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Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT)

Experience the Pacific Crest Trail at its finest. This backpacking trip takes you across four passes to two lovely alpine lakes in the shadow of Golden Horn, Tower Mountain and Mount Hardy.

Start on the north side of the highway at Rainy Pass. The PCT here is wide and ascends at a moderate grade through forest. If you start in the afternoon, a nice campsite can be found below Cutthroat Pass at about four miles. Switchbacks take you to Cutthroat Pass (6800 feet) at five miles and is a nice turn-around for a day hike. The forest is behind you here and big views and granite peaks are all around.

Another 1.25 miles takes you to Granite Pass - where snowfields may cross the trail until August. If there is snow here, you'll need an ice axe, or you'll need to turn around. Past Granite Pass the trail is literally dynamited into the cliffs for some ways.

At Methow Pass, take the unmarked trail to your right a steep half mile to Lower Snowy Lake and beyond to Upper Snowy Lake. Trees are sparse here and the alpine meadows are quite fragile. As tempting as it may be to set up your tent next to one of these lakes, it is best to camp at the established campsites along the PCT to minimize damage to this sensitive and incredibly beautiful area.

Note: Much of this trail is above treeline. Shade from sun and cover from rain is minimal, so plan your trip into this area accordingly. August and September are the best months for this trip.
Driving Directions:

From Marblemount follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east for 51 miles to Rainy Pass near milepost 158. Turn left to access the north trailhead. Elevation is 4800 feet.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 25 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT) — Aug 31, 2013 — Maura
Overnight
Issues: Mud/Rockslide | Bugs
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For a complete description of our overnight trip to Snowy Lakes and more photos check out our blog! ...
For a complete description of our overnight trip to Snowy Lakes and more photos check out our blog!
http://bobbyandmaura.com/[…]/cutthroat-pass-to-snowy-lakes

What an excellent trail! The easy stock grade makes the elevation gain easy as pie! It is very well maintained and is very popular!

We spent the night at Upper Snowy Lake and were surrounded by other campers. Bees and flies buzzed around us and the sun beat down upon us without mercy. We had planned on spending two nights at the lake but due to the over-crowdedness from Labor Day Weekend, the bugs, and the intense heat during the day we turned it into an overnight trip.

Watching the sun set below the mountains was definitely the highlight of the trip!

In the guidebook, Backpacking Washington, Craig Romano warns about the section of trail after Granite Pass saying, “Occasional rock slides and gullies need to be crossed which may rattle some hikers’ nerves.” This description had me nervous before we had even set off on the trail. I am a pretty big wuss when it comes to steep, slippery, rocky slopes, but, while it was a little dicy at times, the trail never induced any panic in me. The trail is so established and well used that I wasn’t nearly as scared as I expected to be. There was no snow on the trail. We had to cross over one small rockslide that wasn't too difficult. There was one blowdown total along the whole trail that was easily walked over.

Water for our dog was easily found during numerous stream crossings on the way up to Cutthroat Pass. After the pass there was a dry spell for a couple of miles and then we began passing streams again and he drank greedily from them.

Overall awesome hike with stunning views around each corner. Accept and be okay with the fact that you will not have this trail or the campsites to yourself and you'll have a great time!
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Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT) — Aug 09, 2013 — Jennifer
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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The entire trail was in excellent condition. The creek crossings mentioned in the June 30th trip rep...
The entire trail was in excellent condition. The creek crossings mentioned in the June 30th trip report are now simple rock hops and the trail was completely snow-free. Contrary to the August 8th report, we only encountered one downed tree.

Our biggest obstacles were the bugs and the storm. The bugs were out in full force, flies and mosquitoes galore. The storms that came through that weekend were beautiful but powerful. Lots of rain turned our campsite into a little lake and the hail tested the intregrity of our tents.

