Cutthroat Pass

  • Difficulty
  • 16.1km
  • 828m
  • 5-6h

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The Cutthroat Pass hike is said to be one of the most scenic stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State. This moderate, 10.2mi hike offers outstanding mountain views from the 6,800-foot Cutthroat Pass. We Love it!

Getting there

From Newhalem, drive east on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) for 37 miles to Rainy Pass. Turn left into the signed trailhead parking area on the north side of the road. Northwest Forest Pass required.


Total Gain: 828m


Type of Hike Out and Back
Crowd Levels High
Route Signage Good
Toilets Yes, at trailhead
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds No
When to Do July – October

 Detailed Description

There is more than one way to reach Cutthroat Pass. By hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) north from Highway 20, you can enjoy a wide, moderately graded, and well-maintained path the entire way. Because it was originally graded for pack animals, the PCT never gets too steep. The miles breeze by with little effort, and before you know it you’ll be at Cutthroat Pass.

Begin hiking north through dense forest. Creek crossings keep it interesting along the way, though they are generally easy to pass. The first views open up at 1 mile – a small glimpse of what’s to come. At 1.8 miles cross Porcupine Creek, then begin to climb more steadily. Trees thin over the next mile or so, and the trail pops out into alpine scenery around the 3-mile mark.

In another mile the switchbacks begin, eventually delivering you to Cutthroat Pass. Views throughout this section are wide open towards Porcupine Peak, and larches line the trail. At 10 miles, reach Cutthroat Pass and a junction. The PCT continues north from here to Canada, while the trail to the right drops to Cutthroat Lake – visibly sparkling below.

Find a lunch spot among the granite here, and see how many mountains you can name. Consider a short side trip to the knoll south of the pass. From here, 360-degree North Cascade mountain views await. Hinkhouse Peak, Silver Star Mountain, and of course Cutthroat Peak dominate the skyline.

Insider Hints

  • Hike to Cutthroat Pass during fall to see the golden larches.
  • Consider extending your hike one mile north on the PCT to Granite Pass for additional wonderful views.