This 5.6-mile spur trail begins at the top of Mount Washburn
and terminates at it's junction with the Seven Mile Hole Trail
. It is much easer to take this trail in this direction, since it drops (steeply in some points) almost 2,400 feet from the top of the mountain to nearly the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The most frequent use of this trail is a one-way outing from Dunraven Pass, over Mt. Washburn, down the back side of Washburn, and continuing on to Canyon Village.
But this trail is much more than a mere connector. It travels east from the Washburn Fire Lookout along a singletrack trail through open meadows of beautiful wildflowers - low mats of 5-petalled white to lavender flowers known as phlox, striking rocket-shaped pink and yellow flowers called shooting star, and the long spines of deep purple pealike flowers named lupine.
Soon the trail enters the forest and begins its sharp descent. Look for the distinctive five-needle clusters on the whitebark pines. The bark of its seedlings is covered with a fine white coating and mature trees often display a whitish cast. Here, at higher elevations, near timberline, the whitebark pines become dwarfed and gnarled by harsh weather conditions.
This trail was built in August of 1917, the summer after automobiles were first allowed into Yellowstone. It likely was used as means for horse traffic to reach Canyon Village without mixing with cars on the Chittenden Road over Mount Washburn
The trail continues its steep descent through an occasional meadow and nice views to the south of the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone an Hayden Valley
beyond. Hang on -- between the 1.5 and 2.5 mile marks the trail drops more than 1,250 feet. Once down, the trail passes through a beautiful meadow with nice views back to Mt Washburn.
At the 4 mile mark, the trail passes the Washburn Hot Springs, a collection of highly acidic mud pots, easily found on the right (NW) side of the trail. Members of the 1870 Washburn Expedition called this area "Hell-Broth Springs," because it was such an "infernal looking smelling and sounding place." Continuing the satanic nomenclature, individual thermal features in the area were later dubbed the "Devil's Cauldron" and the "Devil's Ink Pot."
The Mount Washburn
Spur Trail ends at the junction with the Seven Mile Hole Trail
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone
In July & August the wildflowers near the summit of Mt. Washburn are spectacular. As the trail descends in elevation it enters a succession of forests, Whitebark Pine, Spruce-Fir forest, and finally Lodgepole Pine.