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Cutthroat Lakes via Walt Bailey Trail

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
View map below

Length

6.8 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2300 ft.
Highest Point: 4700 ft.

Rating

4.00 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2020
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Just off the Mountain Loop Highway, at the dead end of a steep, somewhat rough forest road, is a rugged trail to several delightful little lakes. The Walt Bailey Trail was constructed in the 1990s by a CCC crew thanks to Walt Bailey's vision for a trail in this area. Unfortunately, the land has fallen into disrepair and is rough going, though for the most part easy to follow.

The majority of the trail sits within the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area, managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. This is a special designation to protect ecologically significant areas.

Start from the undeveloped trailhead at the end of FR 4032. The trail takes off right away, climbing moderately through second-growth forest, offering peek-a-boo views of the ridgeline across the way. Switchbacks begin to lead you more steadily uphill before arriving at the first of many meadows, where the rooty tread gives way, surprisingly, to nicely crushed gravel.

But the good material doesn't last long. Soon it's back to steep switchbacks over roots and rocks. The water that makes the lakes above so delightful soaks the roots lower down on the trail, so watch your step here; wet roots make for treacherous hiking.

Shortly after climbing out of the first basin, you'll arrive at another, larger basin, dotted with more lakes. Here the trail becomes a little difficult to follow, but you'll know you're on the right track when you arrive at the base of a talus slope. Cairns mark your way up the talus, switchbacking up before leading you into the forest, the entrance marked by an enormous hemlock to the left of the trail.

Resume hiking, again on rooty trail, switchbacking steeply up and up, heading for the ridgeline. From this section of trail, the pointed tip of White Chuck Mountain is visible across the valley, and the valley below you is dotted with lakes.

Pushing up and over the ridgeline, you'll arrive in the Cutthroat Lake basin, a great place to stop and have a bite to eat among lots of little lakes. 

WTA Pro Tip: If the bugs decide to have a bite as well but you're not quite ready to head back to the car, keep heading up towards Bald Mountain, the summit that sits at the head of Cutthroat Lakes Basin. The trail continues, climbing 700 feet to a junction with the Bald Mountain trail before making a right turn and heading up again for another half-mile through high meadows, enjoying the views of Mount Rainier before arriving at Bald Mountain's summit. Visiting Bald Mountain makes the outing a 10 mile roundtrip hike. 

 

Cutthroat Lakes via Walt Bailey Trail

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.0237, -121.6408 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway

Mallardy Ridge (#706)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Washington State Department of Natural Resources

See weather forecast

Getting There

Follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 11 miles to the Verlot Public Service Center. Continue for 7 miles past the Service Center and turn right onto Forest Road 4030, just before crossing a large red bridge. Continue up this road for 1.4 miles. Arrive at a fork in the road, and take the righthand branch for FR 4032. Continue along this road for about 5.5 miles to the end of the road. Parking is limited here, with space for only about two or three cars.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Cutthroat Lakes via Walt Bailey Trail

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