By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 4 July 2016)
Description: The Buck Mountain Loop trail is a 22.5 kilometer (14 mile) round trip over scenic Buck Mountain in Winthrop, Washington. It includes a mix of single and double track trails, providing amazing views of Methow Valley and surrounding mountains. The trail is most often used by mountain bikers in the warmer seasons, but it is also open to hikers and runners spring through fall and snowshoers in the winter.
The first half of the trail runs steadily uphill – not steep, but a continuous climb, which is rewarded by a gradual ridgeline descent with incredible open scenery along the way. Total ascent is around 867 meters (2,844 feet).
There are cattle grazing areas along the way, so expect to see cows alongside the trails from time to time. Other animals we spotted near the trail included various butterflies, tiny chipmunks, and ptarmigan. You might also see deer and snowshoe hares in the area. Additional animals living in the region include black bears, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, and wolves, but you’re far less likely to see any of these shyer animals.
Note: Different sources provide slightly different numbers for the Buck Mountain Loop distance and ascension. Our distance is based on the Endomondo tracker we used and the ascension is from Trailforks, which tends to be one of the more accurate sources.
Time: The time required to complete this trip will be quite variable depending on your fitness level; how much time you want to spend taking in the views; and whether you’re cycling, hiking, snowshoeing, or running. With a mix of light jogging and hiking (and stops to eat and photograph the beautiful scenery along the way), we took around 4.5 hours. Allow more time for a slow, relaxed hike. Trailforks lists the average cycling time at 1.5 hours, but there will be a lot of variation based on skill levels.
Cost: Free – there are no park fees for trail use
Difficulty: This trail is described as moderately difficult (a blue trail for mountain bikers). The trail isn’t particularly technical – for the most part, relatively smooth and flowy. There is a bit of loose rock in some places, but nothing significantly challenging.
The real challenge of this route is the long climb in the first half (assuming that you do the route clockwise, which most people do to have the steeper climb at the beginning followed by a more gradual descent with views). Given the length of the loop and the long ascension, those who attempt it should be reasonably fit.
Required Equipment: Running or trail running shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, first aid kit, plenty of water and food (it gets hot there during the summer and fall, and you’ll burn lots of calories on the ascent)
- The trail offers stunning scenery, and the views are continuous once you travel above the treeline.
- The terrain isn’t too technical, and the flowy downhill bits are a real joy to run or ride.
- There is no park fee to use the trails.
- This trip provides a great workout.
- The length and ascension exclude less fit people from doing this one.
- There are no washrooms or places to buy food or water, and no cell phone coverage, so bring what you need to be safe, well-fed, and hydrated for a day on the mountain.
- There is a small parking area near the trailhead. The far left side this pull-off area leads to a private driveway – don’t block this space (there should be signs marking it).
- For more information, maps, and directions see the MTBProject’s Buck Mountain Loop page and the CascadesSingleTrack Buck Mountain Trail page.
- For winter trips, see the Washington Trails Association Buck Mountain Snowshoe page.
For information about more great hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest, see the main Activities page.
*Conditions and routes may have changed since the time of this writing.