In the early 1900’s the route from Mazama to Washington Pass was via the Early Winters Trail. By 1963, State Route 20 had reached Cutthroat Creek, bypassing most of the trail. In 1972, the entire trail was bypassed with the opening of the North Cascades Highway. This motorized route is used by vehicles in the summer, and snowmobiles in the winter. So, early spring and late fall are left for a quiet snowshoe trip up the road to a view of Silver Star Mountain.
The route description starts at the upper location for the Silver Star Sno-Park (elevation 3450 feet), where State Route 20 crosses Silver Star Creek (milepost 171). The Sno-Park is usually reachable by car until January, when the snow gets too deep to plow, and again in April, when the snowplows start clearing the highway. Between these two times, the Sno-Park is at the lower location, 7 miles down valley (milepost 178).
Once the road is sufficiently covered in snow at the Sno-Park, the only possibility for a quiet trip is mid-week. On weekends, the road is a snowmobile raceway.
Before starting this trip, be aware of avalanche conditions. This route crossed by at least 10 avalanche chutes, half off of Delancy Ridge and half off of Cutthroat Ridge. At any time, snow slides can be seen and heard on the steep slopes near the crests of the ridges.
To begin your trip, go under/over the closure gate on State Route 20. If the road is snow covered at the Sno-Park, admire the dozens of snowmobiles parked in a row, and hope they stay there during your trip.
The first 2.2 miles are a gradual climb to the Lone Fir Campground, with some views up-valley and across to Vasiliki Ridge. The road steepens after this, reaching the bridge over Cutthroat Creek in another 1.3 miles, with a partial view of Silver Star Mountain. After another mile of climbing, the summer pullout for climbers (elevation 4250 feet) provides a grand view of Silver Star Mountain.
For those wanting a very short snow walk, wait until the North Cascades Highway opens in the spring and park at the pullout near milepost 166. Hop out of your car, climb the snowbank at the edge of the pullout, and enjoy the view.
Note that once the spring road clearing begins, the recreational access to State Route 20 is limited to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.