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Yellowstone: Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring

  • Post last modified:October 15, 2023
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Headed to Yellowstone National Park? You won’t want to miss Midway Geyser Basin, and its crown jewel, Grand Prismatic Spring.

Though Midway Geyser Basin is small, it’s home to the world’s third largest hot spring. Some say the mesmerizing Grand Prismatic Spring looks like a giant, weeping blue eye. To me, it’s something more mystical, like the golden eye of Horus. Either way, it’s phenomenal and worth seeing.

Be sure to put Midway Geyser Basin on your checklist. Here’s what you need to know for your visit.

Midway Geyser Basin Pinterest Image

From the large, but always full parking lot, it was a short walk over the Firehole River Bridge to reach the Midway Geyser Basin and the 1/2-mile boardwalk trail.

Before even crossing the bridge, the atmosphere was set. Clouds of smoke circled the eerie orange streams gushing into the river.

Orange streams, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The trail is fully accessible, with just a word of caution on the incline at the start, and the narrowness of the boardwalk. During peak hours, it can get crowded, which is when the narrowness may cause challenges for those in wheelchairs or with strollers.

Excelsior Geyser Spring

Taking the boardwalk around the enormous azure colored Excelsior Geyser Crater, at first glance the steamy lake seemed placid. However, on closer inspection, hydrothermal activity was bubbling all around the edges. This massive lake was once a geyser, but the last time it erupted was in 1985.

Excelsior Geyser Crater, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Grand Prismatic Spring

From the crater, the boardwalk wove its way to the Grand Prismatic Spring’s beautiful orange tentacles.

Honestly, from the boardwalk, you can’t appreciate the color, nor the size of the world’s third largest hot spring. You’re way too close.

We have two suggestions.

  1. Before going, search for “Midway Geyser Basin” in Google Maps and set the map to satellite view. Is it not one of the most incredible natural landforms you’ve ever seen?
  2. We are going to tell you how to get to the overlook. It doesn’t look like the satellite image, but it’s still amazing to see.
Grand Prismatic Spring viewed from boardwalk, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

From the boardwalk, look up toward the hills to see the crowds at the viewpoint. Unfortunately, you can’t reach the viewpoint from the Midway Geyser Basin.

Crowds looking down on Grand Pragmatic Springs, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Though you can’t see the Grand Prismatic Spring from the basin’s boardwalks, the mirrored sky and phenomenal reflections still make the 30-minute boardwalk trail worth doing.

Though, if you only have time for walking the Midway Geyser Basin or doing the hike to the viewpoint, we recommend the hike. Just plan it for a sunny day. You want the rainbow of colors on full display.

Visitors on boardwalk reflected in the spring, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Opal and Turquoise Pools

Pretty in their own right, but compared to the first two pools, these two smaller pools just can’t compete. Since it was a hot day, we only took a quick look before leaving for the Grand Prismatic Spring overlook.

Witness Midway Geyser Basin from Above

To reach the trail for the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook, drive south from the Midway Geyser Basin parking area about 1.5 miles, to the Fairy Falls Trailhead.

The main parking area is small and doesn’t allow RV’s and Trailers. Though Google maps only shows one parking area, we are sure we saw another just a tad further south. Either way, there’s not a lot of parking.

Visitors walking the boardwalks around Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The trail is an easy .6-mile hike up an old dirt road with a subtle incline. The trail does pass through thick forest, so bring your bear spray.

On the left, look for the small slip path off the main trail. A few stairs take you up to the overlook. Though it’s a large overlook, it can feel crowded as several trees block some of the view.

For the best views, wait until the sun is high in the sky. You want all the vibrant colors on full display. Plus, the cool mornings leave the pool covered over in steamy mist.

To return, head back the way you came. Or continue on Fairy Falls Trail, for 1.6 more miles to reach Fairy Falls. Seriously, bring bear spray.

Where to Stay for Midway Geyser Basin

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

For Midway Geyser Basin,

  • Old Faithful Inn is just down the road, in the Upper Geyser Basin. It’s often one of the first hotels in Yellowstone to fill up, but you may get lucky and find a cancellation about a month out.
  • Another fantastic option for exploring the Geyser Country is West Yellowstone. We stayed at Yellowstone Park Hotel on our fourth night exploring the park. 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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