Thunderbolt Mountain

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 44.73256°N / 115.63983°W
County: Valley
Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Elevation: 8654 ft / 2638 m


Northern view
Looking south from Log Mountain
Thunderbolt Mountain is an active lookout sitting between Johnson Creek and the South Fork of the Salmon River just north of Warm Lake. This is just west of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, so if very wild, rugged country. However, thanks to the lookout there is a trail to the top. There are also several options for routes, depending on your need for solitude and adventure.

Route Stats (one way)
  • Standard (south) route: Class 1, 5 miles, 3500' gain (or less, depending on how far you drive up the jeep trail), 3 hours up
  • West route: Class 2 or 3, 3.5 miles, 3700' gain, 5 hours up

Getting There

Lookout in the snow
From the west approach in March
The nearest town is Cascade, Idaho (see links below). From Cascade, drive north about 1/2 mile and turn right (east) on the Warm Lake Highway heading to Warm Lake in about 20 miles.
  • South route: Drive to Warm Lake and look for Cabin Creek Road. 4WD recommended. You should be able to drive almost 5 miles, shortening the hike. The route shown may be accessible in a standard sedan, but there isn't a lot of road maintenence so your mileage may vary.
  • West route: Take the left turn BEFORE Warm Lake to head down the South Fork. Use a map or GPS to find the drainage below Thunderbolt. It is not marked, and here are no landmarks. Park anywhere you can get your car off the road. Note that during the winter, heavy equipment from the Stibnite mine use this road, so don't be blocking it. A standard sedan can make this drive if equipped for the season.


From the west
Photoshopped for your enjoyment. This is what you get when you shoot into the sun. Shot from the summit of Squaretop Mountain at about 11am, looking east.
There are three known routes, but only two discussed here.
  • South route: This follows a trail (Class 1) all the way to the summit. If you can find the trailhead, you're good.
  • West route: This is a snow route that traverses an old burn then climbs a steep ridge. All winter precautions should be taken. From the 'trailhead', simply walk up the drainage. When you get to the toe of the ridge, either climb steeply up the right side and gain the ridge top, or angle to the left and follow the drainage to the saddle at the top. Fro the saddle, work your way up one of the steep gullies the last 500' to the summit.

Red Tape

For the South route, be sensitive about private property in the area. Otherwise, there is no red tape.

When to Climb

Climbing the north ridge
Varied terrain with drop-offs on the north ridge.
This peak can be climbed at any time of the year, with the cautionary note that this is snow country. You can expect snow on the ground sometime in October and it could last well into June on some aspects. Maybe even July.


Sea of Holes
Beware the thin snow in the boulder areas on a warm day. SuperDave is actually standing up here, with snowshoes on.
Warm Lake is a popular resort with a resort and Forest Service camping. There is also almost unlimited dispersed camping everywhere else in the area.

External Links

General Info

More route info
For more information about climbing this peak or others in Idaho, see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.