Day Hiking and Mountain Biking in and around Mazama, WA
May 22-25, 2015
We decided to take advantage of the long Memorial-day weekend and head out to Mazama, WA. We loved it out there when we visited during our honeymoon back in January and we wanted to see what it had to offer in the warmer months – we were not let down. Our trip started early Friday morning, as we had signed up for our first trail work party with Washington Trails Association (WTA). We picked one on the Surprise Creek Trail off Highway 2 near Stevens Pass since it was partly on the way to Mazama. Brian got to help clear some trees with a cross-cut saw and build a rock feature at an eroded corner in the trail while Maggie did some serious damage as a grubber: clearing overgrown plants on the trail. We had a blast with the crew led by Evonne from WTA and are looking forward to joining another work party in the near future! We made it out to Mazama that evening.
Goat Peak Lookout (5 miles roundtrip, 1400′ elevation gain)
Saturday morning we headed up to hike to the Goat Peak Lookout which towers over the Methow Valley. After stopping for some coffee at the Mazama store, we drove up the forest service roads that wind their way up to the trailhead. The drive alone was worth doing as you weave up to above the goat wall and have spectacular views of the valley and out into the North Cascades before you even get to the trailhead. The drive took us a good hour even though the road was well-maintained and snow-free. We got started on the hike at about 10 am.
We hit snow pretty early on in the hike although it was rapidly melting. It was melting so fast that the trail had turned into a creek right before we hit the snow. The snow was manageable and easy to kick steps into as we headed up towards the false summit. We would have benefited from trekking poles or ice axes for balance, but managed without them. On the way up, we had incredible views to the north of some peaks in the Paseyten Wilderness and once we reached the false summit we had even better views of the Methow Valley and out towards the peaks of the North Cascades.
From the false summit we could see the lookout a fairly short ridge walk away. The hike over was part on snow and part on the trail. We reached the lookout at around noon, having seen no one else on the way up. We soaked in the views and enjoyed a snack before heading down. Right as we started down, we noticed an old creaky outhouse ready to fall of the side of the mountain, and a cool monument to all the former lookouts (those who man the fire lookout tower are also referred to as lookouts) on Goat Peak.
On our way down we ran into a group of four with two lovely dogs who made it up the snow. Soon after, we ran into another solo hiker. Then on the way down the snowy part, we ran into quite a few more parties. Hitting the trail “early” paid off since we had the whole trail to ourselves on the way up. I’d guess that this hike will be snow-free in the near future since the snow that was left was melting so rapidly when we were there. We definitely recommend this hike for anyone in the area as the views were spectacular! We made it down to the car around 1:30 pm for a total hiking time of about 3 hours with a half hour break at the top.
Cedar Creek Trail to Cedar Falls (3.5 miles roundtrip, 500′ elevation gain)
Sunday morning we headed west a little on Highway 20 to the Cedar Creek Trail. There were a number of cars when we arrived at the trailhead and a group of horseback riders getting started down the trail. The trail was pretty easy going and well-maintained. We just had to watch out for the occasional horse droppings along the trail. We heard the falls after a fairly easy 1.75 miles and turned off the trail to walk down to view them. They drop a pretty good distance and you have to hike down onto some precarious rocks to view them. We would not recommend this for dogs/small children, but considering we are adults we were able to enjoy the falls over a snack before heading down. This hike was a nice little jaunt, but out of the three hikes we did over the weekend, probably the least impressive.
Spokane Gulch Trail (5 miles roundtrip, 1500′ elevation gain (both estimates))
We have to give a big thanks to the helpful staff at Goat’s Beard in Mazama for telling us about this hike since it didn’t show up on any of our maps. Sunday afternoon we were able to hike directly from where we were staying on Lost River Road about a quarter mile to the Fun Rock climbing parking lot. We weaved up through all of the routes on the climbing trail always following the cairns and signs for the “Goat Wall Trail.” The tread is pretty steep, but we were just wearing our trail runners and didn’t have any problems. The steepness of the trail gets you high up pretty quickly and you get views towards the mountains. The trail meanders along the top of the Goat Wall heading East towards the Mazama store. Although the trail is a bit overgrown in places, it is surprisingly well-marked. We hit several intersections that had trails marked towards the logging road above (likely the same road we drove the day before to Goat Peak). We just kept going on the trail towards Mazama and eventually followed a sign towards “Spokane Gulch via Thiese Creek” then another for Mazama. It felt like we were hiking in the high alpine one minute, then the next we would be hiking through a forest of Ponderosa Pine. We saw a good number of wildflowers and even a Salamander under a rock! This hike far exceeded our expectations and seemed quite adventurous for hardly being out of town.
Eventually the trail meandered down the hillside behind the meadow near the Mazama Store with all the fancy custom homes. We stopped in the Mazama store for a treat before walking the two miles back on the road to where we were staying. The staff at the Mazama store told us the hike was about 5 miles, but we assume this is for the trail part only. We estimate to make it a loop, it’s probably closer to 7. We highly recommend this hike for anyone staying in Mazama since it is right out your backdoor and you get up to the views quickly. The trail was a bit steep but we did see families on each end of it.
Mountain Biking: Methow Community Trail to Jack’s Trail (~10 miles rountrip, minimal elev. change)
We rented mountain bikes on Monday morning from Goat’s Beard in Mazama. We got a good recommendation for a beginner mountain biking route from the folks at the store since it was Maggie’s first time. We headed out on the Methow Community Trail towards the Freestone Inn. Maggie enjoyed the plushness of the mountain bike compared to her road bike and got used to it very quickly! We continued past the Freestone Inn towards the Early Winters Campground and then made a loop of Jack’s run before heading back to the store. The trails in Mazama are a perfect beginner mountain bike route and they are certainly rideable without any prior mountain biking experience. The ride was a great way to cap off a great weekend! We enjoyed the beautiful drive back to Seattle over Washington Pass and amazingly hardly hit any Memorial Day traffic!