Cutthroat Lake Hike in North Cascades: Easy Larches!

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High mountains with a dusting of snow above a valley filled with evergreen trees and golden larch trees in the fall. It's a blue sky sunny day.
Golden larches, evergreen trees and high mountains (often with a new dusting of snow!) await you on the short and sweet Cutthroat Lake trail

Looking for a relatively easy hike to see the gorgeous orange larch trees of North Central Washington? Previously I talked about Blue Lake, and the Cutthroat lake hike at 4 miles round trip with just 400 feet of elevation gain, this one is easier and in the same area along the North Cascades Highway. This is still in a remote area without cell phone service, so make sure to be prepared.

Is the Cutthroat Lake hike right for me?

If you’re looking for a shorter hike without much climbing in a beautiful area with amazing fall colors then this hike is for you! If you’re coming from Seattle, it’s a long way (4 hours) so this works well with a weekend trip.

When is a good time for the Cutthroat Lake Hike?

Do this hike at the very end of September or first half of October when the golden larches spread their magic! I’m sure this hike would also be pretty in the summer, but this is an excellent fall hike! With it’s short distance and relatively flat terrain, it’s good for shorter, cooler days.

A single, golden larch tree against a blue sky. It is surrounded by evergreen trees and has a few distance mountains behind it.
Larches mix with evergreens along the trail

Where is it?

Cutthroat Lake is located along the North Cascades Highway, east of both Washington Pass and Rainy Pass, just past a sharp hairpin turn if you’re going from west to east. Exit the highway at the sign for Cutthroat Lake and go about a mile on a gravel road to the trailhead parking lot. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Seattle.

Trail Description

Leaving the parking lot, you’ll cross the creek on a bridge and be on the very gentle trail through a forested area. 1.7 miles from the start, you’ll reach a trail junction where a trail to Cutthroat pass goes to the right. You’ll stay left to go to the lake and will reach it in a short distance. Enjoy exploring around the lake as long as you like, making sure to take in the fleeting beauty of the larch trees surrounding you as well as the pine trees and dramatic mountains. When you’re ready to leave, head back the way you came.

On a cloudy day at dusk, a shallow lake is surrounded by a meadow, evergreen trees and golden larch trees. The mountains around the lake have a light dusting of new snow
Cutthroat Lake at dusk in mid October, with golden larches and a dusting of new snow!
A person with a red shirt, blue backpack and beige hat looks at a distant mountain. The person is surrounded by pine trees. In the distance are higher mountains and some orange fall color trees. Text reads: Cutthroat Lake Gorgeous mellow fall hike in the North Cascades
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Jennie Flaming
Jennie Thwing Flaming, Chief Adventure Officer: Jennie's life has been a continual quest for adventure (of the non-adrenalin inducing kind) from birth till now. Professionally, she pursues adventures in teaching, counseling and working to obliterate institutional racism for students in our region's public schools and also works as a tour and hiking guide. Previous professional adventures include working in schools in Seattle and Alaska, leading tours and managing tour guides and presenting traveling science shows and lessons with Pacific Science Center. She believes in sharing her beloved Pacific Northwest home with visitors. She likes to be outdoors and spend time with the people she loves. Jennie is born and raised in Seattle and has also lived in Alaska and the Netherlands.