There were several other groups at the lake but it didn't detract from the beauty of location.
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Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT), Cutthroat Pass — Aug 08, 2013 — Deer Slayer
Multi-night backpack
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Hike from Hwy 20 to Junction with Trail 755 north of Methow Pass. Got caught in the storm that clos...
Hike from Hwy 20 to Junction with Trail 755 north of Methow Pass.
Got caught in the storm that closed Hwy 20 while still north of Methow Pass. On return the storm had not inflicted any significant damage on this section of the PCT.
Snowy Lakes was very congested - 4 parties at the lakes themselves and 3 parties camping at the basin below the lakes.
There is a surprising amount of dead fall between Methow Pass and Trail #755 - at least surprising for Trail #2000 simply because the PCT usually seems as clear and wide as an interstate. However, it's all easily negotiated.
The trail junction for Trail 755 is marked by a cairn but no trail sign. Due to storms, I did not climb to Azurite Pass and cannot comment on the trail other than to say that the lower section of #755 at the trail junction is looking overgrown.
Here is a link to a montage of photos of this section of the PCT:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivpwg4bs6RU&edit=vd
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Cutthroat Pass, Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT) — Jun 30, 2013 — Sir-Hikes-A-Lot
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Water on trail | Snow on trail | Bugs
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I always love these warm weather patterns that hit when there is still a lot of snow in high country...
I always love these warm weather patterns that hit when there is still a lot of snow in high country…it always equates to an amazing water display…today was full of raging rivers and incredible waterfalls!

From the TH (at Rainy Pass) to Cutthroat Pass there are ~ 12 downed trees that are all easily navigated. Porcupine Cr is a ford right now and will be for a while. There are 3 more potential fords depending on what time of day you are attempting to cross. All of these crossings are incredibly cold but not really a concern.

The route is pretty much snow free to ~ 6100’, where patchy snow begins. The snow is never really solid and I would suspect that most people would be fine with navigation to the pass. There’s one spot on the switchbacks around 6200-6300’where you may have to hunt around for the trail, but with these temps that could change in a matter of days. There is a lot of water on the trail from all the melting snow but when not covered with snow or water the trail is in great shape.

From Cutthroat Pass to the Snowy Lakes trail junction, the route is mostly snow free. The only snow that remains is what you see looking northeast from Cutthroat Pass, the north facing traverse once around the ridge ( ~ .5 miles from Cutthroat Pass), and a short traverse just before the switchbacks heading down to Granite Pass. The route up to Snowy Lakes is snow free but there is still a fair amount of snow in the lake basins, which won't last long. Some of the north facing snow traverses are steep. There are no navigation issues on this stretch and when not snow covered the trail is in great shape.

I also hiked up to Methow Pass (which is essentially snow free) to look north along the PCT and was pleased to see that there is not much snow.

Snow free camps at Cutthroat Pass, Granite Pass, at the trail junction with Snowy Lakes, Snowy Lakes, and Methow Pass.

Cheers!
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Golden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT) — Oct 06, 2012 — wolfwoman
Multi-night backpack
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Another great backpack including Blissman, Phlemy, the Transporter, Maria, and Cathy. The trail to S...
Another great backpack including Blissman, Phlemy, the Transporter, Maria, and Cathy. The trail to Snowy Lakes is great as you'd expect from the PCT. The side trail to Snowy Lakes is rough though and a bit of an ankle twister. We had fine summer weather (October!), although we were a bit late and most of the larch had turned to brown and fallen. Still, the scenery here can't be beat. We camped at the upper lake with wonderful views of Golden Horn and Mt. Harding. On our second day, things got a bit crowded and by nightime there were probably 30 camps at the upper lake. Very strange. I've never seen anything like it. We were camped so close that there was a tents set up 30 feet from ours on all sides. I have more living space at my home on Camano Island! I'm thinking that we all got pushed up north due to the fires. In either case, it was a great weekend. Dinner at the Bird's View Brewery, and a quick drive home!
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Snowy Lakes CP.jpg
Upper Snowy Lake. Photo by CP.
Location
PCT (#2000)
North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway
Okanogan National Forest - Methow Valley Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 23.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2700 ft
Highest Point 6900 ft
Features
Lakes
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Ridges/passes
Established campsites
User info
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
100 Classic Hikes in Washington (Ira Spring & Harvey Manning) - Mountaineers Books
Green Trails #50 Washington Pass

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Red MarkerGolden Horn - Snowy Lakes (PCT)
48.5156197 -120.7361753
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