Distance: 11 miles Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet
Maple Pass might be the area’s most premier hike, and it’s hard to beat. But I think I love Cutthroat Pass even more. I certainly do it more times per year. It’s not just because of the views from the pass, but also because of the getting there. The farther you go, the more the scenery opens up. You really get a sense of climbing higher and higher, with the pass looming way up in front of you. And the actual trail is just lovely, making a great hike or super run.
There’s lots of ways to do this trail. You can start down low at the Cutthroat Lake trailhead and go to the pass and back (11 miles). You can go up and over the pass and have a car drop at Rainy Pass (11 miles and my favorite option). You could start at Rainy pass and go to the pass and back (10 miles) or down past Cutthroat Lake (11 miles). Or you could start at one end, go to the other and back (22 miles). The description below starts at the Cutthroat Lake trailhead and goes point to point to Rainy Pass, but do whatever you like.
From the Cutthroat Lake Trailhead, follow the gentle graded trail 1.7 miles to your first junction with the spur trail down to the Lake. Continuing on, the trail will bend right and then start to climb in earnest. As you climb higher, the switch-backing trail opens up more scenery the further you go. You’ll see the pass looming up ahead of you, but along the way you’ll get great views of the Lake and surrounding mountains. After reaching the lofty heights of Cutthroat Pass (elevation 6,800 feet), you will intersect the Pacific Crest Trail. Turning right will take you to Harts Pass and, eventually, Canada. Going straight over the pass will take you to Mexico if you follow the trail long enough, or, if that’s not in the cards, you can follow the excellent trail just 5 miles to the Rainy Pass trailhead. The first 1/2 of your descent is in the open before you finallyenter the trees again.
Driving Directions: From Cascades Outdoor Store in downtown Winthrop, head west on Highway 20, turning left at the stop sign. Drive 26 miles until you see a large forest service sign pointing you to the Cutthroat Trailhead.
For trail info, gear, or to pick up a map stop in to Cascades Outdoor Store. We look forward to seeing you before or after hitting the trail!