Monday, July 15, 2019

Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point

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Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Bull Mountain (9,938 ft) is the Box Elder County High Point, and highest peak in the Raft River Mountain Range. This range is a mix of desert-like terrain on the lower half, and high alpine terrain on the upper half. This unique mix of land makes for a beautiful hike, but is typically only accessible in Summer and Fall. 
There are three ways to reach Bull Mountain:
1) Drive up the 4x4 dirt road - I've heard/read from other trip reports that you mainly need the high clearance.

2) Lake Fork Trail - this trail fades out near the cirque and you will be left to do some heavy bushwhacking and Class 3-4 scrambling to reach the ridge.

3) Bull Flat Trail - this is the route I took. It stays more along the ridge but there is one 3/4 mile long section with no trail. Otherwise the trail is very easy to follow. 

Camping is free and available right at the trailhead at the Clear Creek Campground. The trail is only half shaded and there is only one water source along the trail at the natural spring, just over halfway to the summit. This is a great trail for dogs, except we did see a lot of foxtails along the way up. I didn't see any wildlife on my hike, but did see a lot of deer and moose tracks.

Charlie and I combined hiking Bull Mountain with Bridger Peak (the Rich CoHP) on the same day. After Bull Mtn, we drove about 2.5 hours over to complete this one as well, then drove home after. It was a lot of driving but I knocked out two in a day!


From SLC drive north on I-15 and take exit 5 for Snowville, UT. Head West on UT-30, then veer right for UT-42. As your drive into Idaho, this road is now ID-81. Turn left on E Naf Rd and drive 3.2 miles. Turn Left on S Clear Creek Road (you'll now see brown signs) and drive for 2 miles, then right on Clear Creek Road again. Continue following this as the road ends at the Clear Creek Campground. 

Here is a driving map.

Distance: 11 miles RT
Elevation gain: 3,587 ft
Time: 5-7 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? No
Fees/Permits? None

Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
As you turn left on E Naf Road, the brown sign is on the left (south) side of the road and not visible until you make the turn,.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Follow the signs for Clear Creek and you'll arrive at the CG.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
 I arrived around 8:30pm on a Friday night and got the very last campsite. See the white trash behind the table? Yeah....somebody decided to poop and wipe, then leave their TP right there laying out. I picked it up using one of Charlie's poop bags. Gross! There's literally a port-a-potty 50 feet away.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Our cozy setup for the night! I may not have a cool loft, drawers, or anything else fancy but this works perfect for us. Charlie and I fit just right with the back hatch closed. When my partner comes along, Charlie sleeps in the front passenger seat and we sleep in the back with the hatch open.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
 The port-a-potty. It looks pretty run down on the outside, but inside was actually clean.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
The trail begins in the CG, just before the end of the road on the South side (right).
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
You'll quickly cut through a gate.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
At 0.8 miles turn right for Bull Flat Trail. Going left will take you up the Lake Fork trail, which ends near the cirque.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Cross a small creek, then start working uphill.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
You'll hike though desert-like terrain, and a few small switchbacks. It's consistently steep. There's a few sections that are a little overgrown but not bad.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
So many flowers in July! Mainly Indian Paintbrush
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
At 2.6 miles (halfway!) you'll pass this large white rock. It looks to be a mix of sandstone/quartzite.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
This section is really cool because you'll get some great views to the West.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Ouch - some thicker bushwhacking now. Honestly, this was the worst of it. Not bad compared to bushwhacking I've had to deal with on other trails. 
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
 At least Charlie was loving it!
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Beautiful Columbine Flowers!
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
One weird thing - as I topped out on another ridge, I just happed to look right at saw a brown sign. I hiked around to the front and then saw the actual trail sign. Not sure why they would put it facing only one direction. You would definitely see it coming down, but there's a clear trail through here.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
On that ridge just past the sign it was super windy!
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
 You'll reach the private property fence. From here to the spring/pond there is NO trail. I couldn't find one in either direction, so be prepared to hike through the sage field straight across. Make sure you have a GPS handy so you know where to aim towards the spring/pond. 
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
I was still high on the ridge and decided to look over and to the left, and sure enough I could see the trail. I aimed down towards it and this view made my jaw drop. So pretty!
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
We reached the spring/pond area and took a quick break. Charlie went for a swim to cool off.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Checking out the spring. If you wanted to backpack this area would be the most ideal. It's the only water spot, and there are plenty of flat campsites to choose from.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
After hiking for another mile or so, the trail died out again. This was getting steep! I decided to just aim straight, along the ridge.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
It ended up being a decent decision because it led me to this amazing view of the Bull Mountain cirque!
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
From here I literally hugged the Ridgeline as I made my way towards the summit.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Such a cool view!
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Now, I started to aim for the actual summit which actually isn't above the cirque at all, but a little further out on top of Bull Flat. You'll pass through the private property gate again.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Charlie must have know we were close because he was super perky! It was much cooler up there as well because of the wind.
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
Almost there...
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
 Yay! We made it! It took me exactly 3 hours to summit. The summit itself isn't much to look at but we took our snack break here anyway, below some rocks to avoid the strong winds.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Signing the register!
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
Remember how I mentioned private property? Well, while I'm sitting and eating, I hear an ATV approach. I got up and waved, and they came over to the summit as well. We start talking and they ask if I am working on the County High Points and I said yes. They said, "That's cool - we're the new land owners!" And I said, "No way! I need a picture with you guys!" Anyway, after more talking we figured out that we both follow each other on Instagram! Haha!

One of things we talked about was the private property issue. I said that all the trip reports I read say that everyone is unsure about what is going on with that piece of land. I said, "I figured I'm just hiking through and will clean up trash so it should be ok?" They responded, "Of course! We want hikers to come through here and be able to explore as long as they keep it clean." So they bought the land a few months ago (early 2019) and want to spread the word that it is fully ok to hike through there (just pick up trash!). They are also planning to make a winter trail for snowmobiles in winter to be able to access the Cirque for backcountry skiing. How cool! For land ownership questions reach out to @hukesnow on Instagram!
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
See ya Bull Mtn!
Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point
One last look down into the cirque before turning around.
Hiking to Bull Mountain, Box Elder County High Point
On the way down I took a slightly different route off the summit, taking the ATV road down to an area I initially branched off from. It connected over, and I didn't have to route find or do any bushwhacking. It only added on 1/2 mile. Win! 

Right after I finished hiking Bull Mountain, I headed over to another peak to bag...stayed tuned for which one I did next!


Check out my youtube video!


Light purple line - my route up.
Yellow route - my route down.


 

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Hiking to Bull Mountain via Bull Flat, Box Elder County High Point