I know, I know. Most people go to Winthrop to mountain bike, kayak down rivers, or cross country ski. All difficult things to do with two and three year olds. But turns out that Winthrop is still awesome with little ones. Here’s what we did:
The Shortest Hikes Possible
Methow Community Trail: We caught a portion of this trail east of Mazama, just off Goat Creek Road. It consisted of a mile long walk alongside the river to the Tawlks/Foster Suspension Bridge. This was a great little walk for kids: flat, shaded, alongside the river, with a picnic area right after the bridge. My kids switched off walking and riding in the backpack and both liked throwing rocks in the river at the turnaround point. We also ran into tons of families biking (with both toddlers in bike trailers and young kids on their own bikes).
Dripping Springs Rd: Halfway through this walk, Aubrey the princess turned to Jason and said “daddy, can we go back inside to the air conditioner?” Not a ringing endorsement for the hike. The map suggests it is along the river, but you can’t see said river and there isn’t a lot of shade. Apparently you hit the river about 45 minutes into the hike (whatever that means), but we bailed and took Aubrey’s suggestion after about a mile. Plus I’d forgotten to pack diapers.
Sandcastles and Swimming
Pearrygin Lake State Park: The lake is just a few miles northeast of Winthrop. Part of the eastern side of the lake is a State Park with two campgrounds. Next to the east campground is the day use area (Discover Pass required) with a large parking lot, tons of picnic tables, and a roped off swimming area. My kids both have a sixth sense for when a playground is near, and their internal playground radars did not go off, so I’m assuming there were none in the area.
The beach/swimming area was a bit of a bust. You could optimistically call the beach “sandy,” but no great sandcastles were constructed due to the pebbly nature of the “sand.” The rocks continued into the swimming area which didn’t really bother the kids (both of whom hate shoes and routinely run over gravel roads as if they were nicely laid paths of cotton balls) but my husband and I weren’t fans. Luckily there were a few little alcoves between the beach and the campground with superior sand, and we snagged one of them. The area was also shady and served as a good boat launch for our canoe. The lake was nice for paddling, and we could see some fish jumping. Jet skis and motor boats are allowed on the lake, but it wasn’t that busy. Patterson Lake and Twin Lakes are also nearby with similar features.
Carlton Hole: Since there is a lack of sandy beaches in the area, we took our buckets and shovels about 30 minutes east. Carlton is a tiny town a few miles east of Twisp. Right off Highway 153, just before you would take the bridge over the river, turn right onto the dirt road. The little parking lot is 20 steps from the stretch of sand.
If it’s a sunny weekend day, just follow the crowd. We were there on a 90 degree Tuesday and there were a few other families there. Carlton Hole has a good sized sandbar and swimming hole (it’s a river though! Keep those kids close!). There is also a rocky area and some pretty good fishing spots, according to my husband (he didn’t catch anything, but that is probably because it was the middle of the day and we were all throwing rocks in the river). You do need a Discover Pass to park here. This little swimming hole was totally worth the drive.
The Perfect Location
We spent the week in a cabin at the River Run Inn, which I highly recommend for families.
There is an indoor pool, huge lawn, onsite BBQ pits and fire rings, and the river is just out the back door. The place is a quick (.5 mile) walk from downtown Winthrop, and the community park and playground is even closer. The Inn has complementary everything: charcoal, bikes, badminton sets, hammocks, DVDs. The inn also runs kayak and rafting float trips, which I unfortunately didn’t get to partake in, but my two year old loved waving to the adventurers as they set off down the Methow.