Hike South Thunder Mountain via Bell Canyon

Rate this Adventure Bell Canyon Trail

Mountaineering experience is highly recommended on this adventure. It is freaking brutally steep at times, beware.You'll be rewarded with amazing views of every single 11,000 foot peak in the Wasatch Range. You'll also hike by waterfalls, beautiful pine forests, granite walls, boulder fields, meadows, and great wildlife.

Starting at the Bell's Canyon trailhead, the trail follows a river for most of the way, passing two reservoirs and two waterfalls. This trail is intermediate, depending on your destination. The first and most commonly visited section of the trail is the first reservoir. An easy hike of less than one mile provides a great opportunity for a family outing or hike with friends.

If you are interested in going further, about two miles up is the first waterfall. This final destination provides a great intermediate level hike that can be completed in around two and a half hours. A spectacular waterfall awaits those who prefer a longer hike than that of the first reservoir but don't want to overwork themselves.

If you continue past the second waterfall you will walk alongside massive granite pillars and cliff faces leading further up the canyon. Continuing along this route eventually gets you to the second reservoir, after about another two miles. The reservoir is a great place to find solitude away from the crowds and has some pretty great fishing qualities too.

If this still doesn't quench your thirst for adventure, you can continue further to the east and gain a ridge line that provides views of the Thunder Bowl. From here, there is no trail and some serious boulder hopping and route-finding is required. From the ridge line to the east of the Upper Reservoir, one can see North Thunder Mountain to the north east, and South Thunder Mountain to the south. If you drop into the Thunder Bowl and head east, you can easily scramble up some broken cliff bands and make it to the summit of North Thunder mountain at 11, 115 feet.

If this doesn't suite your taste, you can instead remain on the ridge line to the east of the Upper Reservoir and follow it south. Some class 3 terrain and boulder hopping will eventually take you to South Thunder Mountain. If you are even more ambitious, you can complete both peaks by traversing the Thunder Ridge between the two. WARNING: this ridge line is upper class 4 and lower class 5 terrain. It is not suggested for inexperienced mountaineers.

Some other trail options involving North and South Thunder Mountain include the Beatout (Starting at Red Pine and summiting Pfeifferhorn, then following Pfeifferhorn's west ridge to South Thunder, then following the Thunder Ridge to North Thunder, then dropping down into the Thunder Bowl and out Bell's Canyon) and the Hematoma Quad (Summiting North Thunder from Bell's Canyon, then South Thunder, then Bighorn Peak, and then approaching from the south east ridge of Lone Peak and summiting it, then descending through Jacob's ladder). From the tops of North and South Thunder, you can observe the backside of Lone Peak up-close, and the rest of the 11,000 foot peaks in the Wasatch Range as well.

I have completed each 11,000 foot peak in the Wasatch, and I have to say that I think South Thunder provides the best view out of all of them. The hike to South Thunder is 13 miles, and adding North Thunder increases it to 14. However, do not think that these miles are similar to those of Timpanogos; they are brutal, steep miles that may be harder than expected. Keep in mind that the elevation gain from Bell's Canyon to South Thunder is more than 6,000 feet.

For camping, anywhere after about a mile into the hike, or once you reach Lone Peak Wilderness, is acceptable for camping and there are plenty of great spots. Just make sure that you are an acceptable distance from any trails or water sources. Please don't leave any trash and make sure not to build any fire pits if you can avoid doing so, Thank You.

Pack List

  • A couple liters of water per person, the hike is long and very strenuous. However, if you have a water filter there are multiple places along the trail that you can filter some stream or lake water.
  • Ropes: If you are planning to traverse the Thunder Ridge, it can be done without the use of ropes but it is safe to have some just in case anything gets too hairy.
  • First aid: The hike is very long and rugged, so any number of injuries are possible. Make sure you are prepared to administer first aid if anyone gets injured while hiking.
  • Plenty of food. This hike can end up taking much longer than expected, so make sure you bring extra food.
Show More
RT Distance 13 Miles
Elevation Gain 6300 Feet
Activities Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Expert
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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