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Cutthroat Pass via the PCT Trail

Updated: Jul 9

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington, 2022


Fall in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) hits differently...

I once had a friend ask me if we even had fall up here... to be fair, Washington is called the Evergreen State for a reason. My response was to send him an epic photo from a recently completed larch march. To which he asked me why I sent him a picture of dying pine trees 🙄



Larch: A larch is a deciduous conifer (a pine tree that loses its needles in the autumn) native to the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere, where they are fond in lowland forests in the high latitudes. Across a few short autumn weeks in the Cascades, the popular deciduous conifers turn a vibrant shade of yellow before dropping their needles for the winter.

Larch March: Commonly used in reference to a popular larch hike, where it is common to see lines of people marching up the mountain trail to the larches.

Larch Madness: (I haven't used this one yet) Commonly used to describe the larch season - many hikers become obsessed with reading trip reports, waiting for the first mention of the turning larches, and then flock to the mountains to take advantage of the short viewing window.



Length: 10.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,024 feet Max Elevation: 6,838 feet

Route Type: Out and Back

AllTrails Difficulty: Hard

Pups: Welcome on a leash



I downloaded the navigation for Cutthroat Pass via the PCT from AllTrails, but the trail is so well maintained (and trafficked) that navigation isn't necessary.

This was our first larch march and I could not have picked a more perfect day and hike - we saw less than 10 people on the trail and got to spend literal hours uninterrupted walking along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as it wound through a forest of larches. This trail is located across the highway from Maple Pass, which is a massively popular larch march. I completed Maple Pass this past July and was awestruck by the magnificent views of the surrounding Cascades, but found the number of larches on the trail significantly underwhelming (especially after being spoiled by Cutthroat).

Trail Popularity: this is a very popular area for backpacking and hiking. We ended up arriving to the parking lot at 10am on a Monday and were relieved that it was only half full, unlike Maple Pass, which already had overflow parking on the highway shoulder (and that is a huge parking lot).



The easiest way to get to the Cutthroat Pass via PCT Trail trailhead is to use the navigation system of your choice with your destination set as Cutthroat Pass Trailhead. Parking is located within the Okanogan-Wenatchee Nation Forest, which requires either a $5 day pass, Northwest Forest Pass, or an America the Beautiful Pass (my preferred method).



To my fellow Larch Marchers: add this to your list! It will not disappoint!

To the Larch March newbies: This is the perfect introductory march into the ethereal and otherworldly landscape of the majestic northern Cascades during Larch Madness!



  • Be Shoulder Season Prepared. The shoulder seasons fall between the main months of mountain activity, when it's too cold for the normal hiking season, but not snowy enough to snowshoe. The gear I wear changes from hike to hike and depends largely on weather forecasts and trail conditions. A lot of the gear I wear in the winter I carry in my pack during shoulder season because I want to have extra layers in case I need them - this includes my micros pikes, you never know when you will encounter icy or snowy conditions at higher elevations.


 Darcy Wanders 



Welcome to Darcy Wanders! I'm Darcy, the wanderer and writer for all things Darcy Wanders.

I love hiking, camping, paddling, and wandering new places! When I'm not wandering, I turn to books, puzzles, and dreaming up plans for my next epic adventure.

I believe the outdoors is for everyone and created Darcy Wanders as a way to share incredible hikes, gear recommendations, and educate on things such as trail etiquette and leave no trace principles. 

happy wandering!

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