Bull Creek Cutoff

Round Trip Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 9821 - 10,046 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr. 15 mins.
Trailhead: Bull Creek Cutoff
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest, deer, scenic reservoirs

The Bull Creek Cutoff trail is located in the Grand Mesa National Forest near Grand Junction, Colorado. The trail begins at the Long Slough Road, FR 254.1A and ends at the Lake of the Woods trail traveling along the eastern shore of Bull Creek Reservoir Number 4 in route. Besides hikers and horseback riders the trail is used by hunters and fishermen.

Driving to the Bull Creek Cutoff trailhead on the Long Slough Road requires a high clearance 4-wheel drive, ATV or mountain bike. The trailhead is about 4.5 miles east of Jumbo Reservoir on Highway 65. Getting to the other end of the trail would require about a 1.5 mile hike along the Lake of the Woods trail. Another intriguing option would be to combine the Bull Creek Cutoff trail with sections of the Lake of the Woods and Bull Basin trails to form a loop that should be just under 10 miles. It would require finding your way from the Lake of the Woods trailhead to the Waterdog Reservoir area but that shouldn't be too difficult to manage.

The trail begins by following the reservoirs maintenance road.

The road comes to the creek that drains the reservoir after about a half mile. There are 3 choices to choose from at this point. You can wade across the creek expecting the water to be at least a foot deep, jump the narrowest point of 5-6 feet to the left of the road or follow a game trail through the brush to get around the spillway where you can either climb the dam or angle across the front of it to get back on the main trail. We followed the game trail.

Don't know if there are any fish in there but it is pretty. A lot of these reservoirs get drained almost completely dry to furnish water for irrigation and downstream water rights. They would have to be drained down anyway to make room for the next years runoff. This one doesn't seem to ever get drained down so low that it wouldn't have fish.

Maintenance vehicles don't go beyond the dam so the trail turns into a single track from that point.

The reservoirs on the Grand Mesa, with only a few exceptions, were all built by the farmers and cattlemen, at their own expense, that needed a reliable supply of water. They would build cabins like this one to live in while engaging in the difficult task of building a reservoir without the aid of heavy equipment often pulling scrapers behind a team of horses to move the dirt. When the Forest Service took over they had most of the cabins removed viewing them as eyesores but fortunately a few have remained. A kiosk would be nice at a site like this so future visitors can appreciate the sacrifices that were made for what we enjoy today.

The trail comes out in the open about half way past the reservoir. Judging from the double-track the trail was open to ATVs at sometime in the past.

A buck looks back from just inside the treeline.

The trail re-enters the trees near the tail end of the lake.

Most of the little elevation gain that there is occurs at this point where the trail climbs the ridge between the reservoir and the Lake of the Woods trail.

A little over a mile and a quarter into the hike the trail comes to a fork. Both directions lead to the Lake of the Woods trail. If you are headed to the Lake of the Woods trailhead then the shortest route is to the right. If you are headed toward one of the other reservoirs to do some fishing or perhaps looking to connect up with the Cottonwood trail then go to the left. We went to the left and hiked the loop which adds about a half mile to the hike.

After following the left fork we made a right on the Lake of the Woods trail.

And then we made another right at the next junction to get back on the main Bull Creek Cutoff trail.

The Bull Creek Cutoff trail is almost what I would call a utility trail rather than a destination hike. The trail would come in handy, and it does during the winter, to create a larger loop hike. During the winter cross country skiers will begin at Jumbo Reservoir and trek by Waterdog Reservoir and Griffith Lake to the Lake of the Woods trail which they follow to the Bull Creek Cutoff trail and complete their loop by following the Long Slough Road back to Jumbo. A hiker could take the same route which is something that we might just do one of these days. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.