Want to see a giant sequoia that’s really well grounded? Bull Buck Tree flares out toward the ground so dramatically that its base circumference rivals that of General Sherman Tree( the world’s biggest giant Sequoia). Bull Buck Tree cannot compete with the largest giant sequoias by total volume, but it is still something to see! Like nearby Big Ed Tree Trail and Shadow of the Giants Trail, Bull Buck Tree Loop Trail explores part of the Nelder Grove in Sierra National Forest, south of Yosemite National Park. Bull Buck Tree Trail is 0.8 miles long and presents a pleasant woodland walk with just 120 feet of elevation change, leading to a solitary giant sequoia that was spared by loggers because it was the largest in the area.
Closure Update: The Railroad Fire closed Nelder Grove in the fall of 2017 (and this trail remains closed into 2018). Visit the Sierra National Forest online or call (559) 877-2218 for additional information about the status of Nelder Grove.
Those staying at Nelder Grove Campground can walk straight from their sites onto Bull Buck Tree Trail. Those driving in can start from a parking area at the back of the campground, just across California Creek. The loop begins from the left side of the parking area (near the creek) and finishes near the back of the parking area.
Begin up a wide trail, marked with signs for Bull Buck Trail and Bull Buck Loop. You will immediately come to a gate. Pass through it and continue up the wide, wooded trail. California Creek flows through the forest to your left, backed by sites in Nelder Grove Campground.
The wide trail passes through forest for a quarter mile to arrive at a junction with Chimney Tree Trail. Bear right, following the sign for Bull Buck Tree Trail. The loop now shrinks to a single-track trail, slipping through dogwoods and firs. Pass a small marker labeled B1, the first of 11 markers for highlights along the trail. B1 draws attention to a burned-out snag resembling a howling coyote.
Pass a stump for a giant sequoia that was left behind by loggers and come to a panel for Bull Buck Tree in front of the broken sections of a downed and decomposing sequoia. Don’t fret; these are not the remains of Bull Buck Tree, which stands to the left. The panel offers some measurements for Bull Buck Tree, recorded in 1975. At that time, Bull Buck Tree had a height 247.3 feet, a circumference at breast height (4 1/2 feet) of 84.2 feet, a volume of 29,090 cubic feet, a crown spread of 70.69 feet, and an estimated age of 2,700 years.
Step up to the fence surrounding Bull Buck Tree and admire this tall giant sequoia with a very wide base. The taper at the bottom of Bull Buck Tree is so exaggerated that you might almost think the rest of the trunk looks slender compared to its enormous bottom. For Bull Buck Tree, it’s all about that base!
Walk along the wooden fence in front of Bull Buck Tree to find the continuation of the trail, parting to the right. A short distance from the tree (and a third of a mile from the start of the hike), come to a junction with a trail sign pointing to the right. Straight ahead, a short spur leads to a dead end by a couple log benches that provide top-to-bottom views looking back at Bull Buck Tree. Before continuing with the loop, make your way up this spur to admire Bull Buck Tree in all its beautiful grandeur.
Proceed on Bull Buck Tree Trail through a nice forest of standard sized trees (but no more giant sequoias). From May to June, dogwood trees blooming throughout the forest make the walk even better.
The back half of the loop includes several more numbered markers. B6 highlights a small snag, which is all that is left of a burned-away tree with a hollow center that exposes the branching inside the old tree. An interpretive guide offered by Friends of Nelder Grove provides information about a fir with a burl at marker B7:
This is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress.
A few fun markers near the end of the loop seem geared for children:
- A bug-eyed stump at B8
- A burned out snag full of holes at B9
- A pair of side-by-side stumps, heart stump and lightning stump, at the last two markers
In the end, Bull Buck Tree Trail descends toward Nelder Grove Campground, leading back to the small parking area where the hike began.
Dogs are welcome on Bull Buck Tree Trail and bikes seem to be permitted too. Nelder Grove may be difficult to access during winter conditions from December to April. The dirt roads leading to the grove can be rough and require high clearance vehicles. Otherwise, no permit is required to hike Bull Buck Tree Trail and no fee is charged to access Sierra National Forest, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Oakhurst, take Highway 41 north for 4 miles and bear right on Road 632 (signs for Sierra Sky Ranch). Proceed up this road, which winds into the mountains for 6.6 miles, becoming Forest Road 6S10. Come to a T-intersection and turn left onto Road 6S47Y, following signs for Nelder Grove. Drive 1.2 miles to a fork and stay to the right on Road 6S90. Drive 0.3 miles and make the first left onto 5S19, at a sign for Nelder Grove Campground. Drive 0.35 miles up to the interpretive center and trailhead for Big Ed Tree Trail and go another tenth of a mile to another sign for Nelder Grove Campground, where the campground begins. Bear right and drive the final tenth of a mile to the trailhead parking area for Bull Buck Trail at the back of the campground.
From Yosemite National Park, exit through the south gate on Route 41 near Mariposa Grove and drive another 11.7 miles to Road 632. Make a sharp left onto Road 632 and follow the directions above.
Trailhead address: Forest Road 5S19, Oakhurst, CA 93644
Trailhead coordinates: 37.4301, -119.5831 (37° 25′ 48.4″N 119° 34′ 59.2″W)
|Big Ed Tree Trail |
This 0.2-mile hike is quite short, but visits a tree that is quite big - part of the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias in Sierra National Forest.
|Shadow of the Giants Trail |
This 1.1-mile nature trail visits giants sequoias and imparts wisdom about the great trees and their surroundings.
|Lewis Creek Trail to Corlieu Falls |
This 0.8-mile round trip hike travels down along a rushing creek to a viewing platform in front of an enthusiastic, cascading waterfall.
|Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias |
This 1.6-mile hike (or longer) visits the biggest trees in Yosemite.
|Wawona Meadow Loop Trail |
This gentle 3.9-mile loop passes through forest encircling a verdant, mostly-natural meadow near Wawona Hotel at the south end of Yosemite National Park.
|Wawona Swinging Bridge |
This 0.8 or 1.4-mile hike leads to a suspension bridge spanning a charming stretch of the South Fork Merced River in the Wawona Area of Yosemite National Park.
|Chilnualna Falls Trail |
This 8-mile round trip hike ascends 2,200 feet past a raucous string of cascades to the top of a waterfall alongside Wawona Dome.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains |
Explore other destinations around Yosemite National Park and the rest of the range.
|North Grove - Big Trees Trail in Calaveras Big Trees State Park |
This easy 1.5-mile loop explores the first giant sequoias discovered by settlers in California.
|General Grant Tree Trail in Kings Canyon National Park |
This 0-8 mile loop in the Grant Grove passes through a Fallen Monarch to reach the General Grant Tree, one of the world's largest sequoias.
|Trail of 100 Giants in Giant Sequoia National Monument |
This paved 0.5 to 1.3-mile loop visits a grove of giant sequoias alongside Western Divide Highway.
|General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park |
This one-mile hike visits the world's biggest tree, a 275-foot tall Giant Sequoia that is 36.5 feet across at the base.
|Big Trees Trail in Sequoia National Park |
This 1.4-mile stroll explores giant sequoias around Round Meadow on a paved nature trail that is easy, educational, and beautiful.
|Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park |
This level 1.6-mile loop visits a Sequoia you can stand inside (Chimney Tree) and another that someone used to live in (Tharp's Log).
|Nelder Grove Campground |
This 7-site campground offers cozy nights in a partially logged grove of giant sequoias in Sierra National Forest.