Back to index Bull Run Lake Hike
Trip Date:  9/24/2021

Distance: 9.5 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1800'

Group Size: 2

Hike Rating:  Easy  
Moderate   Hard   Strenuous
Bull Run Lake Hike
  Download GPX GPX for this trip
Bull Run Lake Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 3.906, W 119 55.736     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 4 from the east side where it starts at the junction with Highway 89 (at the start of Monitor Pass.)  Follow the highway for about 15 miles until you reach the parking area for the Sandy Meadow trailhead just to the west of Mosquito Lake on the south side of the highway.
Hazards of Note:   Finding the trail from the above coordinates.  You can also drive in further to the Stanislaus Meadow trailhead to be a little closer to the lake.

Crowd Factor:   Moderate.   This is a well-known route with wonderful lake destination.   Not all will do this as a loop and we even met a few backpackers coming in from Heiser Lake the previous evening.
General Notes:
From the parking area near the along Highway 4, head south past a small sign that points to the Sandy Meadow Trail the other way.   You can following along the dirt road here or find a path that heads toward Stanislaus Meadow.   This path follows the fence for much of the first mile, and once we got into the area of the Stanislaus Meadow parking, we had to find a place to squeeze through the barbed wire without injuring ourselves.   Much.
The early part of trail is mostly downhill, but after the 2 mile point it begins to climb significantly.   Over the next 2 1/2 miles you will gain over 1000' of elevation before you top out near the destination lake.   There is a signed junction about 3/4 of a mile before the lake that you will want to take to the right, continuing south.  Be sure to look behind you as you make this final climb up to Bull Run Lake, to see great views to the north of the Mokelumne Wilderness, Wheeler Ridge directly across Highway 4 from you and even some glimpses of Mokelumne Peak, Round Top and the Raymond/Reynolds peak area.
After heading back from the lake take a right at the previous junction, heading toward the Heiser Lake junction about another mile ahead.   We decided to forgo this destination on the day, as it was smaller and shallower than Bull Run and another mile added to the loop was not in the cards for the day.
 There is a surprising amount of uphill left to gain, as you drop a bit leaving Bull Run and then gain it all back climbing up the ridgeline before dropping back down towards the Mosquito Lakes.  From here we decided to walk the road, as the trail heading back to the parking area cuts south a significant way and we would have had another 1/2 mile more than our route to get back to the start.

Even before we reached the trailhead this guy, probably displaced from the Caldor Fire was begging right along the road at one of the sharp switchbacks.  We were happy later on not to see any sign of him in that same spot as he appeared to be too comfortable around humans. Early Visitor
This is the signpost that you will be looking for with the start of the trail just to the left, heading almost due south. Trailhead parking sign
The parking area is adjacent to an old corral that appears to still be active and had some recent repairs obvious on it. Parking area 
Checking out the corral briefly before setting out on today's adventure. Checking it out
Don't follow this signpost as it is pointing to a trail on the north side of the highway.
Signpost near the start
Some of the signage along the way appears to be in need of a little bit of help. Maintenance needed
Our first section of trail took us through Stanislaus Meadow, pretty dry at the end of September in a drought year. Stanislaus Meadow
There is even a weather monitoring station about halfway through the meadow. More meadow 
If doing an out and back to Bull Run Lake, parking here at the Stanislaus Meadow trailhead would save you a good couple miles on the day. Alternate trailhead 
It's a good, long climb out of the canyon on the way to Bull Run Lake, but the views were nice and we especially enjoyed being out of the smoke for a day. Altitude gain
Around the 4 mile mark you will reach this junction post, where you will head south to reach Bull Run Lake after a little less than a mile. Lake junction
It was a pleasant surprise to have such a clear view of Wheeler Ridge to the north, one of the places I have been able to explore in the past couple of years familiarizing myself with the Ebbetts Pass area. Wheeler Ridge
Bull Run Lake definitely did not disappoint, being surprisingly full even this late in a very dry season. Bull Run Lake
We had the lake to ourselves for a good hour break for lunch, but on the way back we met a group of three backpackers heading to this place for the night after being at Heiser Lake the night before. Bull Run Lake
On the way back toward Highway 4 on the loop the trail passed under an archway tree that seems to have had a pretty rough go of things. Archway
Once you drop down toward Mosquito Lake, you can either follow a trail at a junction before the road or just walk along the highway as we opted to do. Mosquito Lake
GPS Track of our lop hike, starting near the bottom and heading counter clockwise around the area.. GPS Track of Hike