Distance: 6.2 miles
Trail Type: Out and Back
Start Location: 4K9 (Dunraven Pass); 44.784863, -110.453797
Total Hiking Time: 3 hours; 12-3 pm
Weather: Sunny with strong winds at the lookout
Crowd: Heavy foot traffic along trail and at lookout
Animal Sightings: Grizzly sow and cub, chipmunks
Fishing Report: N/A
You can start this hike from three different trailheads: Dunraven Pass (4K9, our start point), Chittenden Road (2K6), or the Glacial Boulder Trailhead (4K6). The route from the Chittenden parking lot follows a gravel road for park vehicles; however, visitors can still walk and bike it. The trail from the Glacial Boulder (near Inspiration Point) is the longest trek to Mt. Washburn, at about 8.1 miles one-way, and passes a backcountry site (4E1) 5.6 miles in. Parking at Dunraven Pass was packed with some overflow parking on the roads.
Not even five minutes into our hike we came upon a large group of hikers observing something in the meadow below. As it turned out, a grizzly sow and her cub were browsing for food over 300 feet away! Visitors on the trail and road respected the bears’ space and maintained the recommended 3oo feet (100 yards) distance from the pair. Common animal visitors on the Mt. Washburn trail include a red fox and a herd of big horn sheep.
The trail to the lookout is an easy climb (1400 ft) on a wide dirt path. Enjoy fantastic views all the way up and many colorful wildflowers along the way. Water is not available on the trail or at the lookout so bring enough water for you and your party. Those who are not accustomed to the higher elevation are encouraged to climb slowly.
Mt. Washburn is home to a large lookout tower with several floors. When we went, the main enclosed room was full of visitors while strong winds on the 2nd floor’s open observation deck kept the crowd to just two people. Find the views from the lookout in the gallery below along with detailed captions about what you’re able to see in the park from 10,219 feet.
If you don’t mind the crowds, this is a rewarding hike with stunning panoramic views and great potential for wildlife viewing.