There are over 10,000 thermal features in Yellowstone including at least 1,283 geysers. Almost half of the worlds geysers can be found in the park – more than anywhere else in the world. And within Yellowstone, most of the geysers can be found in the Upper, Midway and Lower Geyser Basin – collectively referred to as the “Geyser Basin”.
Visiting this area will probably be one of the very first activities in Yellowstone, and to help you plan your visit we have compiled a list of the top geysers and hot springs you have to include in your visit.
Planning your day
Although it is possible to cover all the major geysers and springs in Geyser Basin in a single day, we recommend you split it into two days. There are 6 major areas in Geyser Basin that are worth visiting:
- Lower Geyser Basin: Home of the Silex Spring and Clepsydra Geyser, it is the first area you will hit coming in south from West Yellowstone.
- Firehole Lake Drive: A one way loop drive just a mile south of Lower Geyser Basin that leads to Firehole Spring and Great Fountain Geyser.
- Midway Geyser Basin: This is where the biggest hot spring in the US, the Grand Prismatic Spring is. It is also home to Excelsior Geysor.
- Fairy Falls Trail Parking Lot: This is where you can do a short hike to get to Grand Prismatic Overlook.
- Biscuit Basin: Visit the Sapphire Pool and take a moderate hike to Mystic Falls with panoramic views of the Geyser Basin.
- Upper Geyser Basin: Home of the mighty Old Faithful geyser and dozens of other geysers in the area.
Our recommendation is:
Day 1: Lower Geyser Basin, Firehole Lake Drive, Midway Geyser Basin and the Grand Prismatic Overlook hike.
Day 2: Start with Biscuit Basin and hike up to Mystic Falls, and then head over to Upper Geyser Basin to view Old Faithful and other geysers in the area.
Our Take on Geyser Basin’s Top 5
There are literally hundreds of geysers and springs in Yellowstone’s Geyser Basin, but here are our top 5 and the most popular ones that you do not want to miss.
1. Silex Spring & Clepsydra Geyser
Right off of the Highway 191 on the Fountain Paint Pot Trail in Lower Basin, you will see a hot spring that has the most distinctive and eye catching combination of vibrant colors – deep blue to turquoise to orange and yellow! This is the Silex Spring.
Clepsydra Geyser is further down the Fountain Paint Pot trail and it is a geyser that is constantly erupting with almost no pause. Which means the geyser will likely be erupting when you walk by . and you don’t have to wait for an eruption. An amazing sight to see the water and fumes being sent several feet above the ground! And yes, the sulphur smell is quite strong. (If you don’t know how that smells, its almost like the smell of boiled eggs)
2. Firehole Spring
This is the first spring you will see on Firehole Lake Drive on your left. Like Silex Spring’s identical twin, it has equally vibrant colors and pungent smell. What’s cool about it is that there are far less people here and you can snap much better pictures here without worrying about people in your shot.
Continuing further down Firehole Lake Drive you will drive past Great Fountain Geyser, Pink Cone Geyser and Black Warrior Springs, all of which are worth a trip. Note though that Firehole Lake Drive is closed during winter season.
3. Grand Prismatic Spring
One of the most colorful scenes in the park, Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States. It’s approximately 370 feet across and has a depth of 121 feet in the center. But the size is irrelevant to its fame because it’s the rainbow colors in the water that really bring people here for photographic opportunities.
Crimsons, yellows, blues, and even greens explode like a cutaway of an everlasting gobstopper throughout the pool. These colors are all caused by colonies of thermal-loving bacteria that change the water’s hue. But don’t let the presence of life in this water tempt you to try and touch it; the water is over 160°F and is filled with microbes you’d rather not be on friendly terms with.
Outdoorsome Tip: After visiting Grand Prismatic, make sure you stop at the next parking lot (Fairy Falls Trail) and do a short hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. Away from the crowds at Grand Prismatic, this overlook offers a sweeping panoramic view of the spring from up top. A great place to get those postcard perfect pictures!
4. Sapphire Pool & Mystic Falls
Sapphire Pool is on the way to the trailhead to Mystic Falls in Biscuit Basin. The trail is a moderate 3.5 mile loop, and rises about 600 ft in elevation to an overlook (about halfway to Mystic Falls) where you can have sweeping panoramic views of Upper Geyser Basin. You can even see Old Faithful Geyser in the distance from up there! From here, continue the hike to Mystic Falls which is a beautiful waterfall on the Little Firehole River. Definitely a must do hike!
5. Old Faithful
The most famous of geysers in Yellowstone is Old Faithful, a cone geyser located in Upper Geyser Basin. It has been erupting for as long as the park has been viewed by human beings.
On average the geyser erupts every 90 minutes (ranging from a minute to over five minutes long). Each eruption is estimated to throw almost 4,000 gallons of water over 150 feet high. And the magnitude of a particular eruption determines how long it would before the next eruption.
Outdoorsome Tip: Look at the live webcam and the prediction of the next eruption time at NPS website before you head there so you can avoid waiting for an eruption to occur.
According to probes dropped 72 feet down the cone of the geyser, the water temperature at that depth averages about 250°F. Despite the boiling water, it’s perfectly safe to view and remains one of the most popular attractions in the park. Well worth a trip!
Yellowstone Geyser Basin in Pictures
Share your experience
If you have been to Yellowstone, let us know about your experience in the comments below. We would love to hear from you! If you are planning on visiting Yellowstone, check out our day by day itinerary of our trip.