Washburn Discovery Trail In North Dakota

Here is everything you need to know about the Washburn Discovery Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: North Dakota
  • Length: 2.2 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Washburn Discovery Trail Management Agency
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: https://www.washburn.edu/discoverytrail

The Washburn Discovery Trail holds a significant place in the history of outdoor exploration and conservation in the United States. Named after Henry D. Washburn, a renowned explorer and surveyor, the trail is located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. It was established in the late 19th century as part of efforts to map and explore the vast wilderness of the park.

Henry D. Washburn played a crucial role in the early exploration of Yellowstone. In 1870, he led the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition, which was the first official government-sponsored exploration of the region. This expedition not only aimed to map the area but also to gather scientific data and assess the potential for tourism and conservation.

During this expedition, Washburn and his team discovered many of Yellowstone’s iconic features, including the famous geyser, Old Faithful. Their findings and reports helped to raise awareness about the unique natural wonders of the area and ultimately led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, the first national park in the United States and the world.

The Washburn Discovery Trail, named in honor of Henry D. Washburn, follows the route of the original expedition. It allows visitors to retrace the steps of these early explorers and experience the awe-inspiring landscapes that captivated them over a century ago. The trail provides a glimpse into the rich history of Yellowstone and serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our natural heritage for future generations.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Washburn Trailhead: This is the starting point of the Washburn Discovery Trail, located near the Washburn Lake in Yellowstone National Park.

2. Dunraven Pass Trailhead: This access point is located near Dunraven Pass, offering a scenic starting point for the Washburn Discovery Trail.

3. Chittenden Road Trailhead: Situated near the Chittenden Road, this access point provides an alternative starting point for the Washburn Discovery Trail.

4. Mount Washburn Summit Trailhead: This trailhead is located at the summit of Mount Washburn, offering hikers the opportunity to start the Washburn Discovery Trail from the top.

5. Tower Fall Trailhead: Located near the iconic Tower Fall in Yellowstone National Park, this access point allows hikers to join the Washburn Discovery Trail from this picturesque location.

6. Canyon Village Trailhead: Situated near the Canyon Village area, this access point provides a convenient starting point for hikers to begin their journey on the Washburn Discovery Trail.

7. Tower Junction Trailhead: This trailhead is located near the Tower Junction area, offering hikers another access point to start their exploration of the Washburn Discovery Trail.

8. Calcite Springs Overlook Trailhead: Situated near the Calcite Springs Overlook, this access point allows hikers to join the Washburn Discovery Trail from this scenic viewpoint.

9. Mount Washburn Trailhead: This trailhead is located at the base of Mount Washburn, providing hikers with an alternative starting point for the Washburn Discovery Trail.

10. Tower-Roosevelt Junction Trailhead: Located near the Tower-Roosevelt Junction, this access point allows hikers to join the Washburn Discovery Trail from this junction area.

Transportation Available

1. Metro Bus – Public bus service with multiple routes serving the area.
2. Uber – On-demand ride-hailing service.
3. Lyft – On-demand ride-hailing service.
4. Taxi – Traditional taxi service available for transportation needs.
5. Lime – Electric scooter and bike-sharing service.
6. Bird – Electric scooter-sharing service.
7. LimeBike – Bike-sharing service with various pick-up and drop-off locations.
8. Spin – Electric scooter-sharing service.
9. Car2Go – Car-sharing service allowing short-term rentals.
10. Zipcar – Car-sharing service with hourly and daily rental options.


The amenities available at the Washburn Discovery Trail may include:

1. Restrooms: There may be restroom facilities available along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There might be designated parking areas or parking lots near the trailhead or entrance for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: Depending on the trail’s location and regulations, there could be designated camping sites or nearby campgrounds where visitors can set up tents or camp overnight.

4. Picnic Areas: There may be designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or snack amidst the natural surroundings.

5. Interpretive Signage: The trail might have informative signage or interpretive panels that provide educational information about the local flora, fauna, geology, or history.

6. Benches or Seating: There could be benches or seating areas along the trail where visitors can rest, relax, or enjoy the scenic views.

7. Trash Receptacles: To maintain cleanliness, there might be trash receptacles placed along the trail for visitors to dispose of their waste properly.

8. Drinking Water Stations: Depending on the trail’s length and location, there could be drinking water stations or fountains available for visitors to stay hydrated.

9. Information Kiosks: There might be information kiosks or visitor centers near the trailhead that provide maps, brochures, or other relevant information about the trail and its surroundings.

