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Morning Glory Pool, Upper Geyser Basin | Yellowstone National Park

Upper Geyser Basin: Best of Yellowstone National Park

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Drawing crowds to Yellowstone National Park for over a century-and-a-half, the historically reliable Old Faithful is the park’s most iconic and popular attraction. Though, in our opinion, Old Faithful isn’t the most spectacular thing going on in the Yellowstone Upper Geyser Basin.

Did you know Old Faithful is not the only geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin? Nope, it’s not the tallest, nor is it the only predictable geyser. Though, it is spectacular and worth seeing.

In addition to geysers, the Upper Geyser Basin is brimming with colorful hot springs, and bubbling mudpots. Though many Yellowstone tourists only plan enough time to see Old Faithful, we recommend dedicating at least half-a-day to explore the magical world of the Upper Geyser Basin.

Yellowstone Upper Geyser Basin Pinterest Image

Before heading into the Upper Geyser Basin, pop into the visitor center and check on the predicted eruption times for Old Faithful and any other geysers set to erupt while you are in the area. In addition to Old Faithful, the park makes regular predictions on five other geysers.

Once Old Faithful explodes, the 130-140 feet spray can last for 1.5 to 5 minutes on average.

Upper Geyser Basin predictions timetable, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Upper Geyser Basin predictions timetable | Old Faithful Visitor Center | Yellowstone National Park

You’ll find most visitors waiting for Old Faithful in a semi-circle of bleachers behind the visitor center, but there are several other spots to watch from.

  • Follow the boardwalk to the backside of the geyser to get photos with the Old Faithful Inn in the background.
  • Take a hike to the Old Faithful Viewing Area for a view above the crowds. Just remember to bring bear spray.
  • Grab a seat, and an ice cream, on the Old Faithful Inn second-floor balcony.
  • On a hot day, you can even wait and watch for Old Faithful from the floor to ceiling windows in the air-conditioned visitor center.
Old Faithful Geyser Sign, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful Geyser Sign | Yellowstone National Park
Erupting Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful Geyser erupting | Upper Geyser Basin

Be Awestruck by the Old Faithful Inn

Next door to the Old Faithful Visitor and Education Center, the Old Faithful Inn towers over the parking lot. From the outside, this historic log cabin is impressive, but the inside is even more incredible.

Built in 1904, this national historic landmark is the largest log structure in the world. Made from local logs and stone, the lobby features a towering stone fireplace and a hand-crafted clock.

For a deeper historic look at the Old Faithful Inn, check at the lobby desk for the free tour times. Usually, they leave from the fireplace at 9:30am, 11:30am, 2pm, and 3:30pm.

Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful Inn | Yellowstone National Park
Lobby of Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Lobby of the Old Faithful Inn | Yellowstone National Park

If you get front row seats, the second-floor balcony gives one of the best views over Old Faithful when it erupts. Grab a Huckleberry ice cream from the lobby deli to enjoy while you wait.

View from upper balcony, Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
View from Old Faithful Inn's second floor balcony | Yellowstone National Park

Watch Out for Geysers in Upper Geyser Basin

Around two dozen geysers, and at least a dozen springs, are easily viewable from the boardwalks around the Upper Geyser Basin.

Five of the geysers run on predictable time schedules, like Old Faithful, with a bit of tolerance. Others go off randomly, but some, surprisingly regularly. While walking around the Upper Geyser Basin, we saw three unpredicted eruptions from Sawmill, Grotto, and Beehive Geysers.

Sawmill Geyser

Looking more like a water fountain than a geyser, Sawmill Geyser splashed about for 15 minutes, causing the kids around us to burst into laughing squeals.

Sawmill Geyser, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Sawmill Geyser | Upper Geyser Basin | Yellowstone National Park

Grotto Geyser & South Grotto Fountain

As one of the more unique geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin, Grotto Geyser was our personal favorite. Starting the show, the nearby South Grotto Fountain burst from the ground in a steady stream of hot water.

Billowing smoke from its ashtray shaped mound, water hissed and sputtered as Grotto Geyser came to life. As the geyser continued to let off steam, the air filled with a strong sulfur smell. 

The geyser was still going strong when we left after watching for 15 minutes.

Grotto Geyser erupting, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Grotto Geyser | Upper Geyser Basin | Yellowstone National Park

Beehive Geyser

As we sat on the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn waiting for Old Faithful’s 3pm show, we could hear screaming from across the parking lot. As we looked over, Beehive Geyser was busy drenching onlookers as they moved through the geyser’s mist to safety.

Watching Beehive Geyser erupt from Old Faithful Inn balcony, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Beehive Geyser Erupting | Upper Geyser Basin

A Word of Caution

Throughout the park, signs warn of strictly sticking to the boardwalks and trails. They really mean it!

The ground is hot and treacherous. Sadly, on the day we visited West Thumb Basin, rangers found the remains of a missing person in one of the hot springs. If that doesn’t convince you to stay on the path, we don’t know what will.

Be Captivated by the Colors of the Hot Springs

Not everything in the Upper Geyser Basin is trying to splash you. Calm, colorful pools dot the Upper Geyser Basin, and they are stunning. Unfortunately, they are also scolding hot, and you can’t swim in them.

Green and orange of Morning Glory Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Morning Glory Pool | Upper Geyser Basin | Yellowstone National Park

You can walk all the way from Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin to Biscuit Basin, but it’s a long way. With its emerald pool, we found Morning Glory Spring was not only our favorite spring, but also a great turnaround point. Biscuit Basin has its own parking area.

Other favorite pools in the Upper Geyser Basin include Heart Spring, Beauty Pool, and Chromatic Pool.

Heart Spring, Upper Geyser Basin, Old Faithful Complex, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Heart Spring | Upper Geyser Basin

Where to Stay for the Upper Geyser Basin

Distances across Yellowstone are vast, so staying in the park is your best option, if you can. Hotels in the park book up quickly, often months in advance. We also felt the hotels were expensive, but again, you can’t beat the location.

For Old Faithful,

  • Old Faithful Inn sits within the Upper Geyser Basin complex and you can’t get any closer. However, it’s often one of the first hotels in Yellowstone to fill up. You may get lucky and find a cancellation about a month out.
  • Another fantastic choice for exploring the Geyser Country is West Yellowstone. We stayed at Yellowstone Park Hotel on our fourth night. The rooms were clean, comfortable, and the location was excellent for being outside the park.
  • In the park, we stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel for our first three nights. We loved the location, but it did take us about an hour to get over to the Geyser Basins.

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