August 2, 2011

Mount Washburn

A hike to the top of Mount Washburn was our main activity for our first full day in Yellowstone.  It's a 6 mile round trip, about 1300 feet of elevation gain, and provides incredible views of the Yellowstone area.
Wildflowers adorned the trail much of the way.
We encountered snow across the trail at about 10,000 feet.  The trail was once a blacktop road, but it has been closed to vehicular traffic.  Only hikers are allowed. 
The terrain near the top of Mount Washburn is rock formed from lava, the result of volcanic activity over millions of years.  The most recent lava eruption was about 70,000 years ago.
The fire tower observation room looks out on the scene above, with Mount Sheridan (10,300 ft) to the left (35 miles away) and the Teton Range (13,700 at the highest point - 75 miles away) barely visible to the right.  The observation room is a favorite lunch break spot for hikers.  A spotter scope and lots of windows allow for good scenery and wildlife viewing.
The top floor of the tower is a ranger's living quarters.  What a great 360 view! 
Looking south toward Yellowstone Lake, you can view a huge caldera (a depression in the earth) caused by a super volcano that erupted about 640,000 years ago, following which the earth's crust collapsed into the emptied magma chamber.  The rim of the caldera is defined by Mount Washburn on the northern end and Mount Sheridan on the south.  You can also see the chasm through which the Yellowstone River flows.  This is called the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Hotspots remain beneath the caldera, and these are responsible for Yellowstone's geothermal activity (about 50% of the world's geothermal activity occurs here) visibly apparent through  the many geysers and mud pots.  1000 to 2000 earthquakes occur every year in Yellowstone, but most are less than magnitude 3 intensity.   (The photo above came from Wikipedia.)
Here's a photo from the observation tower showing the Teton Range (10X zoom photo) 75 miles away.  We were fortunate to have such a clear viewing day.
Mount Washburn was named after Henry D. Washburn, who led an expedition into Yellowstone in 1870.


  1. The air looks so clear. Being able to see for 75 miles is amazing. The lucky ranger/s who live in the Fire Tower must wonder how they gained such good fortune!

  2. Neat post. Wonderful views. The "experts" say this super volcano is long overdue. You don't want to be anywhere around when she blows...anywhere means most of the U.S. they say.

  3. Wow---what a perfect day you had... The views are incredible.. That was a pretty big hike.. You two must be in incredible shape...

    I could live in that fire tower... Wouldn't that be super?????

    Thanks for such beauty. We HAVE to go to Yellowstone.

  4. Mom Beaglebratz - at work now but I absolutely need to come back and look/drool more. I was at Yellowstone a few years ago - one of my fav areas and we drove near Mt. Washburn. We are sweltering in 112 degree heat rite now so that snow looks really great. Hope to be bak later.

  5. Great photos of the high country! Wildflowers and snow - quite beautiful. Some of my family is heading to Jackson this weekend to camp.

  6. I've been out of the loop for a week and it looks like you've gone and had yourself a marvelous vacation. Yellowstone is magnificent. I've been twice and loved it both times. I agree with you those tourists really push their luck with those creatures--they are wild you know. You took some fabulous pictures of the creatures and the scenery. I especially love the one of you sitting in the flowers :)

    My mom is doing better so maybe I'll get some time soon to visit blogs again. I'm glad I stopped in here tonight--such a fun vacation. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I think I could very happily live in the ranger's quarters at the top of that fire tower for quite some time. The scenery is gorgeous. It's wonderful that you had such a great day for viewing that fantastic landscape.

  8. That's a Big tower. Looks like living and working space with that firefinder in the center of the room. Guess you wouldn't need curtains way up there. I like those distant views.

  9. Your photos are stunning, Janie. What an incredible view from the fire tower. Greetings, Jo

  10. The view of the caldera from that height is just amazing!
    I love that fire tower...the room looks pretty comfortable. Glad you shared so many beautiful photos with us; love that park!

  11. Beautiful, breathtaking pictures, compelling hiking-riding experience, awesome wonders of your gorgeous mountains and the trails of your ever compelling accompanying stories with charts and graphics to guide us along, who can get lost in the vastness of your wilderness?

    Just to let you know how much I enjoy the book that you have sent me. And I am keeping your postal address so I can send you a postcard when I get home.

    Thank you Janie. My apology as am not much in my blogging spirit these days. When I can make up all my loses, I don't know.

    I feel I don't need to copy pictures from your blog with your permission (Thank You). All I need to do is just come and view them all here. I just adore your photography!

    With all these compilations, it will not be surprising to hear you expand into a myriad of Geographic Volumes you and Steve will publish one day! Fantastic!!

    All the best!

  12. We hiked Mt. Washburn, too! It was clear of snow by the time we did it.



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