Cutthroat Pass — Shiny granite, golden larches and splendid vistas

Quick Facts:

Location: North Cascades Highway

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Round Trip: 10.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 1850 feet

Contact: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District,

Green Trails Map: Washington Pass No. 50

Recommended Guidebook: Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd edition (Mountaineers Books)

Notes: NW Forest Pass or Interagency Pass required.

Access: From Marblemount, follow the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) east for 51 miles to Rainy Pass near Milepost 158. (If coming from Winthrop drive 35 miles west on SR 20 to turnoff). Turn left onto spur road and follow .3 mile to Pacific Crest Trail parking area.

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, wildflowers, mountain goat habitat, summer wildflowers, autumn larches, Pacific Crest Trail, Practice Leave No Trace Principles


Easily meander along the Pacific Crest Trail to a broad saddle straddling the demarcation zone between the wet western and the dry eastern slopes of the Cascades. Then embrace an alpine world flush in wildflowers, larches and stark craggy gold-hued mountains spiraling towards the heavens. Watch for wildlife too—frantic ground squirrels, lumbering bears, wallowing mountain goats, soaring ravens and raucous nutcrackers.

From a lofty start in cool forest, the way gently starts, skirting the base of Cutthroat Peak. Soon cross tumbling Porcupine Creek (tricky in early season)—then following alongside the mountain stream climbing accelerates. A thinning forest cover begins to reveal imposing neighbors. Look west to Corteo, Black, and Fisher Peaks peeking above the North Cascades Scenic Highway.

Negotiate a series of switchbacks, angle across a high slope; and then negotiate another set of switchbacks. Pass a developed camping area set amidst an open forest of larch.  Make the final grunt to the pass traversing meadows speckled with boulders and interrupted by granite slabs. Whistling marmots and shrilling ground squirrels announce your arrival.

At 5.0 miles reach Cutthroat Pass (elev. 6800 feet) and relish in 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.  Feel free to roam this wide gap high in the Cascades for better viewing. Walk south on a way path to a small knoll for a splendid vantage.

Cutthroat Pass is one of 136 featured hikes in my fully updated and expanded Day Hiking North Cascades 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Book). For more details on this hike and others (including many not found in other guides), pick up a copy of this book today!

For information on where to stay and on other things to along the North Cascades Highway, check out Northwest TripFinder

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