Besides the wildlife, Yellowstone National Park is best known for its hydrothermal formations including hot springs and geysers. This is because the Park lies over a supervolcano. It seemed everywhere we drove, smoke curled up from the ground along the side of the road. It’s exciting to witness a geyser erupt, spewing water and smoke high up in the air. It’s awe-inspiring to see the rainbow of colors of some hot springs, which I learned is due to different types of microorganisms.
I didn’t see every geyser and hot spring in Yellowstone, but these were my five favorite.
- Grand Prismatic Spring – Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin contains two of my favorite sites and my #1 fav is the Grand Prismatic Spring. The spring is beautiful, a rainbow of colors with a light steam hovering over it. I wish I could have seen it from above. There is supposed to be a path leading up to a lookout, but I couldn’t find it and it looked like 2 bison may have been grazing near it anyway.
Fun Fact: Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest spring in the world and deeper than a 10-story building.
- Old Faithful – Upper Geyser Basin
No list would be complete without the most popular geyser in Yellowstone. We watched it erupt twice we found it so fascinating.
Arrive early. We arrived at Old Faithful at 9 am for a 9:52 estimated eruption. No one was there on this frigid morning (in September). We got a front row seat (there are 2 rows of benches in a horseshoe around half the geyser). Just before the eruption occurs, there are a few false starts, you can hear the water bubbling, then finally steam and water spew up. We got really excited before it blew, anticipating each false start to be the last. It exploded just past 9:52 am and lasted 4 min, according to a couple next to us. It was a bit disappointing as we saw mostly smoke and the water didn’t look like it rose very high, so we decided to wait for the next eruption approximately 90 minutes later.
The next predicted eruption was at 11:26 am, but it blew a bit early and the eruption lasted about five minutes. We took a different position on the left side, which made all the difference. We could clearly see the water spewing high into the air along with the smoke. Also, we think it erupted higher the second time than the first time. Each eruption is different in length and size, so if the one you see is disappointing, stick around a while.
Old Faithful isn’t the only geyser at this site. If you stay for more than one eruption, walk the one-mile Geyser Hill Loop looking at other area geysers. Just stay away from the bison; there were two grazing in a field next to Old Faithful.
Fun fact: The largest concentrations of geysers in the world is in the Upper Geyser Basin.
- Pink Cone Geyser – Lower Geyser Basin
We stumbled upon this site on the Firehole Lake Drive where we found a little geyser spewing a little jet of water continually like a fire hose. It actually doesn’t run continually, but it spews water approximately 30 feet in the air for a couple hours. It was fun to watch and no one else was around to see it!
- Turquoise Pool- Midway Geyser Basin
You’ll pass this pool before getting to Prismatic Spring, but I loved the bright turquoise color. Note the Midway Geyser Basin gets really crowded by midday, even in the off season, so plan to go early if you can.
Fun Fact: Turquoise Pool was named for its gem-like, blue-colored water.
- Dragon’s Mouth Spring
Dragon’s Mouth Spring was one of the first springs we encountered in Yellowstone, at Sulfur Canyon. Sulfur spews up from the ground (and it smells) and there is either bubbling mud or water caused by the prior volcanic activity in the area. I liked all the smoke, and the name. It can splash water on the walkway, so be careful as the water is hot. According to a sign at the site, the rumbling is steam and other gasses exploding through the water, causing it to crash against the walls of the cave.
See also the mud volcano at this site, which is just what it sounds like.
Fun Fact: Dragon’s Mouth Spring likely got its name by the smoke billowing from its mouth and the growling sound when the gasses and steam are released from the cave.
6. Norris Geyser Basin – Porcelain Basin
Ok, Yellowstone has such a lot of delightful sites to visit that I couldn’t stop at five.
There are other well known areas of Yellowstone, such as Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Geyser Basin that also have amazing formations. Norris Geyser Basin is well known for its varied colors and I loved Porcelain Basin’s icy blue hue. Occasionally, you will notice a small geyser splashing in the basin. Be careful on this boardwalk as well, as hot water will occasionally splash up on you, or worse, your camera equipment.
Fun Fact: Porcelain Basin is milky blue because it is saturated with silica, which is what glass is made from.
I’ll open up comments on this post so you can post your favorite sites in Yellowstone!