Mount Washburn via Chittenden Road: A Scenic Unpaved Journey in the Heart of Yellowstone

Mount Washburn is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 3.122m (10,243ft) above the sea level, located in Park County, in the U.S. state of Wyoming. Visitors can not drive to the summit although biking is allowed.

Mount Washburn

Can you drive to the top of Mt Washburn?

Located in Yellowstone National Park, the road to the summit is unpaved. It’s called Chittendon Road. This route, an old wagon road, approaches the summit on an easy grade, but hits a 15% grade. Starting from the scenic Grand Loop Road, the drive is 6.59km (4.1 miles) long. The Chittenden road to Mount Washburn becomes a service road (a two-way dirt road) beyond the Chittenden Parking lot. Visitors can drive 1.3 miles to the parking lot, ending at 2.665m (8,743ft) above the sea level. It is a big parking area where the road stops, at which point you can continue the journey to the peak of Mt. Washburn by walking or riding a bike. From there, it is a 2.8 mile road to the summit. The unpaved Chittendon Road is easy to drive and certainly has room for cars going the other direction. This is an 8 foot wide formally paved road that weaves its way up to a fire tower at the peak of Mt. Washburn. The grade is relatively gradual and not too strenuous.

Is the road to Mt Washburn open all year round?

Perched in the Washburn Range, the road generally remains accessible from late May to mid-October. A lookout tower, constructed in 1941, graces the summit and is manned from mid-June until the conclusion of the fire season. The gravel road leading to this lookout, which doubles as a telecommunications site, might see service vehicles from time to time. Given Yellowstone's mercurial weather, drivers should anticipate swift changes; afternoon storms, complete with high winds, heavy rain, and lightning, can envelop the area. Notably, grizzly and black bear sightings are frequent in this region, and gusty conditions are commonplace. Do not approach or feed any animal: bison and elk have injured people; stay 100 yards (91 m) from bears and wolves and stay 25 yards (23 m) from all other animals.

Is the road to Mt Washburn worth it? 

Absolutely. This journey promises unparalleled vistas and photo opportunities. The summit offers expansive views of Yellowstone National Park's northern expanse and, on clear days, the distant Teton Range. Named in honor of Henry Washburn, the Surveyor-General of the Montana Territory and leader of the 1870 Washburn Expedition, this peak recorded its inaugural ascent on August 28, 1870, though it's believed to have been conquered even before that.
Road suggested by: Bret De Young
Pic: Michael Berg