A Grand Hike in the the North Cascades

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Cutthroat Pass

Good friend George and I are on 6,800-foot Cutthroat Pass in a snowstorm being buffeted by heavy gusts of cold wind and the windchill factor is hovering around freezing. Can it truly be mid-July?

It seems like yesterday to me, but it was nine years ago. This year I did the same hike in late July with much better results.

I was staying a few days in Twisp with friend George (one of the world’s best cooks and hosts). Taking off early, I drove to the 4,500-foot Cutthroat Pass Trailhead, located one mile north of the North Cascades Highway near Washington Pass.

The first couple of miles of the Trail were a delight, staying near Cutthroat Creek along the bottom of a glacier-scrubbed deep canyon. Snow-covered peaks loomed above, some rising to nearly 8,000 feet.

Soon Cutthroat Lake (a glacial cirque) was reached with crystal blue water. It sat at the bottom of a headwall (steep cliffs above a glacial cirque forming the upper end of a drainage valley).

After fording a couple of streams the work began. During the next four miles I continuously switchbacked up the northwest face of the headwall. Unlike my last trip, the weather was warm with lots of sunshine.

By the time 6,800-foot Cutthroat Pass was reached at the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail, the 360-degree vistas were amazing. Several folks hiking the PCT stopped and we swapped hiking stories while eating lunch.

What a beautiful corner of the world.

Your humble scribe at Cutthroat Pass

Blue Grouse giving me the eye

Views from Cutthroat Pass

Arctic Fritillary Butterfly

Alpine rock garden

Views from Cutthroat Pass

Orange Columbine

Cutthroat Lake

Upper cliffs above Cutthroat Lake

I shared the trail with a few mountain bikers

Cutthroat Creek

The PCT heading south


Categories: Washington Cascades HikesTags: , ,


  1. These are beautiful photos. You’re really an artist with your camera.

  2. Another outstanding hike and spectacular photos, John. The Cutthroat Pass looks aptly named…whew, this one looks really tough. Fording streams, steep trails, and that July blizzard years back sounds none too easy either. Really appreciate those breathtaking views and what it took to reach the top. Really special to see the blue grouse too. John, my partner and I are going to be visiting the Columbia Gorge in two weeks to do some hiking and birdwatching. Three full days for hiking. Any particular trails you can recommend in the moderate range? For proximity, staying at Skamania Lodge. My email: jeteliot@aol.com. No worries if you cannot respond.

    • Thanks for the kind comments Jet. I’ll send you an email with some potential hikes in or near the Columbia Gorge. By the way, Skamania Lodge is a class act. I have been holding business conferences there ever since it opened. And, Sunday brunch is bliss.

  3. Those truly are some magnificent views. One of them is now my desktop background at work. Something beautiful to view during my day indoors. I love the connections that these adventures foster. Thanks for sharing, John

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