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North Central Washington 250

by Cyrus Desmarais

Route Description: The North Central Washington (NCW 250) is a 250ish-mile bikepacking
loop, starting and ending at Pybus public market in Wenatchee. The route covers diverse
backcountry riding terrain in North Central Washington traveling primarily on backcountry roads
and singletrack, bypassing the towns of Waterville, Chelan, Plain, Leavenworth and Cashmere.

Special considerations:
1) This route is difficult, with the most challenging aspect likely being the climbing, with
28,000+ feet of vertical gain. There is a good mixture of everything to be had on this route, from
singletrack to engaging doubletrack and a little bit of pavement. Some of the climbs are
unrelenting and highly rewarding.
2) There are several decent bailout options available, however expect to be self-sufficient in the backcountry. Most towns have a free bus system that’ll get you back to Wenatchee.

Bike choice:
Terrain on this route is quite variable, and thus a bike with at least 2.0” tires is recommended.

Detailed Route Description: (Subject to changes)
The first miles from Wenatchee to Chelan capture the beauty of eastern Washington agriculture
country—stellar views and wheat fields—with a brutal climb up Rock Island grade to start the
day. From there, point your internal compass north and maintain that direction, until descending
down pristine gravel down to the town of Waterville. If you came for the wheat fields and
sunshine, you won’t be disappointed. From Waterville, the route remains high on the eastern
plateau before careening sharply down McNeill canyon to the Columbia river. From there it
travels to the town of Chelan along the Chelan gorge road, and right into downtown. From town, the route takes you along the lakeshore on South lakeshore road until Bear mountain road turnoff (~mi 81.6–careful, this turnoff is easy to miss), for a short but steep climb up to Bear mountain. Descend down to the top of Navarre coulee road and back down to South lakeshore road near Chelan State park. Enjoy these next miles of flatter pavement along the lakeshore, they won’t last long.

As you head NE towards 25-mile creek state park, look up. This is the ridge system you ascend as you move into NCW high country. This next portion of the route will provide a stark contrast to eastern plateaus. This is mountain country.

Consider a stop by 25 mile creek state park before ascending NFD 5900 towards Shady Pass. This is your last option for food before Ardenvoir. The climb up to Shady pass is long and beautiful, with 360 degree views up high on the ridge before descending rapidly down into the Entiat valley.

The route follows Entiat river road, and your next refueling option is Cooper’s general store, just past the turnoff for Mad river road. Cooper’s hours of operation vary, so be sure to plan accordingly. From the Mad river turnoff, follow this road for 2 miles, before turning left onto Tillicum USFS 5800. The Mad river area has excellent camping options. Continue up to the junction with USFS 5200, which heads up towards Sugarloaf lookout. This area has some of the best views of the route. The enchantments stand at arms length away, and Glacier peak guards the north.

Consider following NF-5200 out to Sugarloaf peak lookout (5814’) for excellent views (short right hand junction).

Continue along NF-5200 to Maverick saddle, and descend down NF-6101 to its junction with Chiwawa loop road, leading into Plain. The road offers a nice reprieve before Leavenworth. Pack in those calories, and have your camera ready, this next section offers some of the best views of Leavenworth. Head up Mountain home road, which has a brutally steep beginning, and levels out after a couple miles. Follow Mountain home road up to NF 7300, and enjoy the speedy descent down to Blewett pass  highway. Continue up Blewett pass for 1.25 miles (it goes rather quick and has a nice shoulder) until turning left onto Camas creek road. Climb Camas creek road up to a fork, and take a left onto Camas meadows natural area preserve. Give yourself a pat on the back.
You’ve done most of the hard work. The descent down Brender Canyon towards Cashmere is rowdy, smooth and steep, and feels like it was made for biking. A well deserved dinner (or snack) at the local brewery might be necessary.

The final climb out of Cashmere begins gradually up mission creek, before merging with FS 7101 with a steep grunt up the infamous Peavine, before descending to meet with the Horse Lake Mountain trailhead. Continue along this trail system up over Horse Lake mountain, down NF 7107 before meeting up with the Sage hills trail network. This final section will sample excellent singletrack before meeting up with Number 1 canyon. From here, it is a short coast down to the loop trail and finish.

Refueling:

primary refuel points:
1) Waterville (~mile 39.5)
2) Chelan (~mile 75); (Highly recommended to refuel in Chelan, the next climbs are
tough, with less options for resupply)
3) Pat and Mikes gas station (~ mi 80)
4) Chelan state park/Alpenhorn cafe (~mi 90)
4) 25-mile creek state park (~mile 100)
4) Ardenvoir (~mile 147)-Cooper’s general store (very small, odd hours–plan
accordingly)
5) Plain (~mile 181)
6) Leavenworth (~mile 195)
7) Cashmere (~mile 215)
8) Mission creek all the way until mile 226 (water only)

Towns like Chelan, Leavenworth and Cashmere have many more amenities available, whereas
smaller stops like Waterville, Plain, 25 mile creek and Ardenvoir are more limited. Hours of
operation for each store should be noted.

Camping:
There are endless amounts of places to camp (or bivvy sprawl) along the route. Particularly
notable spots include:
-Lake Chelan State Park
-the ridge heading up to Shady Pass
-Entiat drainage near Fox creek campground
-Mad River
-Ridge along Sugarloaf
-Mountain Home road
-Beehive reservoir

Water Sources:
Water is available on much of the route, but I would recommend planning your refill points
strategically. Many of the ridge systems won’t necessarily have great water sources. I always
carried a backup reservoir system in my bag, and was thankful for it.

Time needed: 2-6 days. Camping and overnight options are plentiful.

Difficulty: Depends on the individual. The route is mostly rideable, and the climbs are steep. I
would consider the technical difficulty relatively moderate 4/10. The primary difficulty lies in
the sheer volume of continuous climbing and descent. Vertical gain: 24,381’

Maps: See attached standard route (ridewithgps), and alternatives (caltopo).
https://ridewithgps.com/routes/42777387
https://caltopo.com/m/NEQL0

When to ride: Although this varies year to year, the upper elevations of the route generally melt
out by May, and snow can fall anytime in October. Late May-early October.

 

 

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