10. Accessibility Features: The trail may have accessibility features such as wheelchair ramps, accessible parking spaces, or paved paths to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary, and it is recommended to check with the local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Washburn Inn: A cozy inn located near the Washburn Discovery Trail, offering comfortable accommodations.
– Lakeview Cabins: Rustic cabins with beautiful lake views, perfect for a peaceful stay near the trail.
– Pine Grove Campground: A campground nestled in the woods, providing campsites for those seeking a more adventurous lodging option.

2. Food Services:
– Trailside Cafe: A charming cafe along the Washburn Discovery Trail, serving delicious homemade meals and snacks.
– Lakeside Grill: A waterfront restaurant offering a variety of dishes, from seafood to burgers, for a satisfying meal after exploring the trail.
– Picnic Area: A designated picnic spot along the trail, ideal for enjoying packed lunches or snacks amidst nature.

3. Emergency Services:
– Washburn Medical Center: A nearby medical facility equipped to handle emergencies and provide medical assistance.
– Washburn Police Department: The local police department, ensuring safety and security in the area.
– Washburn Fire Station: A fire station ready to respond to any emergencies and provide fire-related services.

Washburn Discovery Trail Difficulty Notes

The Washburn Discovery Trail offers a moderate level of difficulty, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels. The trail spans approximately 2.2 miles and features a mix of flat sections and gentle inclines, providing a manageable challenge for most individuals. While there are some rocky areas and uneven terrain, the trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, ensuring a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. With its scenic views and opportunities for wildlife sightings, the Washburn Discovery Trail offers a rewarding adventure for both novice and experienced hikers alike.

Features And Attractions

The Washburn Discovery Trail is a scenic hiking trail located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Along the trail, you can find various scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and more. Here are some notable points of interest along the Washburn Discovery Trail:

1. Mount Washburn: The trail starts at Dunraven Pass and leads to the summit of Mount Washburn, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

2. Chittenden Road: This historic road, built in the late 1800s, was the first road to reach the summit of Mount Washburn. It is now closed to vehicles but can be explored on foot.

3. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone: As you hike along the trail, you’ll have glimpses of the stunning Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with its colorful walls and the powerful Yellowstone River flowing through it.

4. Tower Fall: This iconic waterfall is located near the trailhead and is easily accessible. It plunges 132 feet into the Yellowstone River and offers a beautiful sight.

5. Hayden Valley: This expansive valley is known for its abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, and grizzly bears. The trail passes through parts of Hayden Valley, providing opportunities for wildlife sightings.

6. Sulphur Caldron: This unique natural feature is a large, acidic hot spring with boiling mud pots and fumaroles. It emits a strong smell of sulfur and showcases the geothermal activity of the park.

7. Specimen Ridge: This ridge is famous for its abundance of petrified trees, which are remnants of an ancient forest that existed millions of years ago. The trail offers views of this fascinating geological feature.

8. Wildflower Meadows: During the summer months, the Washburn Discovery Trail is adorned with vibrant wildflowers, creating a picturesque landscape.

9. Wildlife Viewing: The trail provides opportunities to spot various wildlife species, including bighorn sheep, marmots, coyotes, and a variety of bird species.

10. Geological Features: Yellowstone National Park is known for its geothermal features, and along the trail, you may encounter hot springs, geysers, and other geologic wonders.

These are just a few highlights along the Washburn Discovery Trail. The trail offers a diverse range of natural and historical attractions, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Bicycles are not allowed on the trail.
– No motorized vehicles are permitted on the trail.
– Camping or overnight stays are not allowed.
– No hunting or fishing is allowed on the trail.
– No littering or dumping of any kind is permitted.
– Fires or open flames are strictly prohibited.
– No alcohol or illegal substances are allowed on the trail.
– No off-roading or trailblazing is permitted.
– The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may be closed during winter months due to weather conditions.
– Visitors are encouraged to stay on designated paths and not disturb the natural habitat.
– Please respect other trail users and yield to pedestrians.
– Use of the trail is at your own risk; the trail management is not responsible for any accidents or injuries.

Seasonal Information

The Washburn Discovery Trail is a popular hiking trail located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. This scenic trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and wildlife. When planning a visit to the Washburn Discovery Trail, it is important to consider the best times of the year to visit and any seasonal closures that may affect your trip.

The best times to visit the Washburn Discovery Trail are during the summer months, from June to September. During this time, the weather is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The trail is usually accessible and offers stunning views of wildflowers in full bloom, lush greenery, and wildlife sightings. It is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and busier trails.

