Cutthroat Pass and Winthrop

In early July, my friend from Michigan, Nick, came to Seattle for a visit on a long road trip. Last time we hiked together was on Mt. Timanogos in Utah! I figured since he already had plans to visit Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park, I’d show him a little bit of our least-visited, third national park: North Cascades.

Unfortunately the weather was a little bit cloudy for us as we climbed toward Cutthroat Pass, a high mountain pass with trail access located just east of Washington Pass on SR-20. I didn’t realize until the trailhead that the Cutthroat area is not really in the park boundary. Nevertheless, any day in the North Cascades is a good one. We hiked along easy trail to Cutthroat Lake, occupying the head of the valley, and snapped a couple of photos before beginning the well-graded switchbacks up to the pass.

We soon broke out into the open, alpine terrain that makes north central Washington so beautiful. This area would be ridiculous in fall – I’ll need to come back and visit or maybe move a little bit east to the Pasayten Wilderness for a more extended trip.

We met up with the PCT at the pass and walked along it for a mile or so before encountering some lingering firm snow slopes that we elected not to cross over. Instead, we enjoyed the views with lunch and watched as the cloud deck pulled up a little bit and afforded some views of the local granite peaks.

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Possibly the best part of the trip is the drive across SR-20. Washington Pass is by far the most beautiful road-accessible spot in the state (in my opinion – Tipsoo Lake has a good argument as well).

I was so impressed by Washington Pass that I brought my whole family there for a visit on a sunnier day a couple weeks later. The views were definitely more typical of summer in the North Cascades.

While the family explored the charming western-themed town of Winthrop, about 1/2 hour further on from Washington Pass, I got on my bike and rode a beautiful, gradual road bike climb up to Sun Mountain Lodge.

It’s a shame that Washington Pass and the Methow Valley are significantly longer drives from home for me, but the time and cost are well worth it if the weather is good.

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