Mount Washburn Trail Description (Dunraven Trailhead 4K9) - Heavy Traffic
When you stand on the summit of Mount Washburn you'll feel like you're standing on the top of the world. The views from the lookout are some of the best in all of the park. Put this destination on your Yellowstone bucket list and you won't be disappointed.
Not long after leaving the parking lot at Dunraven Pass you'll have a bird's-eye view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Hayden Valley, and the Grand Tetons farther to the south. At 0.5 miles there is a stunning overlook at the first switchback and from here the scenery just gets better and better. There are always breathtaking viewpoints at every turn so keep your camera handy and be on the lookout for the bighorn sheep that like to graze on the slopes of this high peak.
After the first switchback the trail heads north for about a mile through a sparsely forested area that offers intermittent views toward the east side of the park where the rugged peaks of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness form an impressive wall for almost its entire length. At the second switchback you'll have a great view of the fire tower perched high on top of the summit. Over the next mile the trail zigzags back and forth with another amazing view at around mile 2.5. NOTE: This section of the trail contained the most snowpack during our trip in early June which makes the going a little slower as you walk along the tops of these massive snowdrifts. A pair of Yaktrax® can be very helpful if you hike this during the springtime.
From this point you'll be heading directly toward the fire tower for the remainder of the hike. The western side of the park will now be visible and Dunraven Pass can be spotted snaking its way through the landscape below. At 3.2 miles the Dunraven Spur Trail enters from the right and you'll begin walking in a counterclockwise circle to the summit. The fire lookout has two entrances on either side and it's a very comfortable place to sit out of the wind while soaking up the views. The park service has installed a series of murals below each of the three windows so you can easily identify the many different landmarks located throughout the park. There is access to a deck on the second floor and this is a great place to take a few pictures of yourself, family and friends from what will seem like the top of the world. The only drawback to this hike is its length... I wish it were much longer so we could take more pictures along the way!
OPTIONAL ROUTE: On the north side of the pass vehicles are allowed to drive part-way up the mountain on Chittenden Road (Trailhead 2K6). This route is only 2.5 miles in length (one-way) and is a little easier than the trail described above. Bicycles are also allowed to ride to the lookout via Chittenden Road.
NOTE: It can be extremely windy on the summit of Mount Washburn and the weather can be very unpredictable. Shelter is available inside the lookout tower but always go prepared for any, and all types of weather. The Mount Washburn Trail follows an old dirt road to the summit so the trail conditions are excellent and the easy grade makes for a very pleasant hike to the summit. However, during the spring the road tends to hold snow and you'll probably be hiking across a handful of snowfields if you tackle this trail in May or June (see photos below). Carrying Yaktrax® would make traversing these snowdrifts a little easier, especially if temperatures are colder.
Click here to download your FREE Yellowstone Backcountry Trip Planner - Contains backcountry campsite information, backcountry permit information, park service phone numbers, bear management information and hiking/backpacking checklists.
WARNING: YOU MUST BE WELL PREPARED and carry the necessary equipment to make your hike a safe one. You are responsible for your own well-being while trekking in these remote wilderness locations. Help or rescue can be hours or even days away.
Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.
Tower Junction/Garnet Hill Loop (Trailhead 2K2) - An easy 8 mile loop with plenty of great scenery.
Cascade Lake (Trailhead 4K5)
Wapiti Lake (Trailhead 4K7)
Tower Fall Campground - May 23rd - Sept. 29th - Tower Fall Campground is located approximately 11 miles north of the Mount Washburn/Dunraven Pass Trailhead and has 32 primitive sites and vault toilets. Campsites are $15.00 per night. Reservations are not accepted. Generators are not permitted. A general store and gas station (seasonal) are located near Tower Fall and Tower Junction - Get directions from the Mount Washburn/Dunraven Pass Trailhead to the Tower Fall Campground.
Canyon Village Campground - May 30th - Sept. 14th - Canyon Village Campground is located approximately 4.8 miles south of Mount Washburn/Dunraven Pass Trailhead and has 273 sites with a special section for tents only. Campsites are $26.00 per night. Includes 2 showers per day. Campground has flush toilets. Reservations are accepted. Click here to make online reservations or call: 1-866-439-7375. Generators are permitted from 8am - 8pm. A gas station, lodging, general store, restaurants, laundry, dump station, and visitor center are located at this campground - Get directions from the Mount Washburn/Dunraven Pass Trailhead to the Canyon Village Campground.
Yellowstone National Park Backcountry Permits
Overnight backcountry permits can be obtained at the Canyon Backcountry Office. Hours vary depending on the time of year - (307) 344-2160. Read more about obtaining Yellowstone Backcountry Permits.