- Difficulty: Medium
- Time To Complete: 7.0
- Distance: 11.0
- Seasonality: Spring, Summer, Fall
- Hiking in Yellowstone National Park
- Fees Permit: Yes
- Park Entrance Fee
The ascent of a prominent peak. A descent to the bottom of an iconic waterfall. A level trail back to the car (if you do this as a loop). An evening in one of the most rustic and beautiful of Yellowstone’s campgrounds. What more could you want in a day?
Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls offers motivated hikers two notches for their proverbial hiking belt. First, a spectacular waterfall experienced from beyond the typical roadside points or crowded parking lots. Second, the hike is a chance to walk up an entire mountain, complete with great views, tired legs, and a feeling of true accomplishment. Bunsen Peak represents the easiest full-mountain climb found in Yellowstone. Climbing a mountain is never easy though and the full loop will take 6-8 hours to complete. The Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls hikes can be separated or joined for a full-day loop.
Indian Creek Campground features 70 large sites, all generator-free. It’s quiet and rustic, with small creeks and hiking trails running through the site. It’s the easiest access, rustic campground in the park, and serves as an amazing basecamp for the entire northeast part of Yellowstone.
What Makes It Great
This area allows for an incredible day of views, followed by a quiet evening in a beautiful spot. The visitor gets the choice of a peak, a waterfall, or both.
This hike begins at the Glenn Creek Trailhead. Hikers have an immediate choice – the trail that ascends Bunsen peak, or an abandoned road that curves away southeast. If you are going to hike to the top of Bunsen, take the obvious marked trail. For those only wanting to see the falls, start out on the road to the marked junction.The first four miles of the road to the Osprey Falls junction are along an abandoned road and are relatively flat and open. Early morning hikers through this section have the best chance to see wildlife and they will beat the afternoon heat on the return.
Bunsen Peak, named for after Robert Bunsen the inventor of the Bunsen Burner, rises 1,500’ above you. The trail to Bunsen Peak ascends to the summit in just over 2 miles of steady grade, switchbacks, and superb scenery. From the top, look down into the large meadow to the west known as Gardiner’s Hole and the graceful curve of the Gardiner River therein. Electric Peak and Mt. Holmes fill the horizon nearby. Those wishing to make a loop will descend Bunsen Peak to the east, instead of re-tracing their steps back down. Once hikers descend 2 more trail miles, They come to a junction of the Bunsen Peak Trail, the abandoned road, and the Osprey Falls Trail.
Hikers wishing to visit the falls turn downhill (east) at this junction. The trail drops over the rim of the Sheepeater Cliffs and descends more than 700 vertical feet in the next 1.4 miles. The trail winds down the cliff face, steep but safe, and ends near the rushing crash of Osprey Falls.
The spur trail down to Osprey Falls is still an out-and-back with this loop. To return, climb back out of the canyon and turn right to follow the abandoned road 3.2 miles back to the trailhead.
Who is Going to Love It
Waterfall chasers, view-seekers, and those looking for a longer hike will love Bunsen Peak and Osprey Falls. This section of the park is slightly drier than others which accentuates the small, lush miniature gardens surrounding Osprey Falls. Keep your eyes out for wild raspberries on the return as well.
Bring plenty of water, especially for afternoon hikes later in the summer. The climb back up the Sheepeater Cliffs can be steep and hot.
The top of Bunsen Peak makes for great photo opportunities. Ask a fellow hiker to snap a photo of you and your loved ones astride a mountain top with Electric Peak in the background and maybe return the favor!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Drive 4.8 miles south of Mammoth past the Golden Gate Bridge. Park on the left in the Glen Creek Trailhead. Parking is free with the Yellowstone National Park entry fee.
The Indian Creek Campground is 3.5 miles south of the Glenn Creek trailhead, and about 8 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs.