ElevationAscent: 1,285' 392 m
Descent: -1,284' -391 m
High: 8,555' 2,608 m
Low: 7,284' 2,220 m
GradeAvg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 53% (28°)
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“Commanding views of the Mammoth Hot Springs area, and the Gallatin and Washburn mountains!”— Tom Carter
Bunsen Peak (8564') formed volcanically about 50 million years ago. The peak may be the remains of a volcano that welled up but never blew out, or a small stock that solidified directly beneath a volcano. It is now exposed because erosion has stripped away the lava and volcanic breccia that once completely covered it. The peak was named for Robert Wilhelm von Bunsen, a brilliant German scientist whose name is also attached to the Bunsen Burner you may remember from chemistry. In the 1840s, Bunsen conducted a study of Iceland's geysers and developed a theory on their workings that proved helpful to scientists later studying Yellowstone's geysers.
At the 2-mile mark, you reach the first of Bunsen Peak's three small summits (don't disturb the communication equipment). Beneath you to the west lies Swan Lake Flat and the Gallatin Range. This valley is also known as Gardner's Hole after Johnson Gardner, who trapped beaver here in the 1830s.
From the top of Bunsen you'll discover a panoramic view of the southern end of the magnificent Gallatin Range. From left to right (south to north) the prominent peaks are Mount Holmes (10,336', named for William H. Holmes, artist and geologist for the Hayden surveys of Yellowstone); Antler Peak (10,023'); Quadrant Mountain (9,944'); and Electric Peak (10,992').
Most turn around at the summit, but you can continue over the three small summits and follow a well-marked trail another 2 miles, steeply descending more than 1300 feet down the peak's northeastern slope to a junction with the Bunsen Peak Road. From there, to make it a loop, continue to the right and follow the Bunsen Peak Road Trail another 3 miles back to the Bunsen Trailhead.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna
Local Club: Yellowstone Association
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park