The Hiker Mama

Thunder Knob

Distance: 3.6 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 425 ft

Maximum Elevation: 1875 ft.

Season: Year-round

Maps: Green Trails Diablo No. 48

Description: This is a moderate trail that lets children enjoy some of the amazing views and atmosphere of the North Cascades without a strenuous hike. Because of its low elevation, it makes a good hike for the off season when the high country is buried in snow. This hike starts along the side of Highway 20 at the Colonial Creek Campground. You’ll walk north through the campground and find the true trailhead at the north end, where a braided creek comes rushing down through cobbles. Depending on the time of year, there may or may not be a bridge over the various sections of water; it’s normally easy enough to pick your way through, following cairns and paths from previous years. Find the proper trail once you’re past the current and historical streambeds. The trail then gradually ascends the Knob, through mixed pine and fir forest. Moss and lichens cover the rocks and festoon the trees, but this forest has more of an arid feeling than the nearby Thunder Creek. You’ll pass a small, sunny pond once you’re close to the top, and traverse the length of the Knob to the northernmost end. Children will enjoy being able to rest on benches along the hike with views of Pyramid and Colonial Peaks. On the spring day we were there, we heard grouses drumming for the duration of our hike, and were even fortunate enough to see one of these shy birds. The trail ends at the north side of the Knob, with benches to sit on and take in the views of Lake Diablo, Sourdough Mountain, Davis Peak, and other ridges and summits. It was breezy at the point when we were there, and we were happy to have some layers to put on to stay warm. My kids got a kick out of being able to see the Diablo Lookout, where we often stop on our treks along this highway.

Directions: From I-5 in Burlington, take the exit for Highway 20 east past Newhalem to Milepost 130. At the Colonial Creek Campground, park in the ample parking area on the north side of the highway before it crosses Thunder Arm. You won’t need any parking passes. There is a pit toilet hidden in the trees in the campground there; flush toilets are available when the campground is open.

Links: The National Park Service and the WTA both have trail descriptions for this trail.