Top Ten U.S. Road Biking Routes

Okanogan Region, Washington
  |  Gorp.com

Washington State has a little of everything that its bigger southern neighbor has—beautiful coast, soaring mountains, abundant forest—without the curse of being bigger and to the south. Perhaps that's why so many disgruntled Californians ponder moving north. Perhaps that's why many Washingtonians want disgruntled Californians to stay right where they are.

The Okanogan region lies in the dry reaches east of the Cascade Mountains in northern Washington, midway between Seattle and Spokane. Bordered on the south by the mighty Columbia River and well ensconced in Okanogan National Forest, the terrain and vegetation are rich and varied. So are the multitude of cycling route options relying initially on main drags and then plunging into the wild heart of the area on county and forest service roads following long river valleys or vista-rich ridgelines. From Lake Chelan, the Methow River, and the ridge in between to the North Cascades Scenic Highway, all in the west, to the Loup Loup Highway and distant Grand Coulee Dam in the east, there is plenty to do and see.

Try basing yourself in Chelan, Brewster, Okanogan, Twisp, or Winthrop. From any of these towns there are long road reaches on the main routes, some of which have tough passes, including Washington Pass on North Cascades Scenic Highway 20; Loup Loup Summit on Highway 20, just west of Okanogan; and Harts Pass, off of Route 20 from Mazama, which is one of the most scenic spots in the Methow Valley and the highest point to which you can drive in Washington State. Better yet, ask at any of the information centers in these towns about the paved secondary roads of the Twisp and Winthrop districts. If you have brought a mountain bike with you just in case, don't miss the Valley of the Trails.

There is much more than a weekend's worth of riding here. The best thing to do is pick an area and give it the full benefit of your undivided attention. You can always come back for more. Read more about scenic drives in the area.

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