Watch Geysers Erupt in Yellowstone

Yellowstone-Geysers

Great Fountain Geyser. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Yellowstone is the place to see geysers. Home to about half of the world’s geysers—the largest concentration on earth—Yellowstone delivers big-time when it comes to providing visitors with front-row views of these dramatic, steaming vents and spouting columns of superheated water. Yellowstone contains more than 10,000 geothermal features in the form of hot springs, travertine terraces, geysers, mud pots, and fumaroles. Here’s where to find the best Yellowstone has to offer.

Upper Geyser Basin contains the world’s greatest concentration of hot springs.

Set between the Old Faithful area and Biscuit Basin road, the Upper Geyser Basin contains several groups of hot springs, as well as more than 150 geysers. The basin is less than a half-mile wide, and most of its features are in close proximity of the Firehole River.

Plan to spend at least half a day exploring the area, which is home to the park’s most impressive and well-known geysers, including:

Yellowstone Old Faithful Geyser

Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser

The most famous geyser in the world—Old Faithful. It was discovered in 1870 by the Washburn Expedition, whose members stumbled upon the geyser during an eruption. One can imagine what it must have been like for those early explorers to see Old Faithful in all its glory. Even today, seeing Old Faithful erupt is an unforgettable experience.

On average, Old Faithful erupts about every 60-110 minutes, and shoots water 140 feet into the air, but has been known to erupt as high as 190 feet.

“When will Old Faithful erupt next?” is probably the most common question heard by interpretive rangers working in the Upper Geyser Basin, and to help answer that question a table of estimated times is posted near the geyser. In order to predict an eruption, observers analyze past information such as intervals between eruptions, and the length and character of previous eruptions.

yellowstone-castle-geyser-vanuga

Castle Geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Castle Geyser is interesting because it accumulates so much energy. After about 15 minutes, Castle goes into a raucous steam phase and roars like a train. Castle erupts from a 30-foot-tall cone—one of the largest in the Upper Geyser Basin—and averages about 11 to 13 hours between eruptions, with bursts that shoot 70 to 80 feet into the air.

yellowstone-photo-guide-geysers-and-springs-firehole-river

Firehole River with Riverside Geyser. Photo by Jeff Vanuga

Riverside Geyser is unique in that it shoots water about 80 feet into the air at a 60-degree angle across the Firehole River. Visit this geyser in the afternoon and you may even see a rainbow in the steamy mist. It erupts about every six hours for roughly 20 minutes.

Midway Geyser Basin is located “midway” between Yellowstone’s Upper and Lower geyser basins, and covers a one-mile stretch along the Firehole River. Although relatively small compared to the park’s other geothermal areas, Midway Geyser Basin is home to some impressive hot springs, including Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone’s largest single hot spring and the world’s third largest hot spring.

This enormous pool is not only huge, but colorful, too, as rising steam reflects the colors of the rainbow in an impressive display.

Lower Geyser Basin, located between Madison Junction and Upper Geyser Basin, contains nearly 100 geothermal features— including fumaroles, hot springs, geysers and mud pots. Acidity in the steam is responsible for the surface rock in this area breaking into clay. Clay and steam pushing through the rock have created the most popular attraction in the basin, the Fountain Paint Pots, which are Yellowstone’s most easily accessible large group of mud pots. The steam responsible for the paint pots colors the clay with shades of white, brown and gray. Additional liquid at different times of the year gives the paint pots their characteristic look of bubbling, blended mud.

Norris Geyser Basin is Yellowstone’s hottest and oldest thermal area. Many geyser aficionados also feel that Norris is the most exciting and unpredictable of the various basins in Yellowstone.

Norris Porcelain Basin

Norris Porcelain Basin

Two very different basins make up Norris Geyser Basin: Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. Back Basin has impressive geysers like Echinus Geyser, while Porcelain Basin is home to many hot springs, vents and pools. Steam vents are often referred to as fumaroles. A fumarole is like a hot spring, but with less water and a lot more heat. They are so hot that what little water there is boils away before reaching the surface. The result is a hissing steam vent, such as Norris’ Black Growler Steam Vent.

The Mud Volcano area, just north of Yellowstone Lake, includes more than a dozen unique geothermal features.

Visitors will no doubt notice a “rotten egg” odor when visiting Mud Volcano. This is the result of microorganisms eating away at sulfur, which creates sulfuric acid. As it evaporates, the acid becomes hydrogen sulfide gas, which gives off the noxious smell.

Dragon’s Mouth Spring is this area’s most popular feature. This is a spring that fills a cave in the side of a hill. The gases that rise to the surface cause the water to splash back and forth against the three cave walls. This splashing of water resembles a tongue lashing out, and gives the spring its name.

