Walking down Winthrop's streets, it's easy to imagine horse-drawn carriages and wild west shootouts that never were. The western-themed architecture of this tiny, postage-stamp town on Washington's North Cascades Scenic Byway is the product of a fool-proof plan to attract the tourism industry after droughts, freezes and floods forced Winthrop residents out of farming. So, the town hired the architect of Washington's Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth and revamped it into the wild west watering hole it is today.
What to Pack:
Two pairs of shorts
Two pairs of leggings
DSLR + 24-70mm lens
Winthrop always intrigued me – besides its cowboy-themed town, seemingly preserved in another time, it's also known for its sundry of outdoor recreational activities. Its dry snow, sunny weather, and varied terrain landed itself a spot on the map as one of the best Nordic ski destinations in the world. In the winter, cross-country skiers can strap in and stride on a hut-to-hut adventure, but in the summer, those trails become roads and those huts become reservable. So, when my mom called me up and said, "Hey, do you want to stay on a mountaintop in a remote hut on the outskirts of the North Cascades?" I said, DUH!
There are five Rendezvous Huts of various sizes (typically sleeping 8-10 people) in the network, and each is equipped with a full kitchen, a wood stove heater and fuel, sleeping pads, propane lights, and an outhouse. We reserved the most remote of them all: The Cassal Hut.
Pro Tip: Arrive before dark; leave with a full tank of gas; and drive a lifted 4WD car if you can – this hut definitely needed it.
After 40 minutes of driving on dirt forest roads, following tiny signs and "slight lefts" and avoiding cows that like to hang out in the road, we miraculously stumbled upon the Cassal Hut.
Those who stay in the Cassal Hut can enjoy both sunrise and sunset as the sun sets the towering peaks of the North Cascades aglow in the distance. The hut's bottom floor has a table and chairs, two queen-sized bunks, a full kitchen, and a wood stove. A full water jug sits in the kitchen for you to use as you please. Utensils, plates, mugs, pots, pans, and even a pour-over coffee maker are there for your convenience. Turn on the gas outside to use the stove and oven. Lanterns and the flicker of the wood stove work together to create some solid mood lighting. Games and journals live on the bunk's shelves.
Above, the loft has more of the same queen-sized sleeping pads – you can easily fit six people up there alone. The outhouse is out back, complete with toilet paper and a padded seat – a nice touch – and the wood shed out front. A picnic table and fire pit overlook the expansive views of the mountains beyond. Freaking magical.
Four more huts exist, all with their own exceptional characteristics and rustic personalities. Check them out here.
Back in town, storefronts, restaurants, and entertainment are in no short supply.
Oliver's Artisan Kitchen – breakfast sandwich and a latte
Duck Brand Hotel and Restaurant – blueberry pancakes
Sheri's Sweet Shoppe – chocolate-dipped Twinkies, seafoam, truffles, you name it; it's all good.
Old Schoolhouse Brewery – for tasty brews and live music
Copper Glance – for creative cocktails and cozy vibes
Three Fingered Jack's Saloon – because it's Washington's oldest legal saloon, so you basically have to go... sorry?
Cascades Outdoor Store – for rad, hyper-local adventure gear. I picked up my new favorite North Cascades National Park hat and a sticker for my growing collection – don't hate.
The Shafer Museum – I didn't actually get to go myself, but I hear it's fantastic!
Float the river! This is a fun summer activity that's easy to do and always an epic time.