Yellowstone National Park is a great family vacation spot. From visiting Old Faithful to seeing bison and elk up close. But what do you do when you’re sitting around the campfire one night and your eight year old suddenly says “I want to climb a mountain”? No worries. Yellowstone offers the rare opportunity for high adventure that’s also family friendly.
Mount Washburn is located near the center of the park. From the 10,200 foot summit you can peer down into the Yellowstone River canyon. You can gaze across Hayden Valley to Yellowstone Lake. You can even spot mountain goats playing along the sides of the mountain. The best part is that it’s a relatively easy climb, requiring no special gear other than good hiking shoes, a water bottle, and whatever snacks your eight year old needs.
The trailhead parking lot is located along the loop road running between Tower and Canyon Village. The trailhead sits at 8,800 feet above sea level. The trail up the mountain is actually a dirt access road for the weather station on top. The climb is three miles long and you gain 2,400 feet of elevation, so this isn’t a walk in the park. However, for the reasonably fit or the youthfully energetic, it’s a great hike. Plan on two to three hours for the ascent and an hour for the descent.
The weather at this altitude is quite different than the valley below. It is cooler and much windier. Even in the middle of July you will come across large piles of snow. However, this is a fairly safe hike with very few sharp drop offs and a wide trail. Plus, there is nothing quite like the grin on that eight year old’s face when they’ve finished climbing their first mountain.