• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    22 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3550 Feet

Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Jaw dropping panoramic views of the North Cascades. Camping by Lower or Upper Snowy Lake, surrounded by Golden Horn and Tower mountains. No overnight permit (Northwest Forest Pass required for parking). Dogs allowed.

Take Hwy 20 to Rainy Pass, and park at the trailhead on the east side of the highway. Begin on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), heading towards Cutthroat Pass.

The trail winds it's way towards the pass at a gentle grade over 5 miles. As the trail ascends, you'll leave the forest behind as you enter the alpine. If 11 miles a day is too long, you can extend the trip by staying at one of several campsites at Cutthroat Pass. Once you reach the top of the pass (6,900 ft), continue on the PCT along a talus covered ridge.

Around each bend, you'll be rewarded with more stunning and glorious views of this incredible section of the Cascade Mountain Range. Soon you'll begin descending steep switchbacks. In the distance, you can see the trail continue to traverse across the mountain slopes beneath Tower Mountain. Hike past Granite Pass (6300 ft) and a scattering of additional campsites.

As the trail continues, you'll traverse past cascading stream gullies. If it's early in the season these will be very treacherous due to avalanche chutes, so use caution. Even later in the season, mudslides can leave the tread of the trail in rough shape.

At around 10.5 miles you reach a small, unmarked spur trail that leads to up to Snowy Lakes. There is a large camping area near the junction in a meadow – but you came here for the lakes, so continue on! Gain 500 ft over the last half mile up to the lake basin, find a cozy place to setup your tent, and reward yourself with a good meal! Head back the way you came to return to the trailhead.

Stop at the Que Car in Marblemount on your way home for some delicious barbecue from an old railroad trolley.

Note that Hwy 20 closes in the winter, so check with WSDOT before heading out in the spring or fall.

Pack List

  • Basic backpacking equipment
  • Camera
  • Northwest Forest Pass (for parking at trailhead)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Bobby Marko

Backpacking and hiking in PNW & Midwest with our son Jack and dog Latigo. Check out our website for trip reports, photos, and GPX tracks.

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