Trailblazers: Thunder Creek
As the clouds moved across the graying sky, my buddy and I headed into the forest in search of elusive, pristine backcountry. As the rain fell, we hiked deeper into the forest, surrounding ourselves with the sights and sounds of nature.
On this week’s edition of Trailblazers, I hiked into the wilds of the North Cascades with a good friend, to climb Thunder Creek. Located in the North Cascades, this trail offers 12 miles of pristine hiking, gorgeous creeks and amazing camping areas.
As you enter the forest, passing an outdoor amphitheater on your left, the sound of Thunder Creek will immediately welcome you. This creek will follow you through your entire journey, snaking its way through the forest alongside you.
While you continue down the trail, you will pass the turnoff to a nature loop trail. This is a nice loop if you would like to add 2.5 extra miles to your hike.
Continuing on, you will come to a sturdy bridge over Thunder Creek. Take some time to enjoy the sights and naturally occurring air conditioning. Also, take note of the light blue water color, caused by fine, glacial silt. Just after the bridge, you will reach Thunder Camp, which is the first in a total of four camping destinations.
After 2.1 miles of hiking, you will come to a junction. This trail split gives you the option to head left and climb Fourth of July Pass, or continue to the right and follow the creek. The Fourth of July Pass hike is beautiful, but I would recommend hiking this trail on a separate day. This 2.5-mile ascent is a completely different destination and hiking trip, rather than a side hike.
After crossing a small, gently flowing stream, you will reach Neve Camp. Nestled in a crook of the stream, this camp gives you great views of the creek and surrounding mountains, plus access to fresh drinking water. This site has room for four three-man tents or five two-man tents. This was our final destination for the first night.
The next morning, after oatmeal and a warming cup of coffee, we pressed on, pushing for the half way mark in our hike.
As the forest towers overhead, you will hear the creek noise begin to recede. It will be a few miles before the trail and creek meet again.
As you break out of the trees, you will begin the final ascent before McAllister camp. This raise gives you an overlook of the creek bend and has very sheer edges due to landslides. Enjoy the view, but make sure to stay well away from the edge.
If McAllister is your final destination, continue down the hill and across one final bridge. At an elevation of only 1900 feet, this campsite is great for hikers who enjoy early-season camping.
In the end, we were on the trail for 13.5 hours over the course of two days. Taking about an hour to reach Thunder Creek camp, three hours to reach Neve camp and three hours to reach McAlister camp. Even though this hike is located about 2.5 hours outside of Bellingham, it is a wonderful weekend getaway for hikers of all skill levels.