I hiked Thunder Knob as part of a 2-hike day when I visited North Cascades. Since it’s such a drive, I really wanted to maximize my time there.
Hiked: early May
Best time to hike: April-October
Distance from Seattle: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Accessibility: Entirely paved highway and road
Length & elevation: 3.6 miles round trip, 635 elevation gain
Crowds: Light, but that is almost certainly not the case in peak summer
Trail views: Mountains, Diablo Lake
The trailhead parking could hold maybe 20 cars or so; when I arrived around 2 pm there was space but I can imagine this trailhead could get really busy in high season. It’s easy and family-friendly, and close to the park’s western entrance, so for all those reasons it’s likely to be really popular as the weather gets nicer.
Starting the trail you’ll walk through the Colonial Creek campground and perhaps cross the creek itself. Since I was there in spring, there was quite a bit of water over the trail that I walked through, right in the campground itself.
After crossing the campground, the trail starts the ascent through the forest via switchbacks. The first part of the trail you can hear/see some traffic since you’re close to the highway, but it gets a bit better as you continue up the trail.
One of the less great elements of this trail is that there are quite a few downed trees and it looks like there is maybe some fire damage (but I’m no expert there and could be wrong).
There are several benches throughout as you make your way up, a feature I haven’t seen on many trails and one of the nice benefits of this one.
This wasn’t my favorite hike, but it was a decent one. I think it would have been a little nicer in sunnier weather when Lake Diablo really shines. I would recommend this hike for the following:
- Families looking for an easier hike with some decent views
- As a quick morning hike before leaving Colonial Creek campground or evening hike if you arrive later in the day
- For earlier season hiking when you want to get away from snow
- As a picnic area for a relaxing day hike