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Thunder Mountain Summit

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El Dorado National Forest

Thunder Mountain Summit is a 7.6 mile out and back trail located near Kirkwood, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 7.6 miles Elevation Gain: 1,797 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

hiking

nature trips

running

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no shade
rocky
2 days ago

Good trail, but be ready for a climb. Almost no snow left. The trail is characterized by loose rock and dry, dusty soil, especially along the ridge and at the summit, so be careful where you step. Mild slips are unavoidable, but you don't want anything big; the trail often has drop-offs just a few feet away, so be careful on the loose footing. Definitely bring sunscreen and reapply; the last 2 miles to the summit are almost entirely in the sun with very little shade. Trail gets hard to follow right at the summit. Lots of bikers, so just be aware and you'll be fine. A nicely challenging hike with spectacular views.

15 days ago

A moderate trail overall. the worse part is almost 900ft elevation in about a mile. the rest is hiking the ridge. Beautiful sites at the top, and I saw many people of various abilities make the peek!

Perfect day for this hike. The snow is almost completely gone, the few patches were easy to either go over or go around. Lots of sunshine and very little wind. After the Thunder Mountain summit, I hiked to Thimble Peak. It was awesome to go by the lifts and crawl the ridge up to Thimble Peak. I climbed the summit right next to the Thimble Peak summit. It's a few feet lower and easy to do. The actual Thimble Peak summit looks like a very hairy climb, I've read that most people use ropes. On the way back to the trailhead, the short side trek to Martins Point was also fun. And I checked out the avalanche cannons that are not far from the trail on the way back. Overall: fantastic area to hike!

hiking
15 days ago

This was difficult. It was very mentally tough trying to find the path through snow and rocks.

hiking
16 days ago

Beautiful hike, as always! A couple patches of snow that I had to use the micro spikes for but other than that, easy conditions.

hiking
20 days ago

One of my favorites! Steady uphill for the first mile through heavily shaded forest, then much of the rest of the hike is along a backbone ridge. Spectacular panaramic views once you reach the ridge overlooking Kirkwood. Right now snow conditions aren’t exactly minimal, but pretty close. There are two sections where I didn’t feel comfortable hiking through, but easy alternatives with minimal scrambling around the snow was available. Pretty secluded, probably saw perhaps a dozen people the entire time, though it is a Tuesday.

hiking
22 days ago

Perfect condition , some snow patches but durable,we managed them all. You can hike around it.

hiking
snow
1 month ago

Tried to hike this morning with the lockdown, even with trail navigation, but with that, the snow covers the whole uphill climb, ...no trail, used gps, but post-holing in some parts, hopping logs, walking around limbs. I turned around about 1/2 mile up since I was by myself and didn’t want to sludge through snow up the hill looking at the trail map the whole time. I’m sure since the top is exposed, snow might be melted, so you can try. It’s a great trail, been before, but I’ll return when it melts.

hiking
off trail
rocky
7 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Very nice trail. Incline almost the entire way so be prepared. I got there early so parking was no problem. It seemed that most people arrived between 830 and 930. I was the second person on the trail and passed about 24 while I was coming back down. I went this past Sunday and snow wasn’t an issue on 10.6.19

hiking
9 months ago

nice easy gentle grade all the way up, great views on top.

hiking
bugs
rocky
10 months ago

hiking
10 months ago

August 25th, 2019 - Amazing easy/moderate ridge line hike with mostly gradual elevation gain and easy access to 9,000+ ft peaks including Thunder mtn. Traversing the ridge was my favorite and offered great views in every direction including Kirkwood, Caples and Silver lakes. Not too crowded for a Sunday but expect to share the trail with mountain bikers and other hikers. Everyone who we encountered was friendly. Please, please, please pack out your trash and stay on the designated trail. Lets do our part to keep this trail 5 star worthy.

hiking
10 months ago

Hiked this trail 04AUG2019. Great hike. First mile or so is most the climb through forested slope. Volcanic rock formations can be hard on the feet for dogs. Great views, slight scrambles but well worth it. Two small snow patches which can be Navi’s through or around. Moderate traffic and several mountain bikers.

hiking
10 months ago

Beautiful hike. Arrive early to get parking and watch for mountain bikes. Good for kids but nearing the top it was WINDY and we had to turn around because the kids were almost getting blown away!

hiking
scramble
snow
11 months ago

This trail is a beautiful hike that begins in the forest and ends with amazing views atop the ridge. The trail is a steady climb so be prepared. Was unable to make the last 1/2 mile due to snow field. There are areas that a lot of scrambling is required. The wild flowers are just beginning to bloom and they’re beautiful. I will definitely hike this trail again! Recommend doing when weather is cooler no shade on ridge.

hiking
snow
11 months ago

very snowy near 9000ft don’t go without snow boots and poles

hiking
snow
Wed Jul 03 2019

Hiked about 2 weeks ago and got stopped about 70% of the way due to snow. Group didn't have any snow equipment, so might not have been an issue if we had proper equipment. Awesome hike even though we weren't able to finish.

