Bulwark Ridge Trail to Signal Mountain, Dunraven Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Bulwark Ridge Trail to Signal Mountain - 11.85 Miles
Bulwark Ridge Trail to Signal Mountain
|Round-Trip Length:||11.85 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,817' - 11,262' (11,262' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,445' net elevation gain (+3,615' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Signal Mountain is located in the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, just outside the northeastern-most corner of Rocky Mountain National Park.
It stands over the Pennock Creek drainage with panoramas that include Mt Meeker (13,911'), Longs Peak (14,259'), South Signal Mountain (11,248') and various summits in the Stormy Peaks Range, Mummy Range, Never Summer Range and northern Comanche Peak Wilderness.
This challenging trail sees light traffic and is often passable by mid June. Visitors will enjoy varied terrain and lengthy stretches of open tundra en route to the summit.
Note: Though the Bulwark Trail and Signal Mountain are located in the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, it's grouped here within Rocky Mountain National Park because it begins at the Dunraven Trailhead, a popular launch point for many destinations in and around the northeast section of the Park:
The Bulwark Ridge Trail begins at the north end of the Dunraven Trailhead. Follow the service road .35 miles to Trails End Ranch and signs pointing right to continue the trail. Here it begins a steep, twisting climb up a fire-scarred hillside with good views of the valley below.
Fire-induced erosion has gullied out this challenging segment, leaving it susceptible to washouts and mud. The trail levels through a small meadow (.8 miles : 8,465') and enters an unaffected tract of mixed pine, aspen and glades. Well-spaced trees create good viewing lanes for wildlife such as deer, elk, turkey and bear.
The trail moves quickly to the Miller Fork - Indian Trail junction and veers left into a thicker forest (1.3 miles : 8,717'). It rises gradually up Bulwark Ridge through uniform columns of lodgepole, becoming rocky and appreciably steeper as you progress (2.0 miles : 9,020').
Spruce and fir mark the transition from montane to subalpine ecosystems on this rapid climb (2.5 miles : 9,424'), a comparatively more attractive composite of verdant ground cover, rocky outcrops and small clearings from blown-down trees. Exceedingly steep segments enjoy brief reprieves on flat benches along the upper ridge between 3.5 and 4.5 miles.
The trail crests in a thinning and shrinking forest atop Bulwark Ridge with navigationally useful views of the Signal Mountains (4.5 miles : 10,839').
It glides gently downhill and bends north up the east flank of South Signal Mountain, the path now intermittently faint and obscured by lingering snow. Large cairns provide adequate guidance, but vigilance and a good topo map are still essential through treeline. Notable in the vicinity are pockets of limber pine, a species well-adapted to high elevations and extreme weather conditions.
The trail edges up the east flank of South Signal Mountain and breaks treeline along a wide saddle between South Signal Mountain and Signal Mountain (5.5 miles : 10,990'). Views are remarkable, and the path is now intuitively followed through open tundra to either summit.
The trail keeps north and climbs the saddle to Signal Mountain's east ridge. The main trail continues north and drops, but to reach the summit you'll break left (west) on this ridge for .1 miles to a rock wind shelter that officially marks Signal Mountain (5.92 miles : 11,262').
The summit area is long, flat and easily explored. Look down Signal Mountain's open north and west slopes for elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Those with time should consider summiting South Signal Mountain on the return, a relatively short, easily navigated excursion off the main trail. The Bulwark Ridge Trail continues north from the Signal Mountain summit for another 5.8 miles to its terminus on Pingree Park Road.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N40 28.557 W105 27.644 — Dunraven Trailhead - Bulwark Ridge Trail
- N40 28.672 W105 27.993 — .35 miles : Bear right off service road to resume trail
- N40 28.803 W105 27.810 — .8 miles : Trail eases through small meadow
- N40 29.161 W105 27.951 — 1.3 miles : Bulwark Ridge - Miller Fork Trail split
- N40 29.424 W105 28.617 — 2.0 miles : Moderate climb along Bulwark Ridge
- N40 29.675 W105 29.019 — 2.5 miles : Steep grades on climb into subalpine forest
- N40 29.949 W105 29.451 — 3.05 miles : Steep and rocky climb up Bulwark Ridge
- N40 30.184 W105 29.730 — 3.45 miles : Steady climb continues
- N40 30.547 W105 30.229 — 4.05 miles : Steep, rocky intervals up Bulwark Ridge
- N40 30.719 W105 30.545 — 4.5 miles : Trail crests and glides down thinning forest
- N40 31.085 W105 30.761 — 5.0 miles : Trail edges up east flank of South Signal Mt
- N40 31.388 W105 30.781 — 5.5 miles : Nadir in saddle between Signal Mt summits
- N40 31.537 W105 30.697 — 5.92 miles : Signal Mountain summit
- Upper portions of the Bulwark Ridge Trail are intermittently ill-defined; open tundra and lingering snow may further obscure the way. Follow cairns, be patient with route finding and help minimize erosion by staying on designated trails.
- Afternoon thunderstorms form quickly in the mountains. Manage time wisely and avoid exposed travel when storms approach.
- Anticipate changing weather conditions throughout the day. Carry versatile layers, sun, wind and rain protection. Note there are few natural water sources along the way.
- Look for elk, marmot and ptarmigan on the route's higher elevations. Moose are sometimes seen down western slopes in late summer and fall.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Comanche Peak Wilderness Area Camping
- Dispersed camping is permitted along the Bulwark Ridge Trail. There are limited natural, free flowing water sources along this trail.
- Camping is prohibited within 200' of all lakes, streams and trails to protect water quality, sensitive vegetation and help assure solitude.
- Camping in the North Fork Travel Zone of the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area is restricted to designated campsites. There are 9 designated sites along the North Fork Trail between the Dunraven Trailhead and RMNP boundary. No more than 12 people with 3 tents can use one site. Tents must be within 30' from the campsite marker. Campfires are prohibited in the North Fork Travel Zone.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs are permitted but must be leashed within the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area.
- Bikes are not permitted on the Bulwark Ridge Trail.
Signal Mountain and the Bulwark Ridge Trail are accessed from the Dunraven Trailhead in the Comanche Peak Wilderness along the northeast border of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trailhead is located 11.6 miles north of Estes Park off Dunraven Glade Road.
From downtown Estes Park, head northwest on Wonderview Ave for .4 miles to Devils Gulch Road (aka McGregor Ave). Turn north on Devils Gulch Road and drive 9.0 miles to Dunraven Glade Road (aka 51B). Turn left (west) on Dunraven Glade Road and drive 2.2 miles to its terminus at the Dunraven Trailhead.
Comanche Peak Wilderness Area
Canyon Lakes Ranger District
2150 Centre Ave. Bldg. E Fort Collins, CO 80526
Monday - Friday 8:00 am -5:00 pm
Rocky Mountain National Park