Cutthroat Pass

North Cascades
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Cutthroat Pass

Distance: 16.1km
Elevation: 828m
Time: 5-6h

Difficulty Rating:

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9.7 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
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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, 16.4km hike offers outstanding mountain views from the 2073m Cutthroat Pass. We Love it!

Getting there

From Newhalem, drive east on the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) for 59.5km to Rainy Pass. Turn left into the signed trailhead parking area on the north side of the road. Northwest Forest Pass required.

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When to do

July - October

Backcountry Campsites



Yes, at trailhead

Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type

Out and back


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 1.6km – a small glimpse of what’s to come. At 2.9km cross Porcupine Creek, then begin to climb more steadily. Trees thin over the next 1.6km or so, and the trail pops out into alpine scenery around the 4.8km mark.

In another 1.6km 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 16.1km, 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.


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Otis2 weeks ago

Reaching Granite pass is worth adding to this hike as it's not too far away and offers different views

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
5h 00m Time Taken
Cykelly3 weeks ago

A bit crowded for the level of effort. Usually the harder the hike, the fewer the people. But Cutthroat pass was quite a popular destination the day I went.

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
6h 00m Time Taken
Burokai3 weeks ago

A must do if you are in the North Cascades. The views were very rewarding. Quite a lot of people though

10.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty

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