Upper Geyser Basin (Yellowstone National Park)

The upper geyser basin of Yellowstone National Park is an area that I visited on our family trip to Yellowstone National Park this year. The upper geyser basin of Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular areas in Yellowstone National Park because of the number of geysers that are located near the paths and trails. The most popular geyser in this area is, of course, Old Faithful. (Lion Geyser Group pictured above). For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: From inside Yellowstone National Park drive 16 miles south of Madison Junction or 17 miles west of West Thumb and take the Old Faithful exit. Park in the area by the Historic Old Faithful Inn. You can follow the signs that direct you to the visitor center where there is additional parking. The visitor center has predicted eruption times of a number of geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin. Click Here for an interactive map of Yellowstone National Park. There is an entrance fee for Yellowstone National Park, but no permit is required to hike at the Upper Geyser Basin.

Description of Hike: This trail area is well maintained by the National Park Service and it goes through one of the densest area of thermal features in the park. The area contains 180 of the parks roughly 250 geysers. You can make a number of different loops on this hike with mileage that ranges from 1 to 7 miles, all with relatively minimal elevation gain. Boardwalks, footpaths, trails, and a cycling paths along the Firehole River link the 5 distinct geyser groups in this area. When you are hiking in the upper geyser basin do not expect to be alone, as there will be a number of people on the trails here trying to catch a glimpse of geysers erupting.

Make sure to pick up a map of the geysers in the area from the visitor center. The Old Faithful Visitor Center has a bookstore and information about the geysers. Also make sure to get the predicted eruption times for the major geysers from the visitor center if you are looking to see geysers erupt. All hikes in this area should begin by watching the eruption of Old Faithful (Old Faithful pictured with this paragraph).

Old Faithful erupts roughly every 90 minutes and spouts up approximately 8,000 gallons of water up to 180 feet into the air. Old Faithful is not the tallest nor the most predictable geyser in the park, but it is considered the tallest predictable geyser. Historically, the time between eruptions has varied between 45 minutes and 110 minutes, with the average Old Faithful eruption lasting approximately 4 minutes. (Old Faithful pictured with this paragraph).

Further Thoughts: The upper geyser basin by Old Faithful, is a great area to explore and hike in. If you time your visit to this area right you can view multiple geysers erupting. If you are staying in the Historic Old Faithful Inn (Pictured with this paragraph), then you have a great opportunity to view many geyser eruptions. The rest of this post will provide some general information on some of the major geysers in the upper geyser basin other than Old Faithful.

Another Geyser that is worth visiting/viewing in this area is Beehive Geyser (Pictured with this paragraph) which erupts twice a day. Beehive Geyser's eruption can reach a height up to 190 feet in the air through its 4 foot high cone shaped nozzle. The eruption is considered either the second or the third tallest eruption from a regularly active geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Beehive Geyser, also has an indicator to its eruption. The indicator is very easy to see, at least it was when we watch Beehive's eruption. The indicator for Beehive Geyser is a smaller vent that erupts and signals the larger eruption from Beehive Geyser that is about to happen. The eruption of Beehive Geyser is much more impressive than the eruption of Old Faithful.

Another set of Geyser's that is worth viewing is the Lion Geyser Group (Pictured with this paragraph). This geyser group is not that far from Beehive Geyser. It is a gathering of four interconnected geysers, whose eruptions are preceded by a roar, from which it gets it's name. The eruptions can last from 1 to 7 minutes and can be as tall as 90 feet. An indicator of an eruption is the filling of the pool that is near the Lion Geyser Group. The eruption, lasted for about 5 minutes when we saw it.

Another Geyser that is worth visiting is Castle Geyser, whose large cone resembles a bleached sandcastle. This geyser is located a little bit further away from Old Faithful, Beehive, and the Lion Geyser Group. It is the oldest Geyser in the region. Castle Geyser has a 10 to 12 hour eruption cycle. The main eruption is followed by a 30 minute steam phase from Castle Geyser. We unfortunately did not get a chance to see its eruption, but have provided another picture of Beehive Geyser's eruption with this paragraph.

Lastly, one of the Geysers that is very popular is Riverside Geyser. Riverside Geysers puts on a great show by erupting its 75 foot column of water across the Firehole River. If you time Riverside Geyser's eruption with the right lighting conditions you can get a great picture of a rainbow across the Firehole River. Eruptions last for approximately 20 minus and occur roughly about every 6 hours. Water spilling over the cone signals an imminent eruption. We unfortunately did not get a chance to see its eruption, but have provided another picture of the eruption from the Lion Geyser Group with this paragraph.

There are a number of Geysers in the park that have spectacular eruptions. The Yellowstone Visitor Center has a lot of information on the Geysers and should be visited before your hike in this area. Note: on the Google Map below we have only highlighted 5 geysers, however, there are many other geysers and additional thermal features along many portions of the trail. 

Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Easy), Distance: 1 - 7 Miles Roundtrip (Easy - Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: Varies depending on length.


August 12, 2010 (This Post)


Upper Geyser Basin (This Post)