Cutthroat Lake Hike in North Cascades: Easy Larches!

Last Updated on February 15, 2021

Looking for a relatively easy hike to see the gorgeous orange larch trees of North Central Washington? Similar to Blue Lake, Cutthroat lake is a mellow 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.

Cutthroat Lake is on the homeland of the Nlaka’pamux and Okanagan people.

Parking Pass: Northwest Forest Pass

Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash

Related: What to wear for a hike in the Pacific Northwest, what to bring on a hike in the Pacific Northwest

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! This hike is also pretty in the summer, but fall is when it really shines with gorgeous golden larches. 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!

Breweries and Bakeries near Cutthroat Lake

As I mentioned at the top of this post, there aren’t any services of any kind near the trailhead. There are lots of great options in Winthrop, about 45 minutes away.

In Winthrop, check out the Old Schoolhouse Brewery for beer and the Rocking Horse Bakery for coffee, soups and sandwiches! Looking for pizza? Check out East 20 Pizza.

Electric Vehicle Charging

The closest fast charging is 100 miles away in Burlington, which is too far for the range of my Nissan Leaf. If you have a vehicle with a much longer range then you might be able to do it!

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
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!