Before jumping in, I would like to provide a warning.
Yellowstone’s popular attractions include visiting the park’s famous geyser pool. Beautiful, but these are dangerous environments. At Yellowstone, some people die each year because of their carelessness and lack of respect for the incredible power of nature working here. For your safety, always stay on the promenade or path. Do not bring pets or touch fountains or geysers. Do not throw garbage or other objects into geothermal heat.
Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful Geyser is arguably one of the most famous attractions in Yellowstone National Park. Interestingly, however, as the name implies, it is neither the largest geyser in the park nor the most frequently erupting geyser. Thanks to its frequent and predictable breakout schedules and easy access, Old Faithful is very popular. For example, walk a few hundred meters from the parking lot to see a geyser erupt! Old Faithful eruptions typically last 1.5-5 minutes, firing up to 8,000 gallons of boiling water over 100 feet.
There you have three ways to view Old Faithful:
- An observatory around the geyser. The platform is the most popular and accessible option. There is a bench here to wait between eruptions.
- Geyser Hill perspective. If you want to escape the crowd and hike, climb hard for an Old Faithful bird’s eye view. It is about 1.1 miles from the observatory.
- Old Faithful Inn deck. If you’ve seen Old Faithful from the lookout, you can see another show from the Old Faithful Inn front deck. The deck is the perfect place for a relaxing lunch with a view. You can take it out from the inn’s deli or have a picnic.
Every day, the park ranger posts an estimated eruption schedule for the day. On average, geysers erupt every 90 minutes, but between 50 and 127 minutes. The plan for that day can be found on the sign outside the geyser, Old Faithful Inn, or Old Faithful Visitor Center.
Upper Geyser Basin
Upper Geyser Basin is a larger area than Old Faithful’s house, but there are many more things to see here! Geysers and other geothermal features are the most concentrated globally in this area. After seeing the Old Faithful erupt, continue walking the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin. There are four other geysers with predicted eruption times: The Riverside Geyser, The Castle Geyser, The Grand Geyser, and The Daisy Geyser. The whole loop around the Upper Geyser Basin is approximately 5 km (3 miles) from the Old Faithful Visitor Center. Most of the routes are barrier-free on paved paths and promenades.
Don’t miss this tour of Upper Geyser Basin:
- Heart Spring Hot Spring. Heart-shaped sapphire-blue pool,
- Sawmill Geyser, a unique feature that spews a few feet of water into the air
- Beauty Pool and Chromatic Pool, 2 Interconnected Deep Chromatic Sources (Tips for What Comes with Grand Prismatic Spring)
- Grand Geyser, the highest predictable geyser in the world (it erupts only about every 6 hours, so stay if you are near the expected eruption time)
- Riverside Geyser, a vast and predictable geyser that erupts into the Firehole River (like the Grand, it erupts only every 6 hours, so stay if you are near the expected eruption time)
- Morning Glory Pool, the stunning multicolored pool farthest from the visitor center (indeed the perfect feature in Upper Geyser Basin!)
- Daisy Geyser, a predictable geyser that erupts every 23 hours and provides stunning views of the rest of the Upper Geyser Basin
- Castle Geyser, a unique conical geyser that erupts approximately every 14 hours
If you only want to do one in Upper Geyser Basin, make it Morning Glory Pool. Various water temperatures create a spectacular rainbow-colored play. This fantastic spot in Yellowstone national park is a must-see (and can be much closer than the Grand Prismatic Spring!).
Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring is the pinnacle of Midway Geyser Basin and one of the most famous landmarks in Yellowstone National Park. This iridescent hot spring, the third-largest hot spring globally, is a must-see geothermal feature. You get a rainbow of dramatic colors from different water temperatures in spring. The most scalding water in the middle of spring is blue. When the water temperature drops, the color changes from green to yellow to orange. This phenomenon is caused by microorganisms that can survive at any water temperature.
You will see the Grand Prismatic Spring through the Midway Geyser Basin on the trail. It allows you to see the source up close, but the Grand Prismatic colors are best viewed from above. To see the Grand Prismatic from above, you can take a short hike to the Grand Prismatic Overlook via the Fairy Falls Trail. This trailhead is approximately 1.6 km (1 mile) south of the main Grand Prismatic Parking Lot.Almost 0.5 miles from the Trailhead, the observatory offers stunning aerial photographs of spring and its rainbow. Plan to visit early in the afternoon to see the most vibrant colors when the lights directly illuminate the light source.
It cannot be easy to park here as it is one of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions. Suppose you want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring across the Midway Geyser Basin promenade; plan to arrive before 9 am. If you drive to the observatory via Fairy Falls Trailhead instead, it’s good to visit in the afternoon to find the best lighting and a parking lot several times. You may need to go around. Fortunately, most visitors don’t stay long, so sales for both lots are high.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
When many people think of Yellowstone National Park, the characteristics of geysers, hot springs, and geothermal heat come to mind. But again, there are dramatically different landscapes! To the east of the park is the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. This iconic canyon features dramatic rock color and unique geology carved by the Yellowstone River.
One of the great ways to see the canyon is to take a scenic drive across the North Rim and the South Rim, stop for a great view and hike short trails. These views show the colorful walls of the canyon and the magnificent waterfalls here.
Lower Falls is the biggest waterfall in the Yellowstone national park, about twice as high as Niagara Falls. It is best seen from the North Rim Observatory or Artist Point in the South Rim.
Upper Falls is small and quiet, best viewed from the Upper Falls Viewpoint on the South Rim. We recommend visiting the South Rim in the morning and North Rim in the afternoon.
At South Rim, it’s a good idea to go to Artist Point first and get there about two hours after sunrise. It isn’t recommended to come here at dawn as it takes several hours for the sun to penetrate the canyon from light.
Favorite attractions on the South Rim are:
- Overlooked artist point, beautiful views of Lower Falls in the early morning or morning
- The Uncle Toms Trail, a challenging but short hike, has over 300 steep stairs and a close-up view of the waterfall below.
- Upper Falls Viewpoint, walking distance from the Uncle Toms Trail parking lot with stunning views of Upper Falls
- A long hike over 4 miles that takes you along the South Rim Trail, a canyon, and connects all three perspectives above
After exploring the South Rim, head to North Rim. The roads along Noslim are one-way, so it’s a good idea to stop at each point of view, so you don’t have to walk behind.
Don’t miss these Noslim stops (listed here in order along the Muslim Drive):
- A steep 1.1km trail with a switchback to the observatory just above Lower Falls on the brink of Lower Falls
- Observatory, accessible observatory with views of the Lower Falls Valley
- A problematic trail of about 0.7 miles starting from Red Rock Point, Lookout Point, and leading to an observatory near Lower Falls.
- Great view, accessible and scenic location perfect for seeing the colors of the Grand View, East Canyon, and Yellowstone River
- An inspiration point is the main observatory that provides views of both upstream (towards Lower Falls) and downstream (through the canyon).
You can also see Upper Falls from above at the brink of Upper Falls on the access road between North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. It takes at least a couple of days to see the highlights of Yellowstone National Park. There are days enough to explore popular areas such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. If you have more time in Yellowstone National Park, we recommend five days to have a complete experience and visit all park areas.
Learn more about Yellowstone National Park