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The Other Way In

Hike to life-list hot spots without waiting in life-list lines. These under-the-radar trails deliver everything but the crowds.

Mt. Washburn
Yellowstone National Park, WY

X    Trade route Dunraven Pass and Chittenden Road Trails
→   Sneak route Washburn Spur Trail to Dunraven Pass trailhead Key stats 12 miles point-to-point, 2,450 feet of elevation gain
Off-radar cred “When they built this trail, they forgot the switchbacks,” says a staffer in the park’s backcountry office.

The hike to Mt. Washburn’s 10,223-foot summit, overlooking the Yellowstone Plateau, is the most popular full-day hike in the nation’s fourth-most-visited national park. But almost everyone takes the six-mile Chittenden Road Trail to the summit and back. Leave a car at the Dunraven Pass trailhead, drive down to the Glacial Boulder trailhead, and take the scenic route—you’ll have almost the entire nine-mile climb all to yourself, and enjoy wildflowers on the descent through the meadow on the other side.

Do it Follow the Glacial Boulder Trail as it parallels the Yellowstone River 1,000 feet below. After just a mile, look for the Silver Cord Cascade, dropping 900 feet on the other side of the canyon. Just before starting your climb up Washburn’s east ridge, you’ll pass the rarely visited Washburn Hot Springs, including the dark, rumbling waters of Inkpot Spring (soaking is illegal, and water can top 200°F). The majority of the trail’s 2,450 feet of climbing comes in the last 2.3 miles. Rest often and enjoy the private view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, far below. Join the Chittenden Road hikers for the last quarter-mile to the summit, which marks the northern end of the Yellowstone Caldera. Take the Dunraven Pass Trail down for the best wildflowers (late July and August) and catch purple monkeyflower and lupine, and yellow balsamroots, among several dozen other varieties.

Get there The Glacial Boulder trailhead is on the left side of the road to Inspiration Point, 1.4 miles east on North Rim Dr. from the intersection of Canyon Junction. Leave a shuttle car at the Dunraven Pass trailhead, 4.5 miles north of Canyon Junction on Grand Loop Road. No shuttle? Leave by sunrise, and do it as a 20.6-mile out-and-back.
Permit None required for day use
Contact (307) 344-7381;

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