methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Existing roads on the old Lloyd Ranch property will be groomed this winter to create a multi-use trail on what is now state Fish and Wildlife land. Parking will be near the cottonwood trees on the left. Photo by Karen West

Where to Fatbike
Winter of 2012-2013

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Two new areas of the Methow Valley will have multi-use groomed trails this winter thanks to volunteers and the cooperation of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Pearrygin Lake State Park. They will be open to fatbike cyclists as well as skiers, walkers and snowshoers. An annual Discover Pass to use dedicated parking areas is the only requirement.

The new trails include about 4.5 miles through state park land, according to Rick Lewis, managing ranger, and at least 3 miles of trail but likely more on the old Lloyd ranch owned by WDFW, according to Tom McCoy, Methow Wildlife Area Manager.

Joe Brown, owner of Methow Cycle and Sport, said he and other volunteers will groom 3-foot-wide paths using a snowmobile donated by the Methow Valley Sport Trail Association. The trails will not have classic ski tracks and will not be groomed on a regular schedule, Brown added. He will groom as soon as enough snow falls, then on an as-needed basis depending on new snow or changing conditions.

“I think it’s just so cool that it’s a community-wide effort,” Brown said.

The Lloyd Ranch

“We’re really, really excited about this,” said McCoy, who says people will have a place to go close to town, with great views and lots of open space. “There’s no winter wildlife use to speak of,” he added. “We’re putting people out in the middle, where it’s been farmed.”

The Lloyd Ranch property is 560 acres, McCoy said. The existing road system gives access to about 300 acres. He sees opening up winter access with a multi-use trail as giving people “another option like Big Valley” – with one major difference: no dogs allowed. There will be a plowed-out parking area near the big cottonwoods at the ranch entrance, which is on the left just before the main entrance to the state park for those coming from Winthrop.

Pearrygin Lake State Park

Dogs on leashes will be allowed on the multi-use trails at the state park. The existing 3.1 mile Rex Derr Trail that goes from the West Campground boat launch across the hillsides and to the old Graves homestead at the south end of the lake will be groomed, Lewis said.

A new trail through the East Campground will connect at the boat launch, he added, making a total of roughly 4.5 miles of groomed track that Lewis characterized as mostly a hiking trail open for walking, snowshoeing, skiing and fatbike cycling. There is potential for expansion, but Lewis told Grist that reports of a trail south of the lake to the golf course are still “in the talking stage.”

There will be limited parking near the West Campground entrance and a larger area near the main East Campground entrance kiosk. A Discover Pass is required, although Lewis said the state park system has scheduled free days in 2013, including the Jan. 19-23 Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend.

MVSTA Trails

The Methow Valley Sport Trail Association is opening a number of groomed trails to fatbike cyclists, including the multi-use Big Valley trail, Thompson Ridge Road and Meadowlark at Sun Mountain, Bitterbrush and the Barnsley Loops near Winthrop, and the Gunn Ranch and Grizzly Mountain Loop in the Rendevous.

Trail passes are required on all but Big Valley. The trails will be open to bikes any day snow conditions support their use without damage to the trail. Cyclists must check the bike trail section of the daily grooming report at and follow MVSTA's conditions of use. Those rules include yielding to all other trail users, staying to the right side of the trail at all times and out of the classic ski tracks, staying off trails with more than three inches of new snow, and staying off trails anytime the bike is leaving a rut deeper than one inch.

Forest Service Restrictions

“No horses or bicycles are allowed on groomed snowmobile tracks,” according to Jennifer Zbyszewski, recreation program manager at the Winthrop office of the U.S. Forest Service. “I would encourage people to come in and get a copy of our Travel Plan Map,” she said. “It’s free. They can see where they can go.” She added that all the roads in the major local drainages are groomed snowmobile routes and that the places where bikes can go are not groomed.

Zbyszewski said she is aware that the fatbike issue “is coming” as the popularity of winter biking grows. She said the ban on bikes applies to the Methow and Tonasket ranger districts, where “we have a designated network of groomed snowmobile routes.”

She said the policy could be revisited as part of current revisions to the Regional Forest Plan, or as an amendment to that plan, either of which would require a National Environmental Policy Act review and social analysis. “It would be kind of a big deal,” she added. “We would have to feel we had the financial resources” to do that.

Here's a video about biking on snow, including comments from a ranger for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, where snowmobilers and fatbike cyclists are using the same trails:


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