these trails will host the annual Moose Dewlap Citizen Trek, a community pilgrimage that climbs 2,225 feet over 26 miles to the top of the Meadow Creek Drainage. See skileavenworth.com/events/moose-dewlap-citizen-trek-1.
Chiwawa Sno-Park “See & Ski”
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If you’re looking for an easy route that follows a snowy river, a good option is the five miles of groomed trail along the Wenatchee River. Cruise a wide skate lane or single track bobbing up and down little hills and around mature evergreens.
Parking area is between Mileposts 7 and 8 on Chiwawa Loop Road. Afternoons are dog friendly. Sno-Park permit required.
Leavenworth Ski Trails
The town of Leavenworth boasts 16 miles of skate and classic ski trails. A nice option for families is the Icicle River Trail, which has a nice even grade around the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery.
The four-mile groomed course winding around Leavenworth’s ski hill is a great place for a workout and it includes three miles of lighted trail for night skiing. skileavenworth.com/activitie10701 Ski Hill Drives/nordic