When we visited Yellowstone we knew we wanted to do a challenging hike and with 6 little kids the Mount Washburn hike in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area seemed like a good choice. We aren’t an early-morning family so we didn’t head out for the hike until after lunch.
If you are planning to hike it, it was recommended to us to go hiking early in the day since there is less of a chance of thunderstorms earlier in the day. But that didn’t work for us. We did the hike with my sister and her family so it was 4 adults and 6 kids.
The Mount Washburn trail is an AMAZING hike that takes you 3 miles up to the top of the mountain. When you reach the top you will be at over 10,000 feet ( about a 1400-foot elevation gain while you are hiking)! The coolest part about it is there is a fire lookout tower at the top.
You can go inside and use the telescope to look out over Yellowstone and they have a handful of images that show you what you are looking at in each direction. I love that there are so many things to do in Yellowstone like this!
The hike is located north of Canyon Village. If you need any supplies before you go you can stop in the village to get them.
There is an option to do a shorter 4.5 mile hike if you start the hike off of chittenden road.
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Prepping For The Hike
It is about 3 miles to the top and 3 miles back down. And you are walking up the mountain pretty much the whole way. Make sure you have bear spray (we didn’t see any grizzly bears but you never know and we did need our bear spray – keep reading to see why!), water and some snacks!
We started the hike from the Dunraven pass trailhead and parked in the Mount Washburn parking lot. The kids had their ranger vests on, exploring fanny packs, and backpacks. They were all ready to go!
1st Part Of The Hike
The first part of the hike had amazing wildflowers – we wanted to go run through them (we didn’t)! About a 1/2 mile up the kids found a cool rock wall to climb.
We quickly learned when we stopped to take a break we couldn’t do it by a rock wall if we wanted the kids to actually rest for a minute!
We continued up the mountain. At a few spots you could see the lookout tower. It looked so close yet oh so far! At one clearing Ivan spotted a fox! All 4 of us carried a kid for the majority of the hike so that was a challenge!
We were also worried about the weather because it looked like a thunderstorm was coming and you don’t want to be hiking above the tree line on a mountain when a thunderstorm is happening!
At one point we thought we were getting really close to the top and then we turned a corner and looked, NOPE, the tower was still really far away. As soon as I came around the corner I said “Oh My”, right behind me Megan walked up and said the same thing!
We kept moving. When we started to get close to being above the tree line the thunder started. Hmm…this isn’t good! We all stopped for a few minutes under the only trees we could find and waited it out. The funny thing was one of the trees we stopped by looked like it had been hit by lightning!
We hoped the old saying that lightning only strikes the same place once was true! Luckily the storm quickly passed and we never saw any lightning.
We continued up. As you can image the higher we got the more beautiful the views became and the windier it got. We turned a corner and we saw the lookout!
Mount Washburn Lookout Tower
We got up to the top of Mount Washburn – quickly took a picture by the sign – the storm looked like it was coming back and then held onto the kids so they wouldn’t blow away as we made our way into the lookout tower!
When we walked in one of the couples that had passed us on our hike up started clapping. Yes we made it! We took out our snacks and hung out in the lookout tower with the resident chipmunk running around our feet. They had a lookout area outside on the second story of the lookout tower.
I went to check it out, took a few steps out, and said ok I am good! You were way up high – there was a railing but I didn’t trust it would keep me from falling! Everyone else checked it out and everyone did the same thing. Yup Ok saw it now get me out of here!
It was nice to be able to hang out INSIDE the fire lookout station room for a while before we started our hike back down. There were interpretive exhibits inside for us to look. Plus they had maps showing us what we were seeing. You can see the Yellowstone Lake from up here!
On the way up everyone we passed kept telling us about the big horn sheep that were at the top. We still hadn’t seen any so we were wondering where they had gone.
Hiking Down Mount Washburn
Then on the way down just below the lookout tower area we saw them! As we continued to walk down the path we all of sudden saw one pop its head up on the side of the trail. We all stopped and quietly waited. A whole family with babies walked right across the path in front of us! It was so cool to see!
We continued walking down until we came to a turn and saw a big male bighorn sheep. We stopped to wait for him to keep going BUT he didn’t! He turned around and started walking on the trail right towards us. Ahhh!!
We grabbed the kids and scrambled up the side of the mountain off of the path so he could pass. The guys had their bear spray ready just in case and as he walked by he totally gave us the evil eye and a snort. Luckily he kept walking and we were able to move on. That was scary and cool at the same time!
At this point the kids were getting pretty tired but luckily we were going downhill so we played some games with them as we hiked and talked about everything we had seen. And of course we had Power Pellets (aka Tic Tacs!).
Carson did amazing and walked the whole way. Cannon and Melia rotated who was in the backpack and Knox was mostly in the backpack. We made it back to our car and decided we were going to get pizza and beer for dinner! We were exhausted but loved it and would totally recommend it!
Check out what else there is to do in the area in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are.
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