In 2015, Yellowstone drew in more than 4 million visitors—most of them eager to see Old Faithful. The busy days of June through September bring throngs of tourists from all over the globe hoping to witness Old Faithful’s folk-tale beauty and cross it off the bucket list. Since Yellowstone brings in most of its visitors during the summer months, securing a great view of the geyser’s cone can be especially challenging, even though the scalding mist can reach 90 to 120 feet into the air for all to see. Plus, crowds typically peak in Yellowstone from noon until 6 p.m. when bus tours and visitors are expected to arrive and leave the park.
Thankfully, Old Faithful crowds can be avoided. The mornings (dawn until 11 a.m.) and evenings (6 p.m. until dusk) are perfect window times for beating the tour groups and family wagons and securing a spot with an uninterrupted view. If you prefer the morning, all you need is a trusty alarm clock, maybe a strong cup of coffee and an early start to the day. However, if you prefer the evening, you may need to secure a cozy room at the Old Faithful Inn.
If you’re really up for a one-of-a-kind experience and don’t mind braving a freezing-cold morning, try seeing this national treasure burst right around sunrise. Just imagine the sun’s early morning rays glowing through the geyser’s mist. What a sight to behold, and there’s likely nobody else around!
J. Scott Donahue is a freelance writer and essayist with a passion for alpine climbing, trail running and other hard things. He writes for YellowstonePark.com and Sierra Club, and graduated with an MFA in nonfiction writing.