we followed this route more or less as described.
One of my fav's
My girlfriend, Jen (an amazing hiker who just weeks before made her first big hike) and I started this hike on a Sunday morning at 8am. Probably a little late of a start since I considered it was likely to be at least a twelve hour hike and my girlfriend is not fond of hiking in the dark. Though we wanted to do the hike and we woke up a little late, so with the knowledge of the lower Bells Canyon trail being fairly easy to hike in the dark took off anyway. The route starts with the standard hike to upper Bells Canyon Reservoir. This hike is one of my favorites and I have been doing it nearly annually for about twenty years. Following the trail can become difficult as you climb out of the meadow at about 7900 feet. My best advice is to make sure you stay on the trail as getting off of it in this area can be costly as far as time goes. It is usually well marked with rock cairns and I never hike far unless I am seeing them.
Arriving at the upper reservoir at about noon we took a short rest and headed out for North Thunder following Joseph Bullough’s route on this site. Except for the fact we probably headed away from the NorthEast corner of the reservoir in more of an Easterly direction than the advised Southeasterly. Turns out it worked out fine and the hiking to the obvious saddle separating Thunder Bowl from Bells Canyon was simple and easy to find. Upon reaching the saddle and looking up to North Thunder, Bullough’s map with the route shown in red was invaluable. We basically followed it to the letter except there was probably a little less snow on our climb and when we started up the steeps we started a little left (North) of where he shows and were able to avoid a good deal of the boulders. When approaching the summit ridge take time and care to find the route of least resistance as it seems the Bullough did and I most certainly did not. The views from the peak are amazing and with time running short I completely forgot to do the one thing I most wanted to; view and sign the log. Upon leaving the summit it looked as though the simpler way off the ridge was to head south along the ridge maybe 100 yards and have a simpler drop down to the slope on the West. After dropping off the ridge I traversed back North to the same route I took up the steeps. We continued back to the upper reservoir following the same route and arrived there at 5pm, making the Thunder Mountain climb a five hour side trip from the reservoir. And then headed down Bells Canyon to the car and arriving at just after 9pm for a total trip time of just over thirteen hours.
I don’t know why I never visited this jewel before with all of the hikes I made up Bells. But this place is amazingly scenic with a crystal clear pond and beautiful streams. This is a destination by itself, just about 90 minutes beyond the reservoir. Incredible that such a beautiful and rarely visited place exists but just a few miles from a large population.
Climbed N Thunder Mtn first by cutting over to Thunder Mtn Bowl from the upper reservoir. I then followed the ridgeline (class 3, with some exposure) to S Thunder before descending Bells Canyon. Both summits had very nice registers on top.
I left the TH at 7:20am and got back at 5:20pm - not too shabby