Mammoth Hot Springs Minerva Terrace

Mammoth Hot Springs Minerva Terrace

Mammoth Hot Springs, in the northwest section of the park, features an array of travertine terraces. The terraces are created when hot water and gases ascend through limestone deposits, “sculpting” the rock along the way. Once exposed to the air, some of the carbon dioxide escapes and calcium carbonate from the limestone is deposited as a rock called travertine. Flowing water spills over the colorfully streaked terraces, resulting in gentle cascades.

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26 Responses

  1. I can’t wait until we visit Yellowstone National Park. I’ve wanted to visit the park for years. Hopefully, we can next summer.

    Criss GallowayAugust 15, 2011 @ 6:21 pm
  2. I have always wanted to see Yellowstone Park and my sister from California wants to come here (Boise,Idaho) and make a camping trip (tent), with her daughter and myself for a few days. Do have concers though: (1) She can walk but not very far, so probably would have to rent a wheel chair for her. Some one said you have board walks near the geisers, etc where I could wheel her close to see. Is that so? (2) Where would be the best place to camp for us please? I’m assuming we need to make reservations?(3) My sister wants to come out in October to do this. My neice and I feel that it probably be too cold then. Would September be warm enough at night for tent camping?

    Any suggestions you may have are gladly accepted! Thank you for your assistance!

    Blessings,
    Patricia

    Patricia HullAugust 15, 2011 @ 7:22 pm
  3. Honestly I live just south about an hour and this year the whole summer has been quite cold starting early evening and for sure mornings have been 30s and 40s. I would say september dress warm..October it’s usually snowing by mid to end October, I would not be camping into October but just me!

  4. Hellow

    I come from Holland and i will go to Yellowstone on mei in 2012.
    We have friends in Canada and we will drive with a car.
    Have you for me a plan to the park.

    I live in Nederland.
    My adres is M.Smit
    Staverseweg 24
    3245NE Sommelsdijk
    Nederland

    I hope so you will help me!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you
    Theo

  5. ok! I wiil.

  6. I’ve ordered the trip planner kit twice over the last 2+ months and yet to receive it. We are planning a trip in May 2012 and would like to get as much information as possible.
    John
    15 Fire Azalea Lane
    Hendersonville, NC

    John AriattiNovember 1, 2011 @ 8:14 am
  7. Dear John,
    I took my parents to Yellowstone last June and used “”Yellowstone Treasures: The Traveler’s Companion to the National Park” to plan a 3 day trip. This book helped me a lot. It is incredibly well organized. It does separate the park into regions according to the roads and give the mileage from each intersection so it is impossible to miss anything. It was easy to make changes in the plans when necessary due to weather. If you are going there in May be ready for a lot of snow still on the ground and some paths being closed. That’s what happened to us in June (in fact our last day we had snow fall)
    Alp
    Cleveland, OH

  8. Dear John

    I went in mid June of 2011 with my sister and her husband. Snow was all over the ground. Due to limited space, we all took 2 pr. shorts, 1 long pants, 1 jacket. Nearly froze and went to Wal-Mart to buy thermal underwear and fleece pants, etc. It might be 36 in the early morning and 70 by afternoon. Works best to put on several light layers and then shed them as the day warms up.

    Take some good binoculars, and room for lots of pictures on digital camera. So many beautiful, awesome things to see. I kept a log of my pictures with a small spiral notebook and am so glad I did.

    The rangers do lots of programs, and feature a different animal each night. Do take in the one on bears. Lots of good safety info.

    You are in the the time of your life. Take warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. Hayden and Lamar Vally will still be covered in snow in May.

    Mary, Charlotte, NCNovember 6, 2011 @ 8:54 pm
  9. The Best Place on the PLANET

    Shawn "REDHOT" HANDNovember 29, 2011 @ 3:03 pm
  10. Hi My Husband and I are planning on taking a month long trip across country which we have done before. It is great.This will be our 4th year and we have to plan well because I am disabled.
    This time we want to make yellowstone part of our trip.
    We will be leaving our home state of New Jersey, and along with Yellowstone will also be going to CA and also Las Vegas.
    Does anyone have an idea of which way would be best to go from NJ to Yellow Stone and then we will go to CA and hit Las Vegas on the Way Home.
    Thanks so Much
    Theresa

    Theresa Puca-BondJanuary 28, 2012 @ 10:04 am
  11. Alp – Where do you buy Yellowstone Treasurers – The Traveler’s companion to the national park. It sounds like a good idea to have this guide.

