Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots

Clepsydra Geyser erupts in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Clepsydra Geyser erupts in the Lower Geyser Basin

One of the more popular of the less-famous geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park is the Fountain Paint Pots.  It’s worth visiting, with a few unique features, as well as a few pretty pools.  It can be a bit overrun, so leave yourself extra time to wait for a parking space between 10am and 3pm (give or take a bit, depending on current park visitation).

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 0.75 miles Trail Type: Lollipop loop Elevation Gain: 78ft. Pets: No Fees: $35/vehicle

Dead trees on the bacteria mats.  I'd guess that changes in the geothermal features' flow caused the forest to flood.  Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Dead trees on the bacteria mats. I’d guess that changes in the geothermal features’ flow caused the forest to flood.

Once I finally got a parking space and waited in line for the primitive restrooms (what can I say, Fountain Flat doesn’t have restrooms, and the nearby picnic area was being guarded by a herd of bison), I headed over to the boardwalk.  Views begin almost from the first of colorful drainage channels and bacteria mats.

Celestine Pool in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Celestine Pool

You’ll also pass Celestine Pool on the left.

Views up toward the junction and Silex Spring in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Views up toward the junction and Silex Spring

After a mere 0.1 miles, the boardwalk splits.  I went right; it doesn’t really matter which way you go, although going right means that you’ll slope up and step down, while going left would be vice versa.  Just after the junction (if going right), you’ll see the pretty Silex Spring on the right, complete with a small observation area.

Silex Spring, Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Silex Spring

Keep walking and you’ll pretty quickly arrive at another junction; this one is just a loop around the Fountain Paint Pots. Exactly what you’ll see at the Fountain Paint Pots will depend on the time of year and how much rain the park has received recently.  I visited in the fall, so the paint pots were pretty thick and gloppy – they’ll be much more watery in the spring.  Even so, it’s mostly just bubbling mud.

Bubbling mud in the Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Bubbling mud

This was one of my favorite parts of the boardwalk.  Watching the mud bubbles rise and splatter was mesmerizing.

Gloopy, gloppy mud in the Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Gloopy, gloppy mud!

There were also a couple of “mud volcanoes” that were glopping mud very intermittently – you wouldn’t know what they were except that they had mud oozing around their rims.

Mud volcano in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Mud volcano

Heading right, the boardwalk takes you around Red Spouter (very well named!) and over to Leather Pool (which is actually right along the road).

Leather Pool in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Leather Pool

Red Spouter was doing a good job of splattering red mud everywhere (including up on the boardwalk)!

Red spouter, spouting, in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Red spouter, spouting!

From here, you can turn left to finish the loop around the Fountain Paint Pots and head back to the parking area.  I decided to turn right, which took me down some stairs.  The Volcanic Tableland was nice with all of the afternoon clouds…

Clouds over the volcanic tableland, Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Clouds over the volcanic tableland

…but I pretty quickly saw the real draw.  A geyser was erupting down there!

It's a geyser!  (Clepsydra Geyser, specifically!)  Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
It’s a geyser! (Clepsydra Geyser, specifically!)

I raced down the stairs toward the geyser, stopping to snap photos and hoping that I’d get something good before it stopped spewing water.  I shouldn’t have worried.  Clepsydra Geyser was going crazy and simply didn’t stop!

Photographers taking a shot at Clepsydra Geyser, Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Photographers taking a shot at Clepsydra Geyser

We hung around for a while and watched the geyser before continuing along the boardwalk back to the junction, turning right, and then walking back to the parking area.

Closeup of Clepsydra Geyser in the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Closeup of Clepsydra Geyser

If you’re super short on time in Yellowstone, Fountain Paint Pots doesn’t need to be on the top of your list.  But if you’re in the area and have a few minutes (and a parking space), it has some fun features that are well worth seeing!

Dead trees in the wake of changing watercourses of geothermal features, Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Dead trees in the wake of changing watercourses of geothermal features

Round Trip Trail Length: 0.75 miles

Elevation Gain: 78ft. (7,286ft. to 7,319ft.)

Facilities: Primitive restrooms in the parking area

Fees: $35/vehicle, valid 7 days.  Yellowstone Annual and National Park & Federal Lands Passes are accepted.

Trail Notes: It’s worth noting that the Fountain Paint Pots are also called the Lower Geyser Basin.  The entire trail is a boardwalk.  It’s wheelchair accessible except for the stairs down to Clepsydra Geyser, but I believe that you can access this viewpoint by turning left at the first junction (near Silex Spring) and then retracing your steps rather than climbing the stairs.  Stollers should be fine.  Be sure to stay on the boardwalk and hold onto your hat – if it blows off, chances are you won’t get it back!

Bubbles in Fountain Paint Pots, Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Bubbles in Fountain Paint Pots

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

GPS Coordinates for Fountain Paint Pots

TH: 44.5485220°, -110.8071870° (44°32.91132′, -110°48.43122′ / 44°32’54.6792″, -110°48’25.8732″) (7,286ft.) (0.0)

Loop Junction: 44.5498540°, -110.8062940° (44°32.99124′, -110°48.37764′ / 44°32’59.4744″, -110°48’22.6584″) (7,301ft.) (0.11)

End at TH: 44.5485560°, -110.8071780° (44°32.91336′, -110°48.43068′ / 44°32’54.8016″, -110°48’25.8408″) (7,286ft.) (0.77)

The gpx file for Fountain Paint Pots can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 15.7 KB Downloaded 10 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Clouds over the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Clouds over the Lower Geyser Basin

Getting to the Fountain Paint Pots

From Madison Junction (near the Madison Campground), drive south on CA-191.  After 7.8 miles, turn right into the driveway for the parking area for Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail.

From the Old Faithful area, drive north on CA-191 (toward Madison).  After 7.9 miles, turn left into the driveway for the parking area for Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my stroll around the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my stroll around the Lower Geyser Basin & Fountain Paint Pots

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  1. Pingback: How I Hiked 100 Miles in Yellowstone National Park in 11 Days – Anne's Travels

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