Out of all summits in the North Cascades Thunder Knob is probably one of the smallest and easiest. A part of me is wondering if I should put this mountain up because it is so small next to its neighbors. It did not help that I did Wallaby roughly four times larger and tougher the next day. Another part of me though is wondering why no one has put this mountain up. It is very well known in the region and has been featured on a number of government websites. Truthfully Thunder Knob is dwarfed by many of its higher neighbors but the mountain does have its own charm.
Thunder Knob is located right in the heart of North Cascade National Park and though it is very small in elevation it does have over 400 feet of prominence and decent views of Diablo Lake, Colonial Peak, and Paul Bunyan Stump. The absolute true summit is marked by a small cairn and does not have good views. But there one spot before the true summit with excellent views of Diablo Lake and one stop after the summit that has peak-a-boo views of Diablo and Jack Mountain. This mountain does not have panoramas but the views from here are decent though.
Getting up Thunder Knob is a good leg warm-up with 3.60 miles roundtrip and 425 feet of elevation gain. Most hikers can do this between 1 and 2 hours with trail runners probably completing in less than thirty minutes provided they don't stop to admire the nice views from the summit areas. The trailhead is on the north side of the Colonial Creek Campground. The trail itself is in excellent condition, and is marked on the north end of the campground by a large bridge. The trail itself goes up to the top of Thunder Mountain in series of very well paced switchbacks. Outside of one short pitch where trail does go downhill 50 feet, the trail generally goes up at a gradual to moderate pace. In terms of hiking this trail is excellent for those who are new to hiking and to those who are looking at taking their children for their first summit.
VIA THE THUNDER KNOB TRAILHEAD: You want to take the North Cascades Highway (Rte. 20) all way to the Colonial Creek Campground (Milepost 130). This is roughly 30 minutes east of Marblemount or 45 minutes west of Washington Pass. You will see the signed trailhead to the north right by the campground entrance.
Red TapeThere is no red tape other than the fact that the trailhead is not meant for overnight parking.
CampingThere is no camping allowed on the Thunder Knob Trail. This trail is way too brief and there is excellent car camping located right at the trailhead at Colonial Creek Campground. This is an excellent campground that does have running water with campsites starting at $12 dollars a night. From my experience it is best to get one with a bear box. We saw a bear as we were coming right off the Thunder Knob Trail during the late dusk. My guess is that there are many more in the area. It should be noted that part of the Colonial Creek Campground is open for much of the season and between September and May there are no fees (subject to change at any time.)
External LinksThunder Knob Peakbagger Page
Excellent National Park Service Page on Thunder Knob