Overview and Route Information
Rising prominently above the headwaters of the Wood River, Dunrud Peak is the namesake of a USGS quad and is the third-highest named peak, after Mount Crosby and Dollar Mountain, in the upper Wood River valley west of the old townsite of Kirwin, where the road ends and the wilderness begins.
It is a special wilderness indeed, where an easy trail through a lovely valley leads to faint, amazingly steep trails that climb to seldom-visited high mountain passes, and from the passes the peaks beckon; some of them are so remote and little-climbed that they do not even have summit cairns (Dunrud does not, nor does it have a register, and it does not need them, either, in my opinion). The country itself is wild, and the mountaintops are even wilder, even pristine.
Dunrud Peak is also part of a mountain wall that forms a minor hydrological divide, and that wall also serves as the official boundary between the protected Washakie Wilderness and comparatively unprotected land in the Shoshone National Forest. North and east of this divide, water flows into the Wood River, which joins the Greybull River at Meteetse. The Greybull empties into the Bighorn River, the Bighorn into the Yellowstone River, and the Yellowstone into the Missouri. South and west of the divide, water drains to the Wind River near Dubois. The Wind flows southeast for many miles before turning north around Riverton. Somewhere around Thermopolis, the Wind becomes the Bighorn River, and Meteetse is about an hour’s drive north from Thermopolis.
On the Dunrud Peak quad, the mountain has an elevation of 12,201’. MountainZone gives an elevation of 11,965’. I got a GPS reading of 12,219’. What the basis for the MZ listing is I have no idea, but it is wrong.
As far as I can tell, the mountain is named for Carl M. Dunrud (1891-1976), a Wyoming rancher who built the Double D Dude Ranch near Kirwin as part of an attempt to revive the town. Financially, the ranch could not survive World War II, and Dunrud and his wife sold their Kirwin property in 1947. Dunrud was also a guide in Yellowstone, and in that capacity he met George Putnam, later the husband of Amelia Earhart. Putnam and Dunrud became friends, and Putnam hired Dunrud as a roper for a 1926 Greenland expedition, where Dunrud roped musk oxen, walruses, and even polar bears. Not many a Wyoming cowboy can lay claim to such experiences!
The picture to the left here shows Dunrud giving Amelia Earhart a haircut at the Double D in 1934. Earhart asked Dunrud to build her a cabin near the Double D, but after she disappeared, he never finished it, and the remains are still there today.
My source for most of the information about Dunrud was wyomingtalesandtrails.com. Some I got from interpretive signs at Kirwin.
Starting from Kirwin, climbers can ascend Dunrud Peak in about five miles, 3.5 of it by trail, and gaining approximately 3000’ in all. The off-trail route to the summit is only Class 2, but it is an exhausting hike up very loose talus (the kind that makes you give back something like two feet of every three you step). Please see the route section for details and options.
From the parking area at Kirwin, continue hiking the old road to and past a gate. The old road continues to another gate at the intersection with Horse Creek Trail and then becomes a real trail. Keep hiking through the valley, first through meadows, then through woods, and finally through meadows again, until at 3.4 miles from Kirwin you find an old, weathered sign indicating a trail intersection. Bear Creek Pass is to the left, and Dunrud Pass is to the right. There are excellent views of Dunrud Peak here, and you can study potential routes.
If the sign happens to be gone, then be aware that this location is at about 10,200’, just after a crossing of Wood River and where the trail makes a sharp turn south to Bear Creek Pass. A tributary stream also joins the Wood River on the north side here.
About stream crossings-- There are a few, but I have never in the summer seen any of them too deep or swift to ford safely. Although the stream crossings can be difficult for vehicles on the drive in, up here, near the headwaters, the river is just much narrower and shallower.
About the trail to Dunrud Pass-- It doesn’t exist, at least not anymore. The USGS quad doesn’t even show the pass by name; I assume it is the pass just north of Point 11,755 (which, incidentally, looks like a good climb), for that is where some maps show the trail going. Notice I said some maps; the Shoshone National Forest map does not, and my paper quad does not, but the same quad on topoquest.com does. If you look hard, you might find what’s left of the trail up high, making the slog through the scree easier, but climbing Dunrud via that approach will nearly double the distance from the main trail and will add two false summits as well.
Back to the route-- At the old trail sign, my climbing partner and I saw a trail on the other side of the stream and decided to use it; it appeared to climb a small ridge that would let us access the east face of Dunrud and skirt a deep, narrow drainage (the one joining Wood River back at the trail). The trail disappeared as we topped the ridge, and the area gave way to alpine meadows. From there, we hiked east to the scree slopes below the summit and then headed north up them.
I won’t lie-- the scree sucked. But the view from the top made it all worth it-- Francs Peak, Mount Crosby, Dollar Mountain, Wiggins Peak, Castle Rock, Steamboat Rock, Younts Peak, Thorofare Mountain, the Ramshorn, the Washakie Pinnacles, deep and rugged Absaroka canyons with no trails, and the glaciated Wind River Range, and much more, a lot of it without any official names. We could even see the Tetons.
From the trail sign to the summit, the route was 1.4 mi, with about 2000’ of elevation gain.
High clearance is necessary, and 4wd is a plus. It is advisable to get out and check stream crossings before plowing through them.
Remember that odometers can very slightly. In two different vehicles, I have gotten two different measures here, but both were within a mile of each other.
From Meeteetse, 32 miles south of Cody, turn west onto the signed road for Wyoming 290. In 6.4 miles, turn left onto Wood River Road. At 11.6 miles, the pavement ends. The national forest boundary is at 21.7 miles. Pass Wood River Campground at 22.4 miles and Brown Mountain Campground at 24.8 miles. The road now gets a little rougher, but it is not real 4WD stuff. At 26.8 miles is the first of three stream crossings, at Jojo Creek. This one is short and usually shallow. The second river crossing (Wood River) is at 27 miles. This one is wider and deeper. The third crossing (Wood River), which is actually two crossings in quick succession, is at 29.3 miles. These are broad but shallow.
Continue on to the trailhead and old townsite of Kirwin, at 34 miles. There is one more stream crossing, of a stream draining Brown Basin, just before the trailhead, but it is a tributary stream and may even be dry.
It takes me about 75 minutes to make the drive to Kirwin.
Conditions can change. In 2010, there were water crossings that were not there during my visits in 2001 and 2007. In one spot, the stream and the road were the same for about a quarter-mile. Be prepared for a driving adventure.
It's a long drive in. It would be wise to check with the local ranger district about any access restrictions before heading in. Call 307-868-2379 (Meeteetse Ranger District).
Red TapeNo fees, no permits. What you must always keep in mind, and prepare accordingly for, is that this is grizzly country, and the Absaroka Range has the most and the best grizzly habitat in Greater Yellowstone. If you are not comfortable being in grizzly territory or do not know how to prepare/react properly, please do not come out here; you may end up getting yourself and the bear killed.
CampingCamping is available at the Wood River and Brown Mountain Campgrounds (see Getting There about directions). The sites go on a first-come, first-served basis, and there is a $10 camping fee. Water and pit toilets are available at both.
You could also sleep in your car at or near the trailhead. I am not sure if dispersed camping is permitted; in many parts of grizzly country, camping is allowed only at established campgrounds.