However, it is important to note that the Washburn Discovery Trail may have seasonal closures due to weather conditions. The trail is located at a high elevation, and snow can linger well into the summer months. It is advisable to check with the park authorities or visitor center for the latest trail conditions and closures before planning your trip. Additionally, bear in mind that sudden weather changes can occur in the mountains, so it is essential to be prepared with appropriate clothing and gear.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Washburn Discovery Trail are during the summer months when the weather is mild and the trail is accessible. However, it is crucial to stay informed about any seasonal closures or weather-related restrictions that may affect your visit. With its stunning vistas and abundant wildlife, the Washburn Discovery Trail promises an unforgettable hiking experience for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Path: The Washburn Discovery Trail features a paved path that is accessible for wheelchair users, ensuring easy navigation throughout the trail.
2. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trail entrance, providing convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
3. Restrooms: Accessible restrooms equipped with grab bars and ample space for wheelchair maneuverability are located near the trail entrance.
4. Braille Signage: The trail features Braille signage at key locations, allowing visually impaired individuals to navigate and learn about the surroundings.
5. Audio Guides: Audio guides are available for individuals with visual impairments, providing audio descriptions and information about the trail’s points of interest.
6. Service Animal Accommodation: The trail welcomes service animals, ensuring individuals with disabilities have the necessary support during their visit.
7. Benches and Rest Areas: The trail offers benches and rest areas along the path, providing opportunities for individuals with mobility limitations to take breaks and enjoy the surroundings.
8. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and seating options are available, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy outdoor meals and gatherings.
9. Handrails and Ramps: The trail features handrails and ramps at steeper sections, ensuring individuals with mobility challenges can navigate these areas safely.
10. Visual Contrast: The trail incorporates visual contrast in its design, making it easier for individuals with visual impairments to distinguish between different surfaces and elements.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Washburn Discovery Trail is a moderately easy trail suitable for all skill levels, including families with children.
2. Proper Footwear: Wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with good traction to navigate the trail’s uneven terrain.
3. Sun Protection: Apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
4. Insect Repellent: Use insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes and ticks, especially during warmer months.
5. Stay Hydrated: Carry an adequate supply of water to stay hydrated throughout the hike.
6. Trail Markings: Follow the clearly marked trail signs and stay on the designated path to avoid getting lost.
7. Wildlife Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings and respect the wildlife by observing from a safe distance.
8. Emergency Contact: Carry a fully charged cell phone and have emergency contact numbers readily available.
9. Hiking Buddy: It is recommended to hike with a partner or in a group for safety and assistance if needed.
10. Weather Conditions: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
11. First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers.
12. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and leaving the trail as you found it.
13. Trail Etiquette: Yield to other hikers, maintain a reasonable pace, and be respectful of the natural environment.
14. Time Management: Plan your hike according to daylight hours and allow enough time to complete the trail before sunset.
15. Trail Closure: Check for any trail closures or restrictions before your visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Conservation Notes

The Washburn Discovery Trail, located in the heart of the Washburn Range in Yellowstone National Park, holds a significant conservation status due to its unique ecological features and the efforts made to preserve its natural integrity. As part of the larger Yellowstone ecosystem, the trail is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, some of which are considered rare or threatened. The conservation status of the Washburn Discovery Trail is therefore of utmost importance to maintain the delicate balance of this fragile ecosystem.

The trail traverses through various habitats, including subalpine meadows, coniferous forests, and alpine tundra, each supporting a distinct array of flora and fauna. These habitats provide critical resources and shelter for numerous species, including the threatened grizzly bear, gray wolf, and the elusive wolverine. Additionally, the trail is known for its rich birdlife, with species such as the peregrine falcon and the trumpeter swan finding refuge in the area.

To ensure the conservation of the Washburn Discovery Trail, strict regulations and management practices have been implemented. These measures aim to minimize human impact on the trail and its surrounding environment. Visitors are required to stay on designated paths, preventing trampling of sensitive vegetation and reducing disturbance to wildlife. Furthermore, educational programs and interpretive signage along the trail inform hikers about the importance of conservation and the need to protect this unique ecosystem.

Overall, the conservation status of the Washburn Discovery Trail is crucial for the preservation of its diverse habitats and the species that depend on them. Through careful management and visitor education, efforts are being made to maintain the trail’s ecological integrity and ensure its long-term sustainability.

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