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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the focal feature for this region, and numerous trails prowl its rim, descend its walls or lead to the brinks of its waterfalls. Other trails in the Canyon area provide access to backcountry lakes or connect with adjoining regions. The yellow-hued rocks lining the canyon walls may seem appropriate for the name "Yellowstone," but the canyon did not bear its name. Instead, the name was derived from the yellow-banded bluffs along the river several hundred miles north, near the confluence with the Missouri River. During their wanderings, the early French Canadian trappers learned from the Indians the name Mi tse a-da-afor the Yellowstone River. And this, in French, became Roche Jaune of Pierra Jaune-, meaning Yellow Rock or Yellow Stone.

The river has carved a canyon 800 to 1,300 feet deep, 1,500 to 4,000 feet wide and 20 miles long. Rhyolite, which forms the canyon walls, underwent alteration when thermal water worked its way up. This weakened the rhyolite and made it susceptible to erosion. During the past 150,000 years, the river has been at work eroding the soft, altered rock. Harder, more resistant, unaltered rhyolite forms the brink of the falls.

If only one hike can be made in Yellowstone, the Mount Washburn Trail should be the one. This trail passes through different zones of wildflowers and, during July, it is possible to count more than 50 species of wildflowers in bloom. Bighorn sheep use the summer pastures on the slopes, and this is the best location in the park to observe them. From the summit, it also is possible to scan the entire park. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Tetons, Mount Holmes and even an eruption of Old Faithful can be viewed on a clear day.


Mt. Washburn Trail
Length to Washburn Lockout Tower from: 
Dunraven Pass picnic area 3.0 miles, one way. 
Chittenden parking area 2.25 miles, one way.
Elevation change: Dunraven Pass at 8,850 feet (1,393-foot gain, but a 1,491-foot gain from Chittenden parking area.) 
Trailheads: The first of two trailheads is at Dunraven Pass, 4.75 miles north of Canyon Junction on the Canyon-Tower Road. The second trailhead is at Chittenden parking area, via the turn-off 9.5 miles north of Canyon Junction, and including an additional 1.2-mile spur road.

If you can accomplish only one hike in Yellowstone, this is the hike. No other single trail provides as much in the way of scenery, wildflowers and wildlife as the Mount Washburn Trail. This also is one of the best evening or sunset hikes, but the drawback is that the return is in the dark.

Two trails access the summit of Mount Washburn, the primary fire lockout of the three lockouts in the park. (The other two lockouts are located on mounts Holmes and Sheridan.) The two trails approach from opposite directions and provide entirely different views on the way up. Both were stagecoach and wagon roads originally and, later, the Chittenden Road was paved for motor vehicles and was open to the public on a part-time basis until the late 1960s. Now both are wide trails, with the Chittenden Trail also providing bicycle access.

The Dunraven Pass approach is on the southern exposure of Mount Washburn and, for this reason, becomes snow-free earlier than the other side. Even so, the trail usually has snow patches throughout most of the summer. You usually can hike the trail by the end of June, by crossing over snow patches.

This trail provides the best panoramic views of the park and of wildflowers. From the switchbacks, views of the Grand Canyon, a section of Yellowstone Lake, the Tetons and even an eruption of Old Faithful is possible. In July and August, it offers remarkable-possibly the best-displays of mountain wildflowers in the park. Pink monkey flowers, yellow violets, blue lupines, yellow balsamroots, red paintbrush and violet shooting stars line the trail and fill the meadows.

 


For more information on Yellowstone National Park and
the surrounding communities visit these helpful sites:

YellowstoneNationalPark.com
- YellowstoneLodging.com
YellowstoneFlyFishing.com


Copyright @1999-2013 Yellowstone Media

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  • Lower Falls Yellowstone River -Yellowstone National Park Lower Falls Yellowstone River -Yellowstone National Park
  • Old Faithful -Yellowstone National Park Old Faithful -Yellowstone National Park
  • Grizzly and Cub -Yellowstone National Park Grizzly and Cub -Yellowstone National Park
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  • Alpha Female Wolf Hayden Valley -Yellowstone National Park Alpha Female Wolf Hayden Valley -Yellowstone National Park
  • Daisy Geyser -Yellowstone National Park Daisy Geyser -Yellowstone National Park
  • Bull Elk Fighting -Yellowstone National Park Bull Elk Fighting -Yellowstone National Park
  • Old Faithful -Yellowstone National Park Old Faithful -Yellowstone National Park
  • Badger Sow and Cubs -Yellowstone National Park Badger Sow and Cubs -Yellowstone National Park
  • Morning Glory Pool -Yellowstone National Park Morning Glory Pool -Yellowstone National Park
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