Thunder Butte

Page Type
Mountain/Rock
Location:
Colorado, United States, North America
Elevation:
9836 ft / 2998 m
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Thunder Butte
Created On: May 30, 2004
Last Edited On: Jul 26, 2009

Overview

The twenty-four mile view of...View to the south

Thunder Butte is a prominent peak in the Pike National Forest, situated between the Kenosha Mountains the Rampart Range, 24 miles north of Pikes Peak. Although it is less than 10,000' high, the Thunder Butte summit offers nice views in all directions.
Hayman burn overviewSticks

Thunder Butte is notable as a county high point. Douglas County is one of the most populated counties in Colorado, and one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, but Thunder Butte is far removed from population centers. Situated in the southwest corner of the county, it is a place of desolate solitude. It offers an early season warm-up climb while waiting for the snow to melt in the higher mountains.

For many years to come, Thunder Butte will be thought of, and possibly avoided, in connection with the Hayman forest fire. In 2008, there were about 25 entries on the summit register.

The Hayman Fire

Hopeful undergrowth amid a...Two years later

Thunder Butte may no longer be called a scenic mountain. The devastating forest fire of 2002 scorched Thunder Butte's sides all the way to the summit, leaving a forest of black sticks. However, this may increase the value of the peak on your climbing list for other reasons. Since Thunder Butte is situated in the middle of the Hayman Fire restoration area, it offers a close up view, as well as a high vantage point to observe the effects of the Hayman fire. From the summit, one can see the results of the enormous fire for many miles, to the south, the west, and the north.

The Hayman fire was Colorado's largest and most intense forest fire ever. It took 40 days to bring the fire under control, at a cost to taxpayers of $39,100,000. A big portion of the Pike National Forest is undergoing restoration by the Hayman Restoration Team, with office in Colorado Springs. The U.S. Forest Service Hayman Fire Incident Information web site has some interesting information for further reading, including a Burn Severity map showing the perimeter of the fire.

A Forest Begins to Heal


The Thunder Butte photos on the left were taken in 2004, two years after the Hayman Fire. On the right, are similar photos taken five years later, in 2009.
The key to the lower part of...Lower slopes, 2004

Seven Years After FireLower slopes, 2009


Looking up at Thunder Butte s...Upper slopes, 2004

Upper slopesUpper slopes, 2009


Final stepsNear summit, 2004

Thunder Butte summitNear summit, 2009


View, directly to the south...South of TB, 2004

Route overviewSouth of TB, 2009

Getting There

This little hill is called...A local landmark

Follow Highway 285 to Pine Junction, some 30 miles southwest of Denver. Turn south onto State Highway 126 and follow this road to Deckers. Cross the river at Deckers, and continue on Douglas County Road 67. Drive about 9 miles mostly south to Westcreek, which consists of just a few buildings.

At Westcreek, drive 0.2 miles down the hill and turn left. Go 0.6 miles to the Volunteer Fire Department. Turn right there, onto County Road 68. Drive about 2 miles west, passing Sheep Nose on your right, and then turn right on 9-J "Nine-J" Road. 500 feet up this road is a small, forest service parking area. The road may be closed beyond this point, or it may be possible to drive 1.5 miles farther up the road, to the parking point described on the Southwest Slope route page.

Various 4WD roads surrounding Thunder Butte are marked on the USGS topo maps. However, each of these is a private driveway and most are gated. There seems to be no other feasible route than the one described here.

Red Tape

All visitors and users of the National Forests are subject to Federal Regulations which address camping, vehicles, camp fires, pets, and several other issues. Read Forest safety regulations. Special hazards of the burned area, and additional rules are posted along the road. In the Pike National Forest, roads and trails that were open before the fire are now closed, or gone.

Mountain Conditions / When To Climb

The forest fire added several major hazards to be aware of in this area. These are posted on signs along the roads and include: falling trees, flash flooding and debris flow. In a flash flood, climb to safety. Current, local conditions are maintained by the Forest Service at their newly updated web site. Besides the current weather, they publish campground status, road conditions, trail status, and closures. You may also call the Forest Service office at 719-553-1400.

May and October are popular months to climb Thunder Butte. You are by no means assured of safe conditions on any day of the year, of course. Keep in mind how this peak, Thunder Butte, got its name. Lightning and thunder are possibilities to plan for and contend with in Colorado mountains, especially on summer afternoons. As always, use good judgment, and check the National Weather Service forecast before you go.

Also keep in mind that the area may be open for hunting from late August through mid November. Wear bright colors and be cautious.

Camping

There are no open campgrounds in the immediate vicinity because the forest fire fairly well torched them all. You wouldn't want to camp there anyway. Various campgrounds within 5 miles of Thunder Butte are permanently closed. Visit the official Forest Service web site for camping information and campground closures. Thunder Butte is located in the Pike National Forest, where there are numerous other recreational opportunities.

Views from Thunder Butte

West ViewWest from TB

Looking towards Pikes PeakPikes Peak from TB


One of the best reasons to climb Thunder Butte is to enjoy the views for a few hours, far removed from the city.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-2 of 2

Doug Shaw - Aug 1, 2005 8:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

On 7/30/2005 the "Road Closed" sign at the small parking area on Road 9J was no longer there. There is still a sign on the gate proper, but the gate was open, so I took that as meaning that the road itself was open.





This means you can drive the extra 1.5 miles up the road and park just where the road turns sharply to the NW. The old road that circled behind Sheeps Nose has been plowed closed but the area before the pile of dirt makes a convenient parking spot for a couple of vehicles.

jamesbittel

jamesbittel - Apr 30, 2018 10:34 am - Voted 9/10

Addition

I live in the area of Thunder Butte. The trail from the parking on 9J Road is pretty much indistinguishable now days. I enjoy doing the peak from several ways. Parking across the road from Sheep Nose, or the pullout before Sheep Nose, allows you to hike directly toward the cliff sub peak to the south. This mitigates the depth of the rollercoaster drainages starting on 9J. The default route is up the is between the subpeak and the peak it self. Hugging the east part of that drainage involves less bushwhacking and down trees.



Or, if you park at the first left small parking area about .5 miles from Westcreek. From here, you can gain a ridge that rises to gain the subpeak. Going to the right before the cliffs you can gain the saddle over to Thunder Butte. Visible but less exposed is a ridge line off the back side of TB (away from Nine J side of the peak) that is worth exploring.



If bored after that, drive to the end of 9J road and carefully following the signs, and you'll access the Thunder Ridge bouldering area along the Platte. Take chalk and a short rope for some short topropes.

Viewing: 1-2 of 2









Thunder Butte

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