Bucking Mule Falls

Bighorn National Forest / Lovell, Wyoming, USA

About Bucking Mule Falls


Hiking Distance: 5.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-08-01
Date last visited: 2020-08-01

Waterfall Latitude: 44.89735
Waterfall Longitude: -107.92515

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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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_017_iPhone_08012020 - The panorama encompassing Bucking Mule Falls
The panorama encompassing Bucking Mule Falls

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_099_08012020 - Looking downstream into Devil Canyon from the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook
Looking downstream into Devil Canyon from the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_014_08012020 - The Bucking Mule Falls Trail began with a gentle descent through a pine forest
The Bucking Mule Falls Trail began with a gentle descent through a pine forest

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_038_08012020 - Approaching the footbridge over Big Tepee Creek along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Approaching the footbridge over Big Tepee Creek along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_078_08012020 - The Bucking Mule Falls Trail passing through a mix of open meadows with some small groves of trees in between
The Bucking Mule Falls Trail passing through a mix of open meadows with some small groves of trees in between

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_181_08012020 - Context of some other hikers enjoying their well-earned view of Bucking Mule Falls with the waterfall down below
Context of some other hikers enjoying their well-earned view of Bucking Mule Falls with the waterfall down below

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.

Authorities

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_003_08012020 - Looking back towards the signpost and restroom facility at the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead Parking Area
Bucking_Mule_Falls_005_08012020 - Signage at the start of the trail to the overlook for Bucking Mule Falls. Note that I think they might have underestimated the trail distance on that sign, which might explain some of the false trails that I saw later on (perhaps they were once part of a shorter trail?)
Bucking_Mule_Falls_011_08012020 - Initially, the Bucking Mule Falls Trail descended gently as it made a wide turn and started heading north
Bucking_Mule_Falls_013_08012020 - Passing through a mix of open parts of the forest in between more denser grovers en route to Bucking Mule Falls Overlook
Bucking_Mule_Falls_018_08012020 - Descending through some more dense growth in the pine forest en route to Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking_Mule_Falls_022_08012020 - Still descending through more dense groves of the pine forest en route to Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking_Mule_Falls_027_08012020 - At this point, the Bucking Mule Falls Trail descended more steeply as it was within the ravine carved out by Big Tepee Creek
Bucking_Mule_Falls_030_08012020 - Descending past some rocky sections among the pine trees as I continued towards the bridge over Big Tepee Creek on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_041_08012020 - Spotting one of many beautiful butterflies flitting about along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_044_08012020 - This etching on a fallen log tried to steer hikers away from a false trail to the right of where this picture was taken on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_045_08012020 - Broad look at that carved fallen log steering hikers to go left to continue on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail instead of going right
Bucking_Mule_Falls_048_08012020 - Looking across the Big Tepee Creek's ravine from the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_052_08012020 - Traversing through one of a handful of open meadows along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_060_08012020 - I noticed this pair of squirrels almost in the act as I was hiking by on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_065_08012020 - Another look across the ravine cut forth by the Big Tepee Creek. Notice the spire on the cliffs in the distance, which kind of reminded me of something I might see at Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah
Bucking_Mule_Falls_068_08012020 - This couple passed me on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail. They were one of the few (maybe the only people) that passed me on the entire hike
Bucking_Mule_Falls_072_08012020 - Continuing through some lightly forested groves where I still got some benefit of shade from the morning sun on the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_074_08012020 - Closeup look at some wildflowers blooming alongside the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_075_08012020 - Passing through another open area along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_077_08012020 - Looking downstream towards the context of the ravine containing Big Tepee Creek along the Bucking Mule Falls Trail
Bucking_Mule_Falls_082_08012020 - The sign at the next trail junction, where I went right to continue to Bucking Mule Falls. The Bucking Mule National Recreational Trail continued on the left
Bucking_Mule_Falls_086_08012020 - I noticed that the Bucking Mule Falls Trail passed beneath this tree that didn't finish its fall
Bucking_Mule_Falls_089_08012020 - Looking towards the outcrop where the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook was
Bucking_Mule_Falls_090_08012020 - Context of the couple that had passed me earlier standing near the end of the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook outcrop
Bucking_Mule_Falls_091_08012020 - Going in between some fencing set up at this unsigned spur to the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook
Bucking_Mule_Falls_095_08012020 - Context of Bucking Mule Falls as seen from before the end of the outcrop
Bucking_Mule_Falls_093_08012020 - Focused look at Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking_Mule_Falls_103_08012020 - Context of a couple of women chilling out with a nice view of Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking_Mule_Falls_109_08012020 - Slightly more open look at Bucking Mule Falls from the end of the outcrop
Bucking_Mule_Falls_117_08012020 - Broad look down at Bucking Mule Falls from the end of the outcrop
Bucking_Mule_Falls_146_08012020 - Looking towards the end of the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook outcrop and into Devil Canyon
Bucking_Mule_Falls_164_08012020 - I took some time to continue following the trail beyond the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook just to see where it would go, but I learned pretty quickly that it didn't get me any closer to Bucking Mule Falls
Bucking_Mule_Falls_168_08012020 - The extracurricular trail beyond Bucking Mule Falls did give me a chance to see more wildflowers and ornate butterflies
Bucking_Mule_Falls_178_08012020 - When I returned to the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook, the shadows still covered the waterfall but not much else
Bucking_Mule_Falls_189_08012020 - Hiking back from Bucking Mule Falls Overlook after having had my fill of the views
Bucking_Mule_Falls_192_08012020 - Passing through the open areas again, but now that the sun was more intense, it was also a bit warmer in these sections
Bucking_Mule_Falls_203_08012020 - The last part of the hike involved climbing back up towards the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead
Bucking_Mule_Falls_205_08012020 - Passing through some rocky sections on the way back up from Big Tepee Creek to the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead
Bucking_Mule_Falls_217_08012020 - Finally returning to the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead Parking Area, where there were definitely a lot more cars now than there were when I had gotten started
Bucking_Mule_Falls_219_08012020 - When I returned to the parked car, I was surprised to see that my rental car was still in the shade!

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For driving directions to the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead, I’ll just describe the routes that we managed to take.

One route was from Sheridan and the other was from Cody.

Driving from Sheridan to Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead

Bucking_Mule_Falls_001_08012020 - Looking back towards the entrance of the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead Parking Area
Looking back towards the entrance of the Bucking Mule Falls Trailhead Parking Area

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_218_08012020 - There was this interesting pump in the middle of the trailhead parking area for Bucking Mule Falls
There was this interesting pump in the middle of the trailhead parking area for Bucking Mule Falls

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.

Bucking_Mule_Falls_222_08012020 - The drive between Lovell and the Forest Service Road leading to Bucking Mule Falls involved climbing this steep road into the Bighorn Mountain Range, which went from the hot, arid plains below to the subalpine heights of the mountains
The drive between Lovell and the Forest Service Road leading to Bucking Mule Falls involved climbing this steep road into the Bighorn Mountain Range, which went from the hot, arid plains below to the subalpine heights of the mountains

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.

Downstream to upstream sweep from the Bucking Mule Falls Overlook


Deliberate 360 degree sweep from Bucking Mule Falls overlook

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Tagged with: lovell, wyoming, bighorn national forest, big horn county, bighorn mountains, overlook



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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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