This is a remote trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water and be prepared to be self-sufficient. The areas at higher elevations can be prone to high winds and quickly changing weather.
For hikers who enjoy a more challenging route, this rugged trail rewards with outstanding vistas from several high ridgetops. The trail runs from the Dog Canyon Trailhead at its northern end, curving along the ridgeline and winding through the mountains of the park to end at the Bowl Trail
at its southern end.
The northern trailhead can be accessed from the Tejas Trail
. From Dog Canyon, hikers travel through grassy meadows and past the remnants of a wildfire before crossing Manzanita Ridge to view West Dog Canyon. After the short starting climb, the trail abruptly levels off, and hikers can enjoy the view back down West Dog Canyon. The trail, which is relatively easy going so far, then starts a short but steep descent.
After this short descent, hikers will find Marcus Campground. This backcountry campsite is not frequently used although it is a nice site nestled in pinion and juniper, shaded and protected from the wind. Some of the trails around the campground make it difficult to determine where the Bush Mountain Trail continues. Be on the lookout for rock cairns marking the way.
Leaving Marcus Campground, the trail begins what will be a mostly steady climb for the next ~5 miles. The first part of the climb is fairly gradual, but around mile 6.5 the trail gets a bit steeper and a bit more challenging. There are some open sections along this portion of the trail as well, so be sure to bring plenty of water as this remote area can be hot especially during the summer months.
The trail will pass a junction with the Blue Ridge Trail
and level out a bit. At this point, you'll be hiking along a more forested ridgeline, and the shade is a welcome relief. The trail continues to climb, but is a bit more rolling, and you won't encounter any prolonged uphills for this section.
At just over 9 miles, you'll reach the Bush Mountain Campground which is one of the more popular backcountry sites due to its great view especially for sunsets. The campsites at Bush Mountain are semi-protected from high winds, but be aware that this are can get quite windy.
From here the trail curves back to the east, rolling along a ridgeline with some great views to be had to the south. At about 11.5 miles and nearly to the end of the trail, you'll come to Pine Top Campground. This backcountry campground has eight sites, is located close to the Bowl, and offers excellent views of the park's highest peaks. Though forested, be aware of high winds and lightning due to the ridge top location.
Shortly past the Pine Top Campground, the trail ends at a junction with the Tejas Trail
and the Bowl Trail
Ponderosa pine, pinon, juniper.