About Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking Mule Falls was a scenic reward for a moderately long but straightforward hike with pine trees, open meadows, wildflowers, and teasing glimpses of Devil Canyon.
From estimating the run of the falls and comparing them to the contour lines on my USGS Topo Map in Gaia GPS, this waterfall dropped about 200ft on Bucking Mule Creek.
Even though there wasn’t a safe way to get close to this waterfall, I found the overlook to be both expansive and all-encompassing.
After all, I was able to peer right down into the deep canyon carved out by Bucking Mule Creek when looking upstream.
At the same time, I looked right into the contour of Devil Canyon when I looked downstream, which really gave me that top-of-the-world feeling I’d get whenever I’m at a remote overlook.
According to my trip logs, the out-and-back hike was around 5.2-5.4 miles round trip with roughly 360ft elevation loss so I definitely had to earn it.
The waterfall also seemed like it had seen better flow than when I saw it in early August 2020.
As for lighting, it seemed like my visit in the late morning was a bit too early due to morning shadows making the viewing experience a bit suboptimal.
Had I been here perhaps in the early afternoon, then Bucking Mule Falls ought to get the benefit of good backlighting without shadows impacting the views until later in the day.
Bucking Mule Falls Trail Description
From the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead (see directions below), I then followed an established foot trail that began towards the southern end of the parking area.
The trail then swung around and started to head north as it gradually descended towards a ravine carved out by Big Tepee Creek at nearly a mile from the trailhead.
Upon entering the drainage, the trail descended more noticeably before bottoming out at a footbridge over Big Tepee Creek at about 1.4 miles from the trailhead.
I did notice one false trail on the way to the footbridge coming in from the right, which I knew could be a confusing spot on the return hike.
While I wondered where that other trail went, I remained focused on the main hike.
So beyond the bridge, the trail started to ascend again through a mix of open wildflower-rich meadows and small groves of pine trees in between.
During this stretch, at around 0.1-mile past the footbridge, I kept left at another false path where someone took the trouble to etch arrows on a fallen tree to steer people away from that other trail.
In the more open spaces of this stretch of the Bucking Mule Falls Trail, I managed to look across the ravine carved out by Big Tepee Creek towards some cliffs in the distance (including a spire-like pinnacle).
After about 2.3 miles from the trailhead (or 0.9 miles from the Big Tepee Creek footbridge), I then encountered a signed trail junction.
Following the way to the waterfall, I kept right at the trail junction, which then veered in a more northerly direction for another 1/4-mile before reaching an unsigned trail junction by some fencing.
This fencing fronted an outcrop jutting out towards the steep gorge carved out by Bucking Mule Creek, and towards the end of this outcrop was finally the view of Bucking Mule Falls.
Since there were no railings, I had to exercise good judgment to keep away from the sheer dropoffs, and it seemed like there was plenty of space to share the views with the handful of people that were here.
After having my fill of the Bucking Mule Falls, I returned the way I came to complete this hike.
However, I did take some time to explore where the trail kept going to, but it ultimately seemed like an old 4wd road that meandered well upstream of Bucking Mule Falls with seemingly no payoff nearby.
I eventually turned back shortly after encountering a pair of women who said they had to turn back because they saw a grizzly bear cross the trail, which further made me reconsider going further.
Overall, this excursion took me a little over 3 hours away from the car, but I probably could have saved another 15 minutes by not extending the hike to see where that trail beyond the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook went.
Bucking Mule Falls resides in the Bighorn National Forest near Lovell in Big Horn County, Wyoming. It is administered by USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
For driving directions to the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead, I’ll just describe the routes that we managed to take.
Driving from Sheridan to Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead
Starting from Sheridan, we drove on the westbound I-90 for over 14 miles before taking the exit 9 for the US14 West (towards Ranchester).
At the off-ramp, we then turned left and followed the US14 West for about 50 miles to the Burgess Junction (where the US14 intersected with the US14A).
We then turned right at this junction and followed the US14A West for another 20 miles before turning right onto the unpaved Forest Service Road 14 (Sheep Mountain Road).
Finally, we followed the signs and took this road for about 10 miles to its end, where the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead was located.
Overall, this 78-mile drive would take between 90-120 minutes.
Driving from Cody to Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead
From Cody, I took the US14A east in the direction of Lovell for about 78 miles.
This long stretch included driving past Lovell and up the steep curves ascending into the Buck Horn Mountains.
Then, I turned left onto the unpaved Forest Service Road 14 (Sheep Mountain Road) and followed it to the end in about 10 miles.
Overall, this 87-mile drive would take about 2 hours.
For context, Cody was 147 miles (under 3 hours drive) west of Sheridan, 163 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Lander, 214 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Casper, 167 miles (over 3.5 hours drive) northeast of Jackson Hole, 76 miles (over 90 minutes drive) southeast of Cooke City-Silver Gate, Montana, 107 miles (under 2 hours drive) south of Billings, Montana, 132 miles (over 3 hours drive) southwest of Gardiner, Montana, and 146 miles (about 3.5 hours drive) east of West Yellowstone, Montana.
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