Sun Jun 30 2019

Gorgeous hike with cool views of massive rock formations and snow capped mountains in the background. Basically goes along the ridge above the Kirkwood valley, so cool views of the ski area. Still quite a bit of snow and several areas where the trail is still covered, making for some tricky going over sections. I recommend a hiking pole, and kick your boots into the snow! Some wildflowers starting to appear already, including some scrubby, brave little anemones. Passed just a few other people, but crowds were not a problem at all this early in the season.

hiking
Thu Jan 03 2019

I really enjoyed this hike, I think I'll go in summer next time though, when everything is nice and green. The paths are very well marked and easy to follow. The parking is free, so that's a plus.

hiking
Tue Oct 02 2018

This is a fun, moderate hike. The day we went it was incredibly windy, but we decided to soldier on. The hike below tree line is quiet and serene with moss-covered trees and typical fall foliage. We hiked in early fall, so no wildflowers, but it was still a gorgeous hike. We began our hike at 0730 and saw only hunters scouting for the upcoming hunting season as we ascended. The views are even more beautiful once you emerge from treeline with towering rock formations, exceptional views of the surrounding peaks, as well as the 3 lakes that frame this particular trek. Kirkwood Ski Resort seems almost touchable from a portion of the trail. The trail is rated as moderate and I agree, so if you are a novice hiker, pace yourself as the trail has few "level" areas with the exception of a couple saddles that give your legs (and lungs) a welcome break. Arrive early so you can summit and return without feeling rushed. The summit itself is rather small, craggy, and requires a bit of scrambling to reach it. There are several small trails that lead to the summit, some easier than others, so choose carefully and remember to stay within your climbing ability. It took us around 3ish hours to summit, walking at an easy pace and stopping to snap photographs along the way. As we descended, we were glad we arrived early as we passed a steady stream of hikers on their way up. All in all, a very nice hike. Remember to bring your camera or phone because the views are breathtaking. And honestly, what better way is there to make friends and family envious than to show them spectacular photographic evidence! :)

Sat Aug 18 2018

To make this hike a little more interesting – as well as difficult – we climbed Thunder Mountain then walked over to Thimble Peak on the ridge above Kirkwood to the south. At 9805’, Thimble is about 400’ higher than Thunder, but a couple decent drops along the ridge make it all add up to about 800’ and 4 miles of extra hiking. The route to Thimble starts at the Horse Canyon Trail junction just below Thunder, then basically follows the ridge except in a couple places where it dips below on the west side to avoid large rocky outcrops. There’s not really a trail, but a faint footpath can be followed most of the way—nothing tricky or dangerous, just more miles and more climbing. At the summit there’s some moderate scrambling, though we avoided the actual highpoint in favor of sitting atop an adjacent spire that looked no more than 5’ lower. I’m too old (and too wise?) to try Class 3 climbs these days, and Thimble’s real summit block looked particularly harrowing. Nonetheless, we felt like we were sitting on top of the world and views in all directions were marvelous. Adding Thimble Peak to the standard Thunder Mountain hike made for a moderate-paced hiked that clocked in at 7 hours, 11.8 miles and 2851’ of elevation gain. Thimble Peak is a strenuous but adventurous and highly recommended option to the popular Thunder Mountain hike.

hiking
Thu Aug 16 2018

To make this hike a little more interesting – as well as difficult – we climbed Thunder Mountain then walked over to Thimble Peak on the ridge above Kirkwood to the south. At 9805’, Thimble is about 400’ higher than Thunder, but a couple decent drops along the ridge make it all add up to about 800’ and 4 miles of extra hiking. The route to Thimble starts at the Horse Canyon Trail junction just below Thunder, then basically follows the ridge except in a couple places where it dips below on the west side to avoid large rocky outcrops. There’s not really a trail, but a faint footpath can be followed most of the way—nothing tricky or dangerous, just more miles and more climbing. At the summit there’s some moderate scrambling, though we avoided the actual highpoint in favor of sitting atop an adjacent spire that looked no more than 5’ lower. I’m too old (and too wise?) to try Class 3 climbs these days, and Thimble’s real summit block looked particularly harrowing. Nonetheless, we felt like we were sitting on top of the world and views in all directions were marvelous. Adding Thimble Peak to the standard Thunder Mountain hike made for a moderate-paced hiked that clocked in at 7 hours, 11.8 miles and 2851’ of elevation gain. Thimble Peak is a strenuous but adventurous and highly recommended option to the popular Thunder Mountain hike.

Sun Jul 15 2018

I hiked Thunder Mountain on July 14,2018. I have done many hikes and this hike was one of the prettiest hikes I have done. Due to late snow melting and a mild summer so far, this trail was decorated with hundreds of wildflowers and greenery. It felt magical walking through it. The total miles to the summit and back is 8 miles. I suggest leave very early as most of the trail is exposed to sun. Also, the actual summit is extremely small (maybe big enough for a handful of people). I started the trail at 7am and I was the only person on the trail. I had the summit to myself for 40 minutes. When I started to head back down, I must have passed 20-25 people coming up. The parking lot was completely full. The trail has many sections that are flat which allow you to take a break and catch your breath. The inclines can sometimes get to 30-35%, but very doable. This trail is going on my annual hiking list!

hiking
Sat Jul 14 2018

Great hike from hwy 88 trailhead to top of Thunder mountain summit. Actually 8.5 to top and back. Amazing wild flowers all along trail. Breathtaking views!

Wed Jul 11 2018

Did this trail with my sister. It was my first time to squaw valley. It’s a very beautiful area. We were the first two to go on the updated trail. It’s a steady incline with a couple of mountain streams next to the trail. I used them dip my hat in and cool off. There are some really great meadows as well, and all the flowers were in bloom. It’s July, so it’s definitely a bit toasty. Make sure to bring a hat and sun block.

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