The Thunderer

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone, Wyoming

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The Thunderer


  • The start of the Thunderer Trail.- The Thunderer
  • Ford Soda Butte Creek not far from the trailhead.- The Thunderer
  • Soda Butte Creek is a manageable ford in September.- The Thunderer
  • Hike underneath a tall, lush forest.- The Thunderer
  • Erosion has revealed an ancient lake bed.- The Thunderer
  • At the saddle, hike down a bit further for a view of the Cache Creek Valley.- The Thunderer
  • See Amphitheater Mountain on the far left.- The Thunderer
  • View of the Thunderer.- The Thunderer
  • Spy Eye of the Needle on the southern horizon.- The Thunderer
  • On the return trip, look for this grizzly scratching post opposite of a small scree slope.- The Thunderer
  • Return view just before fording Soda Butte Creek.- The Thunderer
Overview + Weather
Thick forest. Solitude. Excellent Absaroka views.
Frequent storms.
Yellowstone, WY
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,900.00 ft (579.12 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
7.50 mi (12.07 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,912.00 ft (2,106.78 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

On the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park is the Thunderer, a peak in the Absaroka Range that looms over Lamar Valley. There is no official trail to the top of the Thunderer; this hike takes you to Chaw Pass below the peak. Venture past Chaw Pass for a sweeping view of the large Cache Creek Valley, which burned in the great 1988 Yellowstone fire.

The Thunderer lies on the outskirts of Lamar Valley, famously known for its plentiful wildlife inhabitants. It is unsurprising that some of these animals spend their time near the trail — be aware of wildlife and always give them the right of way. As with anywhere in Yellowstone, be bear aware.

From the trailhead, the trail quickly shoots downward toward Soda Butte Creek. In the early summer, the ford across Soda Butte Creek is difficult due to high water, but it is reasonable by August and September. Leave level ground and start your climb up to Chaw Pass. Lookout for a lone tree near the trail, opposite a large scree slope. This tree is actually a scratching post for grizzly bears. See old and fresh claw marks, as well as their silver hairs caught in the sap.

The trail gains elevation in a series of gradual switchbacks under thick forest cover. This deep cover locks moisture in, so be prepared for frequently muddy trails and wet brush along the way. Encounter a few small stream crossings on your trip up as well.

At Chaw Pass, a fair amount of trees obstruct any wide view. No matter – continue on the trail several more minutes and see the view over Cache Creek valley open up before you. Find on the horizon: Amphitheater Mountain, Cache Mountain, the Needle, the Eye of the Needle, and of course, the Thunderer.

Check the weather report beforehand. The Thunderer has rightfully earned its name.

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Field Guide

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Location + Directions

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(5 within a 30 mile radius)

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(33 within a 30 mile radius)

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