If you don’t visit anywhere else in Yellowstone National Park, go to the Upper Geyser Basin. The Basin has the highest concentration of geothermal features in the world, not to mention the famous Old Faithful Geyser, which faithfully erupts in a shower of steam and water every 45-90 minutes. The area is also highly wheelchair-accessible and has bicycle trails (although I’ve only ever hiked the trails). In the Upper Geyser Basin, the geysers are incredible, the thermal pools are beautiful, and the trails aren’t hard to hike…so why wouldn’t you want to visit? (Well, maybe because of the crowds…!) Today I’ll give you a run-down of my 5 favorite geysers with pictures and GPS coordinates. The maps at the bottom of the post should show you where each feature in comparison to the others.
All of these features are (more or less) wheelchair accessible.
#5: Castle Geyser
Castle Geyser isn’t so spectacular to watch explode, but it is very interesting to watch an explosion from a castle-shaped formation. Part of the problem is that it’s difficult to get a good view of the eruption from the boardwalks. Castle erupts every 9-11 hours with water shooting 60-90 feet in the air for up to 20 minutes. Castle Geyser GPS Coordinates: 44.463530N / -110.836883W (44N 27’ 48.7074” / -110W 50’ 12.7788”)
#4: Old Faithful
The best thing about Old Faithful Geyser is that it erupts every 45-90 minutes in blasts of up to 184 feet (check at the visitor center for the exact time; usually it’s predictable to within 10-15 minutes; the eruption typically lasts 1-5 minutes). The other nice thing is that there is a viewing area with seats. However, for a unique viewpoint, try the path that leads from the visitor center to the viewing area – that’s where the picture at the top of this post was taken from. Old Faithful Viewing Area GPS Coordinates: 44.459565N / -110.828104W (44N 27’ 45.7776” / -110W 49’ 46.851”)
Bonus: Observation Point is a great place to overlook Old Faithful Geyser erupting or to simply enjoy looking over the Upper Geyser Basin. GPS Coordinates: 44.465140N / -110.824891 (44N 27’ 54.5034” / -110W 49’ 29.607”)
#3: Riverside Geyser
This is a unique geyser, because when it blows, the water lands in the Firehole River. It’s also quite an impressive geyser, shooting 75 feet into the air every 5.5 to 7 hours for about 30 minutes – few people stay the full 30 minutes, so if you can’t get close to the viewpoint at first, people will soon move away. (Make sure to check at the visitor center on this one, because it’s known as one of the most regular geysers in the park.) You’re also a bit above the geyser itself, which gives you an interesting angle. GPS Coordinates for Riverside Geyser: 44.473351N / -110.841451W (44N 28’ 24.0636” / -110W 50’ 29.2236”)
#2: Beehive Geyser
Talk about an impressive geyser! When Beehive erupts, it sends a very tall (200-foot) stream of water into the air, and it seems to go, and go, and keep on going. Actually, the eruption typically lasts only 5 minutes, but you get to wondering how a geyser could keep spouting so long and with such power: the geyser makes a sound akin to a jet engine and those on nearby boardwalks can feel the walks vibrating. There are also nice places to view the eruption from. However, the geyser is not very predictable and may erupt every 8-24+ hours during the summer or not at all during the winter. If you can see it, Beehive is an experience you won’t soon forget. GPS Coordinates for Beehive Geyser: 44.462716N / -110.829681W (44N 27’ 42.7602” / -110W 49’ 48.0288”)
Another great place to watch Beehive Geyser: 44.461878N / -110.830008W (44N 27’ 42.7602” / -110W 49’ 48.0288”)
#1: Grand Geyser
If you can catch Grand Geyser, it’s well worth waiting for, and will show you just what geysers are capable of doing. Beehive may be impressive, but the sheer amount of water that explodes out of Grand Geyser in blasts of up to 200 feet every 6-15 hours makes it an incredible experience and has earned Grand the title of “tallest predictable geyser in the world”. The explosion lasts about 9-12 minutes; the water flow will often cease and then begin again… and the really exciting part is that the dry streambeds under the boardwalk suddenly become rivers when Grand erupts! GPS Coordinates for Grand Geyser: 44.468152N / -110.838272W (44N 28’ 5.3472” / -110W 50’ 17.7792”)
So next time you’re in Wyoming…stop by the visitor center at the Upper Geyser Basin and figure out what geysers you can see during your visit!
***Note*** The Upper Geyser Basin experiences many small earthquakes and other shifts every year. This changes when and how each geyser erupts. Therefore, my “best of” list reflects when I last saw the geyser erupt, not necessarily the way the geyser currently erupts.
Upper Geyser Basin Maps
Note on the maps: A new visitor center was constructed after these maps were made; therefore, the visitor center is no longer in the location stated on the maps. Also, trails, etc., may have changed: the black-and-white map is almost 20 years old; the color map, closer to five years old.
Getting to the Upper Geyser Basin
From the South Entrance, follow the road for 22 miles to West Thumb. Turn left on the road leading to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basins (this road is well-marked) and drive 17 miles. A right exit will take you into the Upper Geyser Basin area; keep driving until you reach a series of large parking lots. Head over toward the buildings; you’ll likely find the hotel/gift shop/restaurant first (from here, walk through the building to the Old Faithful viewing area; turn left to walk past the benches and you’ll eventually come to the visitor center.
From the West Entrance, drive 14 miles to Madison. Turn right on the road to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin (the road is well-marked). Drive 16 miles; a right exit will take you to the Upper Geyser Basin area. Follow the instruction for the South Entrance in terms of parking and finding the visitor center.
From the North Entrance, drive 5 miles to Mammoth Hot Springs. Continue south (toward Norris Geyser Basin) for 21 miles; keep heading south (toward Madison) for another 14 miles; then follow the directions for the West Entrance from Madison to the Upper Geyser Basin.
From the Northeast Entrance, drive 29 miles to Tower-Roosevelt; turn left (south) and drive 19 miles to Canyon Village. Turn right here toward Norris Geyser Basin and drive 12 miles. Turn left at Norris Junction and drive 14 miles to Madison; follow the instructions for the West Entrance from Madison to the Upper Geyser Basin.
From the East Entrance, drive 27 miles to Fishing Bridge. Turn left (south) and drive another 21 miles to West Thumb. Turn right on the road to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin; follow the instructions for the South Entrance regarding driving from West Thumb to the Basin.
Please note that travel times are very slow within the park. It will easily take you an hour or even three to get from one of the entrances to the Upper Geyser Basin.
Facilities: Information, restrooms, gift shop, etc. in the visitor center and Old Faithful Lodge. I believe there is also gas, groceries, and just about any other amenity you want in the area.
$25 $30 fee to enter Yellowstone National Park, valid 7 consecutive days in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Yellowstone/Grand Teton Annual Passes also accepted
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
This Week’s Featured Product!
Love geysers? This is the guide for you! Detailing over 500 geysers in Yellowstone National Park, the book offers readers detailed maps and instructions to help you find the geysers and watch them erupt.