Bull Creek Trail – Trail #85

The Bull Creek Trail is a 5.4 mile long trail that begins at a junction with the Lake Fork Trail – Trail #85 and ends at Heart Lake.

Trail Condition: Good to Moderate


September 2018

From Heart Lake, the Bull Creek Trail wraps around the lake on its south side. Almost immediately, it climbs away from the lake through thick forest before suddenly popping out above treeline.

NOTE: At this point, you will be above treeline for at least the next 3.2 miles. If you stayed the night at Heart Lake, be sure to get an early start. If you are attempting this as a day hike, be very mindful of the weather. There is zero cover after this point.

The trail switchbacks steeply up the open face to the top of the mesa. More than anything else, the elevation makes the climb difficult so go slowly and be sure to stop and admire the view behind you from time to time.

This section of trail is in very good condition, but once you reach the top of the mesa, the tread disappears and you are left to navigate via large 3 foot cairns. In clear weather, this should not be difficult at all, but in stormy weather consider turning back unless you know the route well.

Unfortunately, reaching the top of the mesa doesn’t mean the climbing is over. Following multiple cairns, the trail eventually reaches a crest, just below 12,700 feet. From the saddle below the crest, the trail veers to the left and a tread reappears. To the right, the Wilderness’s namesake peak lies less than a mile away on a low ridge.

Following the trail to the left, you will cross a scree field on a well defined trail before dropping back into a grassy saddle. The tread disappears again, but on either side of the small rise in front of you, you should see the tread resume. Choose either one of these options, as long as you wrap around to the west (right) side of the ridge to bypass the next knob.

Once again, this section of trail on the right side of this fin is well defined. But traversing over scree, the footing can be tricky so pay close attention.

At the end of this section, the trail pops back out onto the grassy meadows that you should be accustomed to. The tread is in slightly better condition, but there are still cairns to follow, which are your best bet. Follow the draw downhill towards a signed junction that should eventually come into view. At this junction with the Rito del Medio Trail – Trail #87, stay straight (left) hugging the treeline below you.

Once you’ve bypassed the trees, the trail turns downhill again to a saddle toward another junction. From here, the Bull Creek Trail goes left, downhill back in the direction of the trailhead. The Pinabete Peak Trail – Trail #88 goes straight uphill.

Turn left to follow the trail as it switchbacks steeply downhill. After the first 1/4 mile, which is through open grassland and interspersed trees, the trail enters a fir forest with little ground cover. Like other parts of this route, this section can be difficult to navigate due to the forest’s open nature. There are also a few downed trees that make things tricky, but as long as you are paying attention, it should not be difficult to remain on the trail.

A short ways down the trail, you will encounter your first water since leaving Heart Lake. The water will first appear on your right, but the trail quickly veers away from the creek, so do not wait to fill up.

The trail switches back and forth between gently traversing and descending steeply. Eventually, it cross another stream to the left and parallels it downstream before crossing over just before the junction with the Lake Fork Trail – Trail #82.