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Cutthroat Pass via the Pacific Crest Trail

North Cascades


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
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10.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 2000 ft.
Highest Point: 6800 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

Cutthroat Pass is a stunner no matter which way you access it. This way, you'll enjoy a wider, more well-maintained trail, and you're more likely to share it with Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers.

From the trailhead just off Highway 20, set out on wide, moderately steep trail. At first, you're hiking through a dark, deep forest, hopping creeks and listening to waterfalls. The first mile and a half is crossed by a handful of small creeks, but even in late fall these can run high. It's a good idea to have hiking poles with you.

It's not until 1.5 miles in that you cross your biggest creek -- Porcupine Creek. Look for the safest way across and then continue on, now beginning to head more directly towards the pass. As you climb, the forest thins, and you can see across the valley to craggy mountain spires. At the first open point, turn around and gaze across the highway. Those big, blocky peaks are Black and Fisher, as well as several others.

Continue on after gazing at the stunning scenery. Cross the valley to it's south side, and begin climbing switchbacks. After a handful of these, the trail traverses back across the valley to the north and resumes switchbacking, though the grade has lessened.

You're approaching the pass, but it'll take a final push through some of the most scenic land the state has to offer. The wide open valley is dotted with granite boulders, spots of huckleberry bushes, and the dark green heather indicative of this high alpine environment.

In the pass itself, you're spoiled for choices of lunch spot. Everywhere you turn offers up gorgeous views, including down: that little blue pool in the valley below is Cutthroat Lake, another way to access this grandiose area. Pick a granite slab, plop down, and relish what you worked so hard to enjoy.


Cutthroat Pass via the Pacific Crest Trail

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.5181, -120.7331 Open map in new window


North Cascades -- North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Cutthroat Pass (#2000)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District

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Guidebooks & Maps

100 Hikes in the North Cascades

Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers)

Green Trails Washington Pass No. 50

Getting There

Drive east on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) for 51 miles to Rainy Pass. Make a left (across the road from Maple Pass) and drive less than half a mile to an unpaved parking lot for the Pacific Crest Trail. Restrooms are available here.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Cutthroat Pass via the Pacific Crest Trail

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