Yellowstone NP: Upper Geyser Basin

My first adventure on my second trip to Yellowstone was walking Upper Geyser Basin. I highly recommend picking up a copy of the Old Faithful Trail Guide booklet from the Park Ranger desk at the Old Faithful Visitor Center. The booklet has great information about the thermal features in the area and includes a trail map. A $1 donation is requested for each Trail Guide booklet at Yellowstone NP.

old faithful visitor center
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center

Also at the Old Faithful Visitor Center (as well as at the other visitor centers in the park) is a board that tells you when Old Faithful, Castle, Grand, Daisy, Riverside, and Great Fountain Geysers are expected to erupt next. These geysers erupt at predictable increments and the Park Rangers track them for visitors. When I arrived, I had about 40 minutes till Old Faithful Geyser was predicted to erupt. I found a seat and alternated between reading my trail guide and people watching. Old Faithful Geyser draws massive crowds so if you want a seat it’s best to get there early.

old faithful crowd
waiting for Old Faithful to erupt with a thousand of my closest friends
old faithful erupting
Old Faithful Geyser erupts about every 90 minutes

It was really funny listening to little kids’ reactions and commentary about the geyser erupting.

After Old Faithful erupted, there were people going every which way. In order to take a break from gobs of people, I hiked the 160 feet up to Observation Point. There’s great views of Old Faithful Geyser and surrounding buildings. AND few people are willing to make the hike. It is probably one of the quietest spots I found the entire time I was in Yellowstone.

old faithful from observation point
view of Old Faithful area from Observation Point

From Observation Point you have the option of continuing on to Solitary Geyser. Its eruptions are about 4 feet high and happen every 5-7 minutes.

solitary geyser
Solitary Geyser


Once done with the Observation Point Loop, I braved the crowds on the boardwalks, where I learned a few lessons:

Lesson #1 of the Yellowstone Boardwalks: Most of the people on the boardwalks are not hikers. They will look at you like you have 3 heads if you tell them “Good Morning” or “Hello” as you pass each other. *Exception to Lesson #1: most of the people you come across early in the morning on a Yellowstone boardwalk, before the crowds wake up, will tell you hello or good morning. I think these people are either hikers and follow hiker etiquette or early risers are just friendlier.


Lesson #2: People do not understand that the boardwalks are only so wide and that it is rude to walk 3 across when there are people coming towards them from the opposite direction. I lost count of how many times I was almost knocked off the boardwalk or I saw another person almost get knocked off. Luckily the farther you get away from the Old Faithful Visitor Center, Lodge, Inn, etc. the more the crowds thin out.

Lesson #3: was actually learned when I was 12 and my family and I visited Yellowstone for the first time. The hydro-thermal features can release toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. I remember feeling sick while walking around the Upper Geyser Basin when we visited. This trip I didn’t have any issues. *If you do start to feel ill while near the hydro-thermal features, it is recommended to leave that location.

Heart Spring

Hot springs are the most common hydro-thermal feature in Yellowstone with more than 10,000 of them found in the park. They are similar to geysers, but they do not erupt.

Crested Pool

Crested Pool is a hot spring. Its waters can reach temperatures of 201-202 degrees Fahrenheit.

Castle Geyser is one of the six geysers that the rangers predict its eruption times.

Blue Star Spring
Beehive Geyser

Beehive Geyser can reach 150-200 feet when it erupts.

ear spring
appropriately named Ear Spring
chromatic pool
Chromatic Pool
giant geyser
Giant Geyser
grotto geyser
Grotto Geyser
upper geyser basin map
map of Upper Geyser Basin included in the Old Faithful Trail Guide

I walked to Grotto Geyser and back. If I had known that parking was going to be such a pain, I would’ve continued on to Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin. Plus, this way I have something to look forward to on my third trip to Yellowstone 🙂