Arguably one of Yellowstone’s most popular hikes, Bunsen Peak is a short climb up to a mountaintop with stunning views of Electric Peak, Sepulcher Mountain, Mammoth, Gardiner Canyon, Gardner’s Hole, Quadrant Mountain, Antler Peak, and Mount Holmes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Bunsen Peak is an intrusive rock body (meaning it cooled and solidified beneath the earth’s surface) which formed during the Eocene from lava flows in the Absaroka Volcanic Supergroup.
Begin the hike at the Bunsen Peak Trailhead (IK4), on your immediate left after passing through Kingman Pass. Trailhead parking can be a nightmare due to the overwhelming popularity of Bunsen Peak and the fact that several other hikes share IK4 parking. Some nearby roadside parking is available, but take care not to park in areas designated for horse trailers only.
To hike Bunsen Peak as an out-and-back, turn left at the first junction near the trailhead. Continue upward and enter an area of new lodgepole pine growth recovering from the massive 1988 Yellowstone fire. Halfway into the trail is a stunning view of Golden Gate, a nearby rock formation called Cathedral Peak, and the Mammoth area below.
A series of switchbacks leads to the top of Bunsen Peak. In the spring, patches of snowdrift on the trail are common. Hikers not used to traversing snowdrifts may opt to forgo them and take one of several scree paths to the top instead. Many windswept trees cover the peak along with a radio tower that can provide some shelter from the wind. Enjoy the views all around before returning along the same path.
As with many hikes in Yellowstone, be bear aware.