Yellowstone National Park – Day 2

This is a continuation of Yellowstone National Park – Day 1

I want to begin this post with that our experience did not seem like your average visit. We spent the day walking and hiking to see the geothermal activity of Yellowstone in the Basin areas – Midway and Upper. It’s amazing that sixty percent of the worlds geysers are located within Yellowstone!

I just want to state that we were EXTREMELY lucky we witnessed so many geysers erupting just as we were arriving or only having to wait about 20 minutes. With geyser eruption times varying between 4 -24 hours it was an amazing experience! It did help that some geysers, when they finally do erupt, can last up to 20 minutes so that helped. Hopefully your experience will be just as lucky.

What We Saw:

Midway Basin – Grand Prismatic Spring

Midway Basin is a collection of several springs, the most famous of these being the Grand Prismatic Spring also known as the “Eye of the Earth.” Even from a viewpoint that is level to the spring, it was gorgeous and full of vibrant colors. Blue in the middle, yellow, orange, and green at the edges.

If you have more time I HIGHLY recommend you take the hike to view the Prismatic Spring from the top. Simply viewing it from the boardwalk didn’t seem to give it true justice. We left already planning our return and to dedicate more time to seeing the Spring properly.

Park at the Fairy Falls Trail head. If you are heading south down the main loop road, just look for a turn off/parking area on the right hand side of the road just south of Midway geyser basin. From the parking lot, you will be hiking back toward the spring and then up the hill.

It’s not that big of a hill.

The trail is completely flat until you get to the area where you climb the hill. It is steep and you do need to use common sense in choosing which way is the best for you. We saw plenty of families with young ones (like 5 and 6 yrs) on top of the hill while viewing the spring. So if they can make it, I think a reasonably able-bodied person can make it up a hill.

Accessibility Notes: Wheelchair-accessible parking, boardwalk, and restrooms. Not accessible to go up the hill for top view of Prismatic Spring.

Old Faithful

The geyser erupts about every 90 minutes and there are signs once you are in the area informing you of the next eruption. There is a lot of room to watch, and even on such a busy summer day you really only need to there about 15 minutes early to grab a spot.

While at Old Faithful we took part in a Junior Ranger Program and they had a fun way for adults and children to predict the next eruption.

Step 1
Wait for Old Faithful to erupt and time its eruption from when water begins splashing continuously out of the cone until only steam is coming out.

A. Starting Time: ______ Example: 11:58 am

B. Ending Time: ______ Example: 12:01 pm

C. Length of eruption to nearest half minute: ______ Example: 4 mins

Step 2
Using the table, find the length of the eruption (C) to read directly across in the same to see the prediction of the interval time until the next eruption.

Our eruption was 4 minutes so the next eruption might be in 94 minutes
Step 3
Add the starting time for the first eruption (A) with the interval number found from the chart above for the time for the next eruption:

starting time (A) + interval until next eruption (D) = time next eruption predicted

______ + ______ = ______

Example: 11:48 am + 94 minutes = Next Eruption Prediction is at = 1:22 pm 

Step 4
Visit the Old Faithful Visitor center to see if you were right!

Upper Geyser Basin

Leaving the Old Faithful area we walked towards Castle Geyser on the bike path and then crossed the river over the bridge to go on the walking trail to see other geysers and springs.

Castle Geyser

Has the largest cone and erupts about every 10 -12 hours, lasting about 20 minutes.

Sawmill Geyser

Named for the way the water in the pool spins around during eruption, like a sawmill blade

Spasmodic Geyser

This geyser as two main vents with large pools just above, and several smaller vents. Its name tells you the eruptions are irregular.

Grand Geyser

The tallest predictable geyser in the world! Blew Old Faithful out of the water!

Grotto Geyser

Eruptions of Grotto Geyser last between one hour and one day to eight hours. It doesn’t erupt very high, but it is still very unique from its impressive shaped cone

Morning Glory Spring

Famous for its beautiful colored water, which is caused by bacteria and objects, such as “luck” coins, that clog the heat vents, causing reduced temperature and discoloring to the hot spring

Accessibility Note: Wheelchair-accessible walkways lead from all parking areas to Old Faithful Geyser, and from the visitor center to other hydrothermal features.

Things to Know:

  • Some visitors told us they were waiting up to two hours to see a geyser eruption. Everyone said it was worth the wait so come with some patience for a great show.
  • Sometimes you just get lucky with your timing for the non-predictable geysers. Don’t let the lack of activity get you down, just come back to the area in a bit and you might get lucky then!
  • The predictable geysers have time windows available: Old Faithful is +/- 10 minutes. Others can be +/- 2 hours. If you have cell phone reception when you are in the area, you can call 307-344-2751 to get eruption predictions for Old Faithful or log onto geysertimes.org  or geyser.net/mobile.
  • You can also download the Yellowstone App that can be used even without cell coverage.
  • To learn even more, take advantage of a Ranger led walk, there were about 4 or 5 just in the Upper Geyser Basin/Old Faithful area alone. Schedules are printed in the newspaper provided when you enter the park or on the NPS website here.
  • If you are looking to buy souvenirs at while at Old Faithful, don’t buy at the Visitor’s Center. Walk over to the Old Faithful General Store where they have groceries, a restaurant, souvenirs, camping gear, ice cream, and more.
    • Don’t go right after an Old Faithful eruption! Most people came rushing over after an eruption and you could hardly walk in the store. Come mid-interval and it’s very pleasant.
    • Items in the gift shop are about 3 times the price elsewhere in the park. For example, if you want to buy a Yellowstone shirt it’s around $30 at Old Faithful, but I saw the same shirt as $15 at a store at the Canyon Village. If you want something that specifically says “Old Faithful” on it, I would definitely buy it at Old Faithful.  Other than that, you may want to look elsewhere for gifts.

    View All the Places Visited on our Summer Road Trip

Yellowstone is a humbling experience. You are walking atop a caldera. You are seeing natural forces bubbling up to the top creating erupting shows and colorful pools. Take your time and appreciate the underlying work that is happening below ground; and try to visit again soon!

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