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Cutthroat Pass via Cutthroat Lake

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
View map below

Length

11.4 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2300 ft.
Highest Point: 6800 ft.

Rating

3.50 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Take this gentle trail to a beautiful alpine lake surrounded by rocky cliffs before heading up some steeper switchbacks to a pass and junction with the iconic Pacific Crest Trail.

The beginning of the trail finds you venturing across Cutthroat Creek, a pretty, clear mountain stream. After the crossing, traverse low on the valley wall, passing several seasonal waterfalls in thin forest. Pass huge lichen-covered granite boulders and look for peek-a-boo views of a rocky ridge to the south.

Keep in mind that while the creek is occasionally audible, it is not near the trail, and much of the runoff is seasonal, so be sure to have plenty of water before you head up. 1.8 miles into the hike is a junction. The left branch consists of rolling terrain for 0.2 miles to Cutthroat Lake, a delightful place to take a short break before heading up to the pass.

If you want to bypass the lake, take the right-hand trail. This begins switchbacking after a short uphill traverse, gaining 1800 feet of elevation in 3.7 miles. But the pass, once reached, is well worth the effort. At the pass, you're straddling Skagit and Okanogan Counties, and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) rolls out in front of you to the northeast and southwest.

You may have company in the pass--many day hikers can access Cutthroat Pass using the PCT from the Rainy Pass picnic area. Take in all your surroundings, get some photos, maybe even give some words of encouragement to PCT thru-hikers you may see before heading back down to the trailhead.

 

Cutthroat Pass via Cutthroat Lake

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.5564, -120.6547 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Cutthroat Pass (#483)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Getting There

The trailhead for Cutthroat Lake and Pass is just a few miles east of Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20). There is a side road clearly marked "Cutthroat Lake Trailhead". Turn onto this road and proceed about a mile, where the road and ends in a small parking lot with a pit toilet.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Cutthroat Pass via Cutthroat Lake

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