Bunchgrass Creek Ridge Loop, 5 August, 2023

Four Cache Hikers enjoyed an unusual hike on a day of perfect weather with still-abundant wildflowers, varied terrain, great ridge views with some old limber pines, and a giant spruce tree as a bonus. We left the car at 9:00 from the gravel pit off the Tony Grove road, after picking up one hiker who had been camping higher in the canyon and met us at the Tony Grove turnoff.

The trail is not apparent and is likely used mainly by horseback riders. It was very overgrown for about the first mile, with plenty of tall, lush vegetation. When we reached the Bunchgrass Creek drainage, we turned east for a short distance to find a particular spruce of considerable dimension. We were able to roughly measure its circumference since a couple of hikers were carrying lengths of string, and it came out at an impressive 14½ feet, or a little over 4½ feet in diameter.  

Then we continued up the drainage until we eventually reached the old White Pine Lake trail, which receives very little use compared to the main trail. When we joined the main trail to White Pine Lake, we saw probably 30 hikers and backpackers in only about half a mile, in marked contrast to the rest of the hike, where we encountered no one and the only signs of trail use appeared to be from horses.

We turned east off the White Pine Lake trail on a faint track and followed it around the east side of a ridge. After a bit of hiking on a side slope, we topped out at a spectacular lunch place with great views on all sides, and a convenient large limber pine log that gave us all a seat. We had lunch there from 12:30 to 1:00 and then continued on down the ridge, enjoying the views until we joined the trail back in the drainage. That completed the “lollipop” part of the route, and we made it back to the car at about 2:30.

Trip Summary:
  • Four hikers: Dave P., Brent, Teresa, and Laurel (leader)
  • Carpooled 26 miles and parked at the Tony Grove gravel pit
  • Hiked a “lollipop” route up the Bunchgrass Creek drainage to the White Pine Lake trail, then turned off-trail and followed a long, gently sloping ridge back to the trail in the Bunchgrass drainage
  • Started hiking at 9:00, snacked 10:45 at a mostly dry pond, lunch on the ridge 12:30 - 1:00, back at the car by 2:30 and Logan by 3:30
  • Temperature about 55º F to start, in the low 70s when we finished, mostly sunny with light breeze and few clouds
  • Hiked about 6¾ miles following trails of various usage, or little trail at all, with about 1400 feet of elevation gain

Thanks to Laurel for the narrative and photos, Dave P for photos, and Brent and Teresa for photos and GPS data

Hiking off-trail through wildflowers (there's a reason it's called "tall" larkspur, Delphinium occidentale)
A snack break by a nearly-dry pond

Enjoying the view while hiking down the ridge

Stopping for lunch on a limber pine (Pinus flexilis) log with Mount Magog and Mount Gog in the background

A large Englemann spruce, Picea englemannii
Western coneflower, Rudbeckia occidentalis, in bloom

Elephant head, Pedicularis groenlandica
 Large rocks were pulled from the ground when this tree fell

Our GPS track shows about  6.7 miles and 1400 feet of ascent.
You can look at our route using Google Earth or download our GPS file.