A Couple Hikes in the Washington Northern Cascades: Cutthroat Lake and Easy Pass
After crossing back into the US we began journeying west over the northern Cascade Mountains in Washington through Okanogan National Forest. In search of a hike we stopped at the trailhead for Cutthroat Lake and began the gentle ascent up the valley through semi-arid fir habitat. Though it was only 2 miles to the lake we decided once we got there that we wouldn’t go the additional 4 miles and 2,000 feet up to the pass but instead just wander around and enjoy the afternoon. Our wandering of course turned into a full-on scramble and bushwack around the lakeshore complete with multiple stream fords, but at our slow pace it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Easy Pass was easily an A+ level trail. I had hiked Maple Pass a few miles east when I visited the North Cascades in 2013 and knew the views would be spectacular at the top of the range. Nearly 3,000 feet in elevation gain over 3.5 miles made the views from Easy Pass really, really earned however, particularly as the last 1,500 feet were primarily on the poor footing of the glacial moraine. The trail starts in pretty, nondescript temperate rainforest however and so all the wow factor is in the last half. After less than an hour of hiking in tree cover and brush we emerged onto the rocky moraine which the trail crossed to reach the steep sides of the glacial cirque. From there it was all switchbacks, mostly on loose rock. Once we reached the top the rock cover gave way to sub-alpine tundra complete with small flowers and stunted, wind-beaten trees and we could see far into the river valleys of North Cascades National Park to the south
We spent about an hour at the top and continued for about a half or three-quarters of a mile on a (possible spur) trail up a few hundred more feet in order to view the ranges to the north. It was spectacular and made me wish we could backpack into one of the valleys below.