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Cutthroat Pass

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Stroll first through deep forest, then up, up, and away to an alpine world flush in meadows, larches, and delectable views of stark craggy mountains spiraling to the heavens. From the pass, a broad saddle teetering on the demarcation zone between the wet west and the dry east, there are exploratory side-trip options. And while this section of the Pacific Crest Trail usually teems with fellow hikers, it's never shy of wild critters. With everything from frantic ground squirrels, to lumbering bears, to wallowing mountain goats, you'll feel like you've walked onto the set of Wild America.

Your trek to Cutthroat Pass is by way of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2600-mile National Scenic Trail following the Sierra and Cascade crests from the Mexican to the Canadian border. Veteran PCT hikers rank this section of trail from Rainy Pass to the Pasayten Wilderness among its most scenic stretches. You'll probably agree.

From a lofty start at 4800 feet, the way starts gentle enough in cool forest, skirting the base of Cutthroat Peak. At 1.5 miles cross tumbling Porcupine Creek (elev. 5200 ft). Now following alongside the mountain stream, elevation gain accelerates. A thinning forest cover begins to reveal imposing neighbors. Look west to Corteo, Black, and Fisher peaks peeking above the North Cascades Highway.

Negotiate a series of switchbacks, angle across a high slope, and then begin another set of switchbacks. Make the final grunt to the pass across meadows speckled with boulders and spliced with granite slabs. Whistling marmots and shrilling ground squirrels announce your passing. At 5 miles reach Cutthroat Pass and relish its sweeping views. Jagged giants encircle you. Look east out to the sunny Methow Valley and the 8876-foot behemoth, Silver Star Mountain, dominating the horizon.
Driving Directions:

From Marblemount follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east for 51 miles to Rainy Pass near milepost 158. Turn left onto the spur road and drive 0.3 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail parking area (elev. 4800 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 32 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Cutthroat Pass — Oct 28, 2013 — Erdeman
Overnight
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Snow on trail
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We were all ready to go on Sunday, but because of the forecast of high wind and rain, we opted ...
     We were all ready to go on Sunday, but because of the forecast of high wind and rain, we opted to wait a day and leave on Monday. Good choice. The weather was perfect. Clear, calm, sunny, but a little cold. 23 degrees Monday night.
     Most of the snow from the dump four weeks ago is melted. We took crampons and ice axes, but did not need them. The trail is in very good condition except for a few rock slides after Granite Pass. These are very easy to negotiate.
     The route up to the Snowy Lakes is easy and the lakes were totally open on Monday and fully frozen the next morning. There is still a bit of snow on north facing slopes, but most south facing ones are clear. We camped on very firm windblown snow well above the upper Snowy Lake.
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Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section L - Rainy Pass to Manning Park, Cutthroat Pass — Oct 22, 2013 — Jay L
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Had to get in a larch hike and Cutthroat Pass did not disappoint. Started out at 9:45am and trail wa...
Had to get in a larch hike and Cutthroat Pass did not disappoint. Started out at 9:45am and trail was in great shape. Only snow concerns were at the start of the switchbacks, poles would have helped, but did not have any issues. Larches were still full of color and the views were great. I tried to push on to Granite Pass to get a view of the Golden Horn, but the last part of the hike before the view I would have felt more comfortable with an ice axe. Met several parties of PCT thru hikers and gave them a well deserved congratulations, the early snow caught them at Stevens Pass and just imagined the section K part of the trail after the early snow. I hope they get good weather for the rest of their journey. Hiked this for the first time last year and is one of my favorite hikes, I wish I could have made it to Granite Pass, its one of my favorite views, I highly recommend it weather permitting. Get out there and check out the larches while the weather holds!
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Cutthroat Pass — Oct 19, 2013 — cascadehiker
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Beautiful day, the larches were brilliant orange. Snow on the trail the last 2 miles to the top. A...
Beautiful day, the larches were brilliant orange. Snow on the trail the last 2 miles to the top. A few muddy spots on the trail and water standing. Hiking Poles are not a must, but very helpful. The creek crossings can be a little tricky. A quiet morning on the trail, spent about 30 minutes at the pass admiring the views before the first hiker made an appearance. Lots of mountain views from the pass. Lovely weather for a fall hike, nice and warm at the pass.
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Cutthroat Pass — Oct 19, 2013 — Girl and Dog
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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Larchtastic! This might be one of the all-time best larchy hikes, and I may never have tried it if t...
Larchtastic! This might be one of the all-time best larchy hikes, and I may never have tried it if the gorgeous Maple Pass across the street hadn't gotten snowed in so early. No avalanche slopes on the way to Cutthroat Pass though, so it won out, and now it's going to be a tough call on which one to do. If it's sheer larch immersion you're after, Cutthroat offers it up by the bucket-load. Throw in the big, peaky views, and nearly-perfect trail, and it's hard to beat if you're willing to hoof the 10 mile round trip.

Right now there's only snow in a couple of stretches toward the top, and it's well packed, so snowshoes aren't necessary, but poles and traction devices were definitely helpful. The water crossings are currently all very easy, still a few mushrooms in the lower forest, the trail is long but has a very mellow incline throughout, and the larches are in their prime. Go now!
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Cutthroat Pass — Oct 13, 2013 — tamsters
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Larch are looking great! Snow for the last 2 miles in, but well-packed, easy-to-follow trail. We bro...
Larch are looking great! Snow for the last 2 miles in, but well-packed, easy-to-follow trail. We brought Yak Trax, but did not feel the need to put them on. A bit of post-hling at the top if you get out of the footprints. Lots of running water & mud at the lower elevations of the trail, with 3 water crossings to contend with, but they were all fairly easy to get over without completely submerging my boot. Tons of varied kinds of mushrooms line the forested first couple of miles!
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cutthroat.jpg
Photo by Lee Stamm.
Location
Cutthroat Pass (#2000)
North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway
Okanogan National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2000 ft
Highest Point 6800 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Ridges/passes
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Guidebooks & Maps
100 Hikes in the North Cascades
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers)
Green Trails Washington Pass No. 50

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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