• Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    12 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1300 Feet

Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Beautiful Cascade mountains. Roaring creek.

This hike along Thunder Creek in North Cascades National Park is perfect for families and beginner backpackers. The trail is at a lower elevation in the park so it is a great early-season hike, but be sure to check with the ranger station for trail and weather conditions before you go.

Starting from the Colonial Creek Campground parking lot, the trail ascends along the often roaring creek. After hiking 2.5 miles and a couple of easy creek crossings (most with the help of lovely and stable bridges), you will arrive at the first campsites at Neve Camp. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, the trail leads another four miles to the McAllister campsites.

Along the way you will enjoy peek-a-boo views of the surrounding snow capped mountains and the churning rumble of the creek. The sites at McAllister are spaced out nicely for privacy and there is an outdoor privy for those a little shy about their first squat in the woods!

The Nitty Gritty:Obtain a free, first-come first-served permit at the Wilderness Information Station in Marblemount. Permits can be hard to come by on weekends during the summer, but the rangers at the wildlife station are great for recommending alternative hikes. You can obtain the permit in-person up to one day before your trip.

Directions: From Seattle, travel north on I-5, then head east on Hwy 20 for 45 miles to Marblemount. Turn left on Ranger Station Road and after just one mile you’ll find the Wilderness Information Center where you can pick up your permits. Continue eastward on Hwy 20 for 25 miles to Colonial Creek Campground. Restrooms are available. The trailhead is near the amphitheater at the end of the campground parking lot.

Photos: Dan Zelazo, Dawn Coyote

Pack List

  • The Ten Essentials
  • Quality, waterproof hiking shoes/boots
  • Tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad
  • Camp stove and hearty food
  • Camp shoes and an extra dry shirt
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