Rising nearly 2,000 feet over the Methow Valley, Patterson Mountain stands at the eastern edge of the North Cascades. The trail to the top is short and easy, as long as you hike it during spring or fall. Summers here are hot and dry, and there is no water source along the trail.
Walk across Patterson Lake Road from the gravel parking area to reach Patterson Mountain's signed trailhead. After a short climb you'll reach a pair of gates. Go through the first gate and head right to follow the South Loop Trail. Patterson's open mountainside offers views the entire way. Look down on Patterson Lake as you climb 800 feet above it. To the northwest, several North Cascade peaks are visible in the distance.
At 1.4 miles you'll reach a signed junction with the summit trail. Go right to reach the summit in half a mile, where 360-degree views of the mountains and valley await. Or continue along the loop to Patterson Mountain's eastern shoulder and peer down on Winthrop from there. The trail begins to descend and loop back at this point, leading in and out of sparse, forested areas that provide some welcome shade. At about 2 miles the trail comes to a barbed wire fence. Cross into the giant cattle pen by stepladder, and be sure not to disturb any grazing cows, mules, etc. A sign warns that mules are unlikely to attack people, but they may attack dogs. Keep four-legged friends on a leash at all times.
The loop closes back at the two gates. Return the way you came for a 2.6-mile round trip hike, or extend your walk by turning right and following the trail to Patterson Lake's northern shore. Then walk half a mile down Patterson Lake Road to loop back to your car.