East Ridge via Bells Canyon

East Ridge via Bells Canyon

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.52270°N / 111.7434°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hike, Scramble
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 3
Sign the Climber's Log


This route to the summit of Bighorn Peak utilizes the Bells Canyon trail to Upper Bells Reservoir, followed by routefinding to the saddle east of the summit, and a scramble up the northeast ridge.

See the main page 'Getting There' section for directions on reaching the Bells Canyon trailhead.


Round Trip Hiking Distance: 11.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,757 ft.

Trailhead Elevation: 5,120 ft.
Summit Elevation: 10,877 ft.

Route Description

From the Bells Canyon Trailhead at the north end of the parking area, follow the trail up though a residential area, across a bridge, then up a steep stretch to Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir.

Follow the dirt road which circles around the west and then north sides of the reservoir. About 200 yards beyond the reservoir the Bells Canyon trail leaves the road on the left, marked by a sign.

After leaving the dirt road the trail meanders through brush and scrub oak until it reaches a small bridge over the Bells Canyon stream, approximately 0.5 miles from the lower reservoir.

From the bridge the trail continues east on the south side of the stream for approximately 2 miles, then makes a sharp turn to the right (south). Approximately 100 yards after making the turn south, cross to the east side of the stream on a very primitive 'bridge' constructed of logs and 2x4's (during periods of low runoff the stream may be crossed at a number of other spots as well).

Make a mental note of this crossing area, as it is fairly easy to miss on the hike out.

Pick up the trail on the east side of the stream and continue hiking south. From this point onward the trail slowly deteriorates and becomes increasingly difficult to follow. If the trail is lost just continue heading south and upward along the path of least resistance, and eventually either the trail or a periodic cairn should be spotted - do your best, and try to keep the cursing to a minimum.

Approximately 4 miles from the trailhead the Upper Bells Canyon Reservoir will be reached. The reservoir lies in a somewhat steep-walled depression, so the summit of Bighorn Peak cannot be seen from the reservoir.

A vague trail continues around the right (west) side of the reservoir, but it soon disappears and only an occasional cairn will be spotted. You're basically on your own from here, but the route is straight forward.

Continue heading in a generally southward direction, avoiding cliff bands and other obstacles as necessary. The huge east face of Lone Peak will dominate the view to the west. Eventually the summit of Bighorn will come into view, which is the high point on the rugged ridge extending east from the summit of Lone Peak.

Head for the low saddle on the east (left) of Bighorn. Upon reaching the saddle simply follow the ridge west towards the summit, staying initially on the south side then cross over to the north side of the ridge when the scrambling becomes difficult. The last few hundred feet to the summit involves a few spots of easy 3rd class scrambling with moderate exposure.

Essential Gear

Standard summer hiking gear for a fairly long hike.

An ice axe may be handy for early spring hikes.

During mid-summer the bugs in upper Bells Canyon can be savage - don't forget your DEET.



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