Thunder Creek flows from several glaciers near Park Creek Pass. The creek’s pale green water gets its color from the fine glacial sediment. The Thunder Creek Trail begins at the Colonial Creek Campground and heads South to where Thunder Creek feeds Diablo Lake and the Skagit River. This flat section of the trail navigates through giant cedars and hemlocks for about 2 miles to Thunder Creek Camp and a trail junction to Fourth of July Pass. Take the Fourth of July Pass for quicker access to Neve Glacier, Colonial Peak, and Snowfield Peak views. The climb to the pass is 2000 feet over the next 2.5 miles.
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Climb on Thunder Creek Trail to McAllister Camp for a longer run, where those same peaks start to show through the trees. The trail crosses several creeks and streams that feed into Thunder Creek, including several waterfalls. Continue onto Junction Camp, which is ten miles from the trailhead. Wander over to the ridge of the camping spot for views of the Borealis Glacier, Primus Peak, and Tricouni Peak. Look for waterfalls streaming directly from the glacier. Stay long enough to witness an avalanche.
After Junction Camp, the trail drops several hundred feet over the next two miles back down to the creek. The trail ascends again on numerous switchbacks past abandoned mining equipment. Finally, around mile 17 is the beginning of Thunder Basin, where Park Creek Pass between Mt. Logan and Mt. Buckner come into view, making the long journey worth the while. Glacial streams feed the basin and the valley, carved over the most recent ice age. Ice melt feeds the basin floor for late summer flowers and blueberries. Marmots peak out of the boulders and scream their high-pitched speaks to warn their fellow roommates.
The last 1.5 miles scramble up over 1500 feet through snowfields and meadows to Park Creek Pass. In general, travelers can only scale the pass in early fall without an ice axe. The dinner plate rock can be slippery, but the pass offers views of several crags and peaks in the North Cascades, including Mount Torment, Forbidden Peak, Boston Peak, and Sahale Mountain.
Continue eight miles through Park Creek Pass to Upper Stehekin Valley Trail, although access to this trailhead is now null due to recent wildfires. Otherwise, head back to Colonial Creek Campground to complete the 40-mile run.
Green Trails Map 16SX – North Cascade-Ross Lake | REI Co-op $18.00
Thunder Creek Trail to Park Creek Pass
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