    Barbara

  12. we are planning a trip to Yellow stone in July 2012. will be staying at Jacksonhole WY. would like to drive the loop and see the park. Any suggestion as to where to spend one night at the park?
    KE

  13. thank you for this info, very much needed info.

  14. Lake or Canyon, but reservations, sometimes need to be mad by January. Cabins run between %90-$210 1 night.
    I have been every summer to Yellowstone since 1970, usually camp in our RV, but this year, doing the cabin thing. July is the best month for weather, though.

    Judy KelleyApril 24, 2012 @ 11:39 am
  15. Hi, We are planning a trip to yellowstone national park on Memorial Day weekend (May 25th – May 29th, 2012). Will everything would be opened or can be visited during this time of year, 2012…? Please guide!!

    Pawash!!

    150*1.5Pawash PriyankMay 9, 2012 @ 5:36 pm
  16. hello

    luke jonesMay 10, 2012 @ 5:05 am
  17. Hi Pawash,

    A lot depends on if the roads within the park are open (due to snow). Your best bet is to call the 24-hour current road report hotline at (307) 344-2117. What sort of activities are you interested in on your trip? Sign up for our free trip planning kit here: http://www.yellowstonepark.com/plan-your-trip/free-trip-planner-kit/

    Hope that helps!

  18. I lived in Jackson for 4 years. Its amazing. The best time to go is mid June. Not many tourists this time of year, but picks up steadily. Two ways to get to yellowestone, teton pass or 89. Ripleys Believe It or Not is fun, kids and adults enjoy this. Shopping in town is to die for, everything you could want. Cadillac Bar and Grille is tasty. Cowboy Bar and Silver Dollar Bar have great music live music.
    My vacation this year…JACKSON….my boyfriend has never been and its awesome to show him this beautiful peaceful town.

  19. Kablewy

  20. how can i watch the live feed of this today?

  21. We are planning to visit Yellowstone & would like to see d Faithful. We plan to be there in September. We will be in Arkansas for our grandsons wedding on September 8,2012. We will leave there and head to Yellowstone. Who do we need to contact to get more information? Thanks. Edna & Franklin Marshall

    Edna & Franklin MarshallJuly 7, 2012 @ 11:08 am
  22. All geyser basins have boardwalks that take you quite close to the thermal features, all in perfect safety.
    All boardwalks are fully accessible to wheelchairs; there are stairs in some places at
    Norris Basin & at Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin, but there are ways to backtrack & reach all points of interest without using the stairs. Just remember you MUST stay on the boardwalks! They protect you & the fragile thermal features. Don’t give in to temptation; never throw anything into a thermal feature either. Just look at Morning Glory Pool to see the results of people tossing things into a hot spring. It used to be a gorgeous deep sky blue pool, now it’s usually a drab olive green color.

    I would recommend camping in Madison Campground; reservations can be made by calling 1-866-439-7375. Have the dimensions of your tents ready. You can get a lot more great info at nps.gov/yell. Madison is the campground closest to the geyser basins, it is at Madison Junction on the west side of the park, the first junction you get to if you enter the park via West Yellowstone, MT.

    October can be very cold; I would recommend September as well. Be aware that Yellowstone is a high mountain area, notorious for cold temps in any month. Prepare for winter conditions & layer your clothing. If you have down sleeping bags or down comforters, bring them! Staying dry is another key to staying warm, so don’t overdo the bundling up to where you are sweating. Consider wearing a hat at night. Above all, have a great time & be patient with the geysers! They will go off when they are ready & not before! Have a fantastic trip!

    Paul V BehuninSeptember 6, 2012 @ 2:25 pm
  23. Take I-80 W all the way across until you come to 287, then 287 to 26 to 89. That is the shortest route, unless you want to hit Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands and devils tower then take 80 W to 90W to 16 to 20 to 14. Hope that helps.

  24. We’re going to Yellowstone in June 2013…Family of 8. 6 kids, 17 years to 1.5 years. Any ideas where a good affordable place to stay would be? I want to find a place that wouldn’t be horrible far from driving in or staying in the park. We have 4 full days to be in the area. Would love a place with a kitchen so we can cook meals and save some money. Thanks!

  25. Hello.
    We are from China and very happy to visit your national park this weekend. Our first choice is to admire the Grand Prismatic Spring.
    I would like to know if the park is open during 8-9DEC. Someone told me that it will close till 15 of Dec. If it opens, which gate of the park that is more convenient to this spot. And if there is any hotel nearby ?

    I would appreciate you very much if you can reply to me before our
    departure.

    Best Wishes.

    Chen

  26. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a
    quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your articles.

    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
    Thank you so much!



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