With my kids getting older, our schedules are getting fuller, and it’s more challenging to get an entire day for hiking out in the wilderness. But we were able to squeeze in a “quick” trip up to the North Cascades to see the larches turning colors a few weeks ago.
We were not excited about the weather report for the weekend, which called for lowering snow levels and high chances of rain. We also didn’t feel like doing a steep slog, so the kids requested hiking to Cutthroat Lake again. We got on the road fairly early, but still later than I wanted (I think I usually have unrealistic expectations), and with 2 pit stops, we made it to the trailhead by 11:30.
The trail was in good condition, and we made much better time than the last time we hiked it. It’s a gentle incline most of the way up to the lake, and even young children will find it easy to do.
Lots of folks were out enjoying the fall day, and we had better weather than we drove through on the way over the passes.
Because this trail is lower in elevation than the other popular larch hikes on Hwy 20, and because it’s farther east, you have a higher chance of dry weather. We had a few sprinkles in the morning as we were gearing up, but they soon stopped, and we even had sun breaks later in the hike.
The larches are visible on the surrounding hillsides from early in the hike, and the scenery just gets better as you move further into the lake basin.
We stopped often to photograph the brilliant blueberry and sumac bushes, and the changing clouds around the peaks.
The air was fresh and faintly scented with that subalpine flavor, but because it was cold, we could tell the fragrances were subdued.
We made it to the lake in just over an hour. Then we found a good spot to sit and eat our lunches.
I had brought the stove and everyone had cups for cocoa. But I was dismayed to find I had left the cocoa mix in the car. We heated water for the kids’ mac and cheese in a cup, but those didn’t rehydrate properly, so those were a bust as well. I had brought along a new lightweight rain shelter to try out, but we didn’t need it. We took lots of photos and chatted with folks hiking by.
We sat there about an hour before hiking back down to the car for the long drive home. It was a fulfilling and colorful trip. The North Cascades are just stunning, and it’s worth the long trek up there to experience the specialness.
If You Go:
This hike is best in late September and early October for the fall colors. In the summer it also makes an excellent destination. It sits at 4900 feet, so snows are beginning to cover it up for the long winter. You’ll need your NW Forest Pass for parking. There is an outhouse and a picnic table at the trailhead. See the page in my Hiking Guide for directions and more information.