by Ray Birks
General Info. The Twisp River Trail parallels a 15-mile stretch of the Twisp River. Despite its name, the trail is hardly ever actually in sight of the Twisp River, but it still delivers an enjoyable mountain bike ride through scenic forests with the occasional view up at the peaks capping the Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness. The trail is not steep yet it offers some intermediate technical challenges as well as many miles of smooth single track with sculpted twists that are awfully fun.
The upper 2.5 miles of the trail (many people ride a road uphill to the top of the trail and then ride the trail downhill) are quite rocky and more technical. As you ride downhill, the trail gets better and better with each turn of the pedals. The bottom three-quarters of the trail is flowy, fun on smooth, fast single-track. The ride up the road many riders use to access the upper entrances of the trail is a gradual uphill affair that’s partially paved, partially graveled. Because there are a handful of access points along the road that connect to the trail, you have many options about when you can enter or exit the trail. If, for example, you want to avoid the rocky upper miles of the trail, enter the trail lower near South Creek Campground or Scatter Creek.
Getting There. From Wenatchee, drive about an hour to Pateros on Highway 97, then take the turn on Highway 153 leading toward Methow/Twisp. Continue 45 minutes to Twisp, then turn left on the Twisp River Road. Continue about 14 miles up this road to War Creek Campground. One of the lower trailheads is just north of the campground on the right side of the road and you can park at the campground or at the trailhead.
Ride information. Park at War Creek Campground or the forest service road just beyond it. The trail is on the uphill side of the Twisp River Road and you can decide whether you want to ride up the trail or up the road. There’s certainly no harm in riding the trail uphill as far as your heart and lungs desire, but most people take the easier approach and ride uphill on the road.
You can access the trail at a number of trailheads and horse camps along the route. We parked at the War Creek Campground and rode up the road for about 10 miles to the upper Trailhead (3 miles paved, 7 miles EASY gravel climbing). As you ride up, notice all of the different trailheads on your right which become entry or exit points for the Twisp River Trail.
At the top of the road, there’s a little saddle and you’ll see the trail heading back at an angle to the right. If you continue down the other side of the saddle for 0.25 miles, you’ll see the upper trailhead leading to the actual start of the trail. We didn’t think it was worth doing this little extra stretch of trail and recommend starting your descent from the saddle mentioned above.
From the saddle, the top 2.5 miles of trail are rocky and moderately technical but the trail is not steep and the terrain is definitely all rideable. The bottom 15 miles of trail were much better and a lot of it was flowy single-track on beds of pine needles. The trail will eventually spit you back out at War Creek.
From War Creek you can now access a lower segment of trail by riding down the gravel road that is just uphill from War Creek. On the other side of the river, you’ll spot the trail. The final four miles are a nice trail but are not in as good shape as the middle section of the trail you just rode. One option is to get someone from your group to drive a vehicle down to the Twisp Snow Park so the rest of the group can complete the trail without ending what’s supposed to be a mountain bike ride with a road ride.
The route described is 27 miles but can easily be shortened and modified to suit your ability level and time. As of June 7, 2011, the creeks were HIGH and we got wet a handful of times. At Slate Creek the water was waist deep and flowing fast so we decided to ride down to the road, walk around the creek, and hike back up through the forest to get back to the trail. This was a five-minute diversion from the trail’s flowy goodness. Also we want to thank the horse riders who had been up clearing the trail and removing blowdowns. They’ve done a fantastic job.
Maps: 1) See a topo map of the area below. 2) See a schematic map of the region showing trails, roads, rides, and hikes around the Methow Valley.
GPS: See our GPS track of the route.Viewing the ‘3D Flyover’ video of this GPS track (click the button in upper right of the route screen) is interesting and worthwhile. Also enlarging the screen view with the arrows on the upper right of the route screen, setting the map option as a ‘Hybrid’, and moving the magnification meter in the upper leftt toward ‘+’ lets you see this route in good detail.
Photos: All show Wenatchee rider, Alan Schmaltz in action 1) cooling off in one of about ten many creek crossings along the trail 2) striking a catalog pose 3) fixing a flat (time to lay off the chips Alan).
Editor’s Note. The Twisp River Trail is a mountain bike ride that’s outside of the “hour’s drive from the Wenatchee Valley” designation we usually use to determine what to include at the WenatcheeOutdoor.org website. Fact of the matter is, however, that most of us living here in the Wenatchee Valley spend some of our time exploring the Methow Valley. Consequently, when local riders submit guidebook information that applies to North Central Washington rather than Central Washington, we stretch our rules a bit and include the information in our guidebook.
Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.