Hike to Cutthroat Pass

Rate this Adventure Washington Cutthroat Pass via Cutthroat Lake

  • Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    11 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2300 Feet

Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Top-notch day hike or overnight trip in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest with panoramic views from the Pacific Crest Trail.

Looking for a distinctive high-country hike just east of the pass? Cutthroat Pass is a hearty day hike perfect for gaining elevation and views with every step. It's even more dynamic as a point-to-point, exiting via the Pacific Crest Trail if you have two vehicles. Also great for a one-night backpacking trip, with possible extension for 2+ nights by heading north on the PCT.

For the basic out-and-back, park your vehicle at the Cutthroat Pass trailhead (#483), accessed via Highway 20 (just east of Washington Pass). The very short USFS road 400 will bring you to the parking area; don't forget your NW Forest Pass! A relatively flat 2 mile jaunt and spur trail to the left will bring you to Cutthroat Lake. Pause briefly, but continue back to the main trail and upwards for the real reward: breathtaking views from the pass and PCT. By turning back, you'll complete the 11 mile roundtrip journey. There's plenty of camping opportunities just below the pass, no permit required for overnight stays. Look for a bare patch of rock or dirt where someone else has already camped. Hang food in the sturdier trees or use a bear-resistant food canister. Please no campfires in this delicate environment!

If you choose the point-to-point option, park a second car at the northern Rainy Pass trailhead (north of Highway 20 just west of Washington Pass). This parking lot also requires a NW Forest Pass, so double up at the ranger station. After reaching Cutthroat Pass, head south on the PCT for 5 miles rather than turning back the way you came. This option is a great way to experience the PCT for day-trippers, and requires much less elevation loss on the way back.

Interested in extending your journey for multiple nights? Hike north on the PCT instead and explore the wonders of Methow Pass, Snowy Lakes, the Pasayten Wilderness, and beyond. Just remember your blue bags and waste disposal methods... No backcountry toilets out there!

Pack List

  • NW Forest Pass
  • 10 essentials
  • Camera to capture views at the pass
  • Sunscreen/hat (intense "eastside" heat!)
  • Hiking shoes
  • 2-3 liters of water per person
Staying overnight?
  • Tent (trees aren't strong enough to support hammocks)
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Food storage plan (40 ft of rope or canister)
  • Extra water (depending on month, could be very little to none at the pass)
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Emily Noyd

Wilderness ranger in Yosemite National Park. Raised by Washington mountains and Puget Sound islands. I live for sunrise, backcountry cooking, climbing, roadtrips, and coffee.

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