Thunder Creek Trail is a hike in the Ross Lake area of North Cascades National Park. The hike is located on Hwy 20 at Colonial Creek Campground. To access the hike, drive into the campground and follow signs to the amphitheater. There is a small parking area near the restrooms. The trail starts on the south side of the road at a large trail map sign.
Thunder Creek Trail is actually quite long, but our family hiked only as far as the bridge across the river. This is approximately 1.5 mile from the trailhead, making this hike around 3 miles roundtrip. Because the hike follows the river upstream, it climbs very slightly. However, the river is slow and lazy in this section, so the climb is hardly noticeable. In fact, for the first half of the hike, you are actually walking along the edge of Diablo Lake. Thunder Creek is one of the inlets, so the water is slow to almost stopped along the way.
For the rest of the hike, the river flows along on your left. There are only a few times that you meander very far away into the trees. Still, it is shady for most of the hike as there are tall, ancient trees all along the path. In fact, there aren’t too many twists or turns in the path at all, as it continues relatively straight all the way to the bridge.
Thunder Creek, like much of the water in North Cascades National Park, is a beautiful green color. This is due to the glacier that flows down from the picturesque peaks high above. We couldn’t get over how lovely the cloudy, jade water was along this trail. Park literature refers to the detritus that causes this color as “glacial flour.” Call it what you will, it is quite lovely.
At almost exactly a mile and a half, the trail turns to the left and crosses a wooden bridge. This bridge is well-built and safe. It is okay even if you are a little worried about bridges, because it doesn’t sway or bounce much, but feels solid under your feet. It is also fairly wide and quite long.
We stopped and took pictures on the bridge. Our boys passed the time tossing a few rocks as well. Then we turned around and enjoyed the gentle hike back to the trailhead. If you’d like to continue on, here is more information on the National Park site about the entire Thunder Creek trail.
Thunder Creek Trail in North Cascades National Park is a beautiful family-friendly hike. Add it to your list! For other ideas in North Cascades, check out our post on this National Park.