Hiking the North Cascades
by Erik Molvar (Falcon Guides)
© Erik Molvar/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
My brother (far right in the photo), my nephew (in the middle), and I (far left in the photo) took a 3 day trip up Thunder Creek to Camp McAllister, about 10 miles each way. This was our first backpacking trip and we weren't completely sure of what to expect. The trailhead was easy to find and the trail was in good shape, well marked all the way up. There are only a couple of places on the trail where we could see the surrounding mountains through the trees but the view was great. We crossed several streams either on bridges or by walking through them so make sure your boots are waterproof. The trail goes through old growth forest and there are only about 5 switchbacks where the trail has been moved, lots of places to take a break. From the Thunder Creek trail you can take off on other trails which lead on to more trails, giving you many options. The trail incline was steeper than we expected at places and the green trail map hasn't been updated since 2004, neither if which was a problem for us. The total elevation gain in only about 900 feet but there is a lot of ups and downs so the gain itself is a little misleading. McAllister horse camp is separated from McAllister camp by a couple hundred yards and the creek itself, it appeared as though it hadn't been used in some time and we saw no evidence of horses being on the trail. The view from horse camp down to the river is pretty cool because you are on a bluff overlooking the creek from about a hundred feet up, be careful at the edge because the drop is straight down. During our mid week trip we saw only about 6 other people and had the campground to ourselves. The campground had numerous established spots to set up tents and each spot was separated by vegetation. I'd like to go back and take the 4th of July pass trail up and over or go around Ruby Mountain. Thunder Creek was a good introduction to backpacking for us and allowed us to check equipment and learn a few things.
I did a solo overnight trail-run/hike out to the tricoons campsite. It was a great run. Starting later in the evening I only ran into a few people coming back to the campsite, and so was treated to quite a bit of solitude, although I don't think this is typical. The trail up the the ticoon or mccalister campsites is great for families with kids. A couple of fun stream cross, amazing view of the creek and surrounding mountains, but no really significant climbs. I think a little further past where I stopped things go up much more steeply, but if you are looking for a one-night out-and-back with kids this is highly recommended. The campsites at mccalister and tricoon are really pretty and near the creek for filtering water, etc....
This hike is great for begginers or scout troops, pleasant scenery and flowing streams. Once you past McCallaster Camp you will find a steep uphill made only for the few insanely strong, enduring people out there.
We started this hike at Colonial Creek Campground. Trail is level and well-maintained for about 5-6 miles, then begins a prolonged and rather steep incline with trees crossing the path and numerous stream crossing. Trail was totally covered in water at some points, requiring taking your boots off and sloshing through. The hike to Junction Camp is strenuous, but quite worthwhile once Junction is reached - beautiful mountain views from two of the three camps sites there. Raging creek nearby for water. Mosquitos are really terrible here - bring heavy-duty repellant - and watch out for the camp deer who refuses to be shooed away! She is quite aggressive and seemed to be after our clothing and socks we had hung on trees to dry. People have obviously been feeding her and she even resorted to hiding behind trees in an effort to sneak up on our camp! From Junction Camp, I'd highly recommend continuing on the Fisher Creek Trail to Fisher Camp and Easy Pass - incredibly beautiful views there!
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