This trail begins along Highway 20 less than a half mile west of Eastbank Trailhead. It ascends four and a half miles through the Panther Creek drainage to Fourth of July Pass elevation 3,600 feet. The Panther Creek Trail can be used in conjunction with the Thunder Creek Trail to form a long day hike or short backpacking trek. Hikers should note that plants often grow over this trail so gators or hiking pants are recommended.
Park your car at the Eastbank Trailhead and cross Highway 20 to the beginning of Panther Creek Trail. Walking southwestward the trail ascends nearly 500 feet to a small stream crossing. It then begins a 450-foot descent along switchbacks as it closely follows Panther Creek. Approximately three miles from Highway 20 the trail reaches Panther Camp. This camp lies next to a small creek draining from the southeastern slopes of Ruby Mountain. Across Panther Creek from the camp is Elija Ridge and Stillwell Creek draining from its northeastern slopes.
West of Panther Camp the trail climbs slowly along Panther Creek for one mile. Panther Creek then veers to the south flowing between Elija Ridge and Red Mountain. The trail bears northward climbing the southern slopes of Ruby Mountain to reach Fourth of July Pass. At the pass summit the trail reaches a high point of 3,600 feet. From Highway 20 to Fourth of July Pass is almost four and a half miles. This a good place for a break or to end your day hike as the views of the surrounding mountains are very good from the pass.
At this point on the trail you're five miles from the Thunder Creek Trailhead in Colonial Creek Campground. As you walk across the forested pass you'll pass Panther Potholes then begin descending into the Thunder Creek drainage. The descent is slow at first then steepens with the aid of switchbacks. Before you begin to switchback down the western side of the pass you'll see Fourth of July Camp on the northern side of the trail.
The total descent on the western side of Fourth of July Pass is 2,100 feet. After the descent the track leaves the Panther Potholes outlet stream heading northward. The trail continues to descend slowly then more steeply, descending a few switchbacks into the Thunder Creek Valley. Nearly nine and a half miles from Highway 20 the trail joins Thunder Creek Trail one and a half miles up stream from Colonial Creek Campground.
Directions: From Ross Dam, Travel east on Highway 20 to the Eastbank Trailhead at mile marker 138. Park in the Eastbank Trailhead parking and cross the highway walking west .3 miles to the Panther Creek Trailhead.
Elevation: 1,800 feet
Ending Elevation: 1,330 feet
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Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Washington
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