Bunsen Peak is named after that Bunsen - - Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, a scientist who studied Iceland’s geysers but is more famous as developer of the Bunsen burner. Appropriately, Bunsen burned big during the 1988 Yellowstone fires.
Bunsen Peak is an ancient volcano cone, easily visible from Mammoth Hot Springs and other vistas in the northwest part of Yellowstone National Park. There are several ways up, but the most common is a short (2 miles), moderate hike up a bunch of switchbacks. I’d guess that Bunsen and Washburn are the most-commonly climbed peaks in Yellowstone, and certainly it’s not a good place for solitude in the summer.
Bunsen from Sepulcher
However, it’s a good mountain for families. The kids will feel that they have accomplished something after ascending about 1300 feet in two miles.
Bunsen Peak is also the highest point for some ways in each direction. As a result, it has good views of Mammoth Hot Springs, the Gardiner and Yellowstone River valleys, and the Gallatin Range.
Incidentally, I've attached the mountain to the Gallatin Range, though I've never seen anyone else include it. Or exclude it, for that matter. Sepulcher Mountain, just across Highway 89 to the west, is certainly part of the Gallatins.
Use the Glen Creek trailhead on the left, just after passing through the Golden Gate on the road up from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris. From Mammoth, the parking lot appears on your left as the road flattens out. From Norris, the parking lot will be the last thing you see on the right as you cross Gardner’s Hole, the wide, flat area before you descend to Mammoth Hot Springs.
1988 Burn Area
The trail climbs straight out of the parking lot through some sagebrush before entering forest. Much of the mountain was burned in 1988, and the trail goes through burn areas - - the new conifer growth was about 3-8 feet high in 2007.
Buttress viewed from trail
After going through the initial burn area, the trail ascends gently along the edge of a cliff line, through both burned and unburned areas. The trail reaches a “dead end” looking out over Mammoth Hot Springs and the Yellowstone River valley. From here, it’s all switchbacks to the top. On my first time up (in early June), we had to cross a few small snowfields, but in late September after a snowfall everything melted away very quickly.
There’s a TV tower at the false summit. Continue to follow the trail a little more to the clearly-visible true summit. You can continue on to descend the east side (this is also the route up from Mammoth). The Old Bunsen Peak Road Trail will take you from the bottom of the east route back to Glen Creek trailhead, or make a side trip down to Osprey Falls.
Yellowstone NP entrance fees, or the annual multi-agency pass.
Bighorn at Start of Switchbacks
Panorama of View to the West (Southern Gallatins)
Click to Enlarge
The nearest campground is at Mammoth Hot Springs, and attracts heavy RV use.