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Park Creek Pass via Thunder Creek

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20
48.6925, -121.0978 Map & Directions
Length
55.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
9800 feet
Highest Point
6100 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
Hard
Park Creek Pass. Photo by Hiker Jim.
  • Ridges/passes
  • Wildlife
  • Rivers
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Established campsites
  • Waterfalls
  • Old growth

A 4-5 day backpack up the tumbling, boisterous, river-like Thunder Creek from the Colonial Creek Campground to just beyond its headwaters at Park Creek Pass. Backpackers can turn around at Park Creek Pass (45.6 miles) or do a traverse to Cascade Pass (41.8 miles). Continue reading

Rating
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Hiking Park Creek Pass via Thunder Creek

Note: The bridge over Thunder Creek located 14 miles up the Thunder Creek Trail near Skagit Queen Camp in North Cascades National Park has been replaced.

A 4-5 day backpack up the tumbling, boisterous, river-like Thunder Creek from the Colonial Creek Campground to just beyond its headwaters at Park Creek Pass. Backpackers can turn around at Park Creek Pass (45.6 miles) or do a traverse to Cascade Pass (41.8 miles).

Hikers on this trail will marvel at the towering old growth along Thunder Creek. This is truly deep, deep wilderness and hiking the length of Thunder Creek provides ample opportunity to appreciate its nuances and its challenges. On the plus side: the trees, the solitude, creekside camps, a chance to see wildlife. On the minus side: long miles, bugs, and few expansive views of the surrounding peaks. Read the Thunder Creek entry for more on this stretch, along with recent trip reports.

Once you top out at Park Creek Pass (22.8 miles and 6100 feet) everything changes. Mountains, meadows, and scrambling opportunities abound. This is a place to stay awhile. Camping isn't allowed in the pass, but there are good camps on either side. So few people ever make it this far in that you will almost certainly have this wonderland to yourself.

If you can arrange a car at either end, hiking to Cascade Pass (41.8 miles away) offers the most interesting way. You'll descend the Park Creek trail to the Stehekin Road (7.2 miles on and 2300 feet down). A 2.7 mile road walk lies past that, but with the road closed to vehicles due to a washout, you're unlikely to encounter cars.

At Cottonwood Camp, you'll join up with the Cascade Pass trail. Up, up you'll go to Cascade Pass (5400 feet) and finally the last 3.7 miles to your other car - 19 miles from Park Creek Pass.

Hike Description Written by
Multiple authors contributed to this report, WTA Community

Park Creek Pass via Thunder Creek

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.6925, -121.0978 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

A backcountry permit is required to camp overnight in North Cascades National Park. Walk-up and advance permits are $26 and must be picked up in person at one of the park's Wilderness Information Centers.

See weather forecast

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Marblemount follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east for 24 miles. Just past milepost 130, turn right into the Colonial Creek Campground and proceed 0.5 mile to the trailhead, near the amphitheater at the day-use area (elev. 1250 ft). Water and restrooms available.

More Hike Details

Trailhead

North Cascades > North Cascades Highway - Hwy 20

Thunder Creek (#), Park Creek (#618)

North Cascades National Park

Guidebooks & Maps

Wow Guides North Cascades (Craig & Kathy Copeland)

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Park Creek Pass via Thunder Creek

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