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Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone National Park

July 28th, 2011

0.6 miles
50 vertical feet
Total Time: 0:32

Starting elevation
7258 feet
Max elevation
7305 feet

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From West Yellowstone, drive east to enter the park. Just past the Madison Campground, turn right toward Old Faithful. After a few miles, turn right into the Middle Geyser Basin parking area. The trail starts near the far end of the lot.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

At just over a half mile, this isn't much of a hike, but I felt like I had to take it based on the aerial views of the Grand Prismatic Spring I had seen. So we stopped at the Middle Geyser Basin parking lot, along with all the RVs and tour buses, and joined the masses on a short loop on boardwalks.

The path immediately crosses over the Firehole River, then passes through a mass of warm steam rising up from the Excelsior Geyser Crater. Interestingly, I have a picture of myself from 30 years earlier at the same place, and it doesn't look much different.

Once past the steam, we took the right fork (the left fork simply traverses the loop in the opposite direction). We passed the Turquoise Pool and then the Opal Pool, then approached the main attraction, the Grand Prismatic Spring. As we approached the spring, we could see steam rising from its edges, and the colors of the rainbow reflected in that steam - blue, orange, maybe a little bit of green. As we came closer, the predominant color on the ground in front of us was orange.

Turquoise Pool

Boardwalk leading to Grand Prismatic Spring (notice the steam colors)

Closer look at the orange ground (picture by Nathan)

There are a couple of information signs here to explain that the spring pours 500 gallons of hot water into the Firehole River every minute, and that the colors are the result of various bacteria. As we got closer, we could see orange and brown on the outside of the spring, then yellow, green, and blue in the middle. If you are interested in getting more of a bird's eye view, it is possible to climb up onto the hills above the spring, although not from the boardwalks, of course.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Panoramic of Grand Prismatic Spring
(Click image to view full size)

We stuck to the boardwalk, leaving the spring behind and reaching the Excelsior Geyser Crater. We could see several hats lost below, as well as in a few other places along the boardwalk. Once you lose your hat here, you're not getting it back. The crater is a big pit with steaming hot water in the middle, and it's the body of water responsible for the mass of steam you have to walk through again on the way back.

Excelsior Geyser Crater

Excelsior Geyser Crater

Me, at the Excelsior Geyser Crater in 1981

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