Camping, Hiking, Hot Springs, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, Uncategorized, United States, Waterfalls, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Falling for Yellowstone: Day 2 – The Geyser Basins

October 1, 2022

Allllll the hot water! This would be the day for main geyser basins of Yellowstone… the greatest concentration of geysers and hydrothermal features in the world. My geyser geek self would shuttle Eric through the Upper, Black Sand, Midway, and Lower Geyser Basins before the exhausting day was done! We didn’t even get to see them all, as for the sake of time and me feeling under the weather a bit with sinus congestion, we skipped Biscuit Basin and were unable to travel Firehole Lake Drive as it was closed (an atrocity as that is my fave!).

We awoke to a chilly and moist morning, as it rained heavily throughout the night. I was definitely getting my soggy Yellowstone trip I had mused in the past would be “fun.” (I need to update my definition of fun.) Tent was torn down and I boiled up some water for coffee and oatmeal before we set out from Lewis Lake.

Morning views on Lewis Lake

As we climbed up Craigs Pass the scenes turned slightly snowy, which was exciting. Though Cheyenne was having fall-like temperatures, we had yet not had our first freeze or snow, so I was giddy to see some of the white stuff! We made a stop at Isa Lake, an abnormal lake on the Continental Divide that drains opposite of how it should. My previous visit here was under harsh morning light, so I enjoyed photographing the foggy scene with light snow.

Isa Lake straddles the Continental Divide. When the lake overflows from spring runoff, it empties into two oceans… backwards. The east drainage flows into the Pacific Ocean while the west drainage flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
Fozzy in the moody weather
Isa Lake is a magical little spot in this light!

After a quick stop at Kepler Cascades, we descended the pass into hydrothermal heaven.

Kepler Cascades is right off the road and is just a very short walk to a viewing platform.
A closer view of the upper part of Kepler Cascades

$4.89/gallon fuel up later, I pulled into a front row parking spot in the massive Old Faithful parking lot, a first for me. I had a plan of attack, so Eric and I headed first to the visitor center for passport stamps and souvenirs – and a collector’s edition passport book I had been coveting! This was also my chance to grab a photo of the geyser predictions (thought thanks to low visitation, the app and phone service was working perfectly, so didn’t need the photo after all). Not every geyser is predictable, but NPS issues predictions for Old Faithful, Daisy, Grand, Castle, Riverside, and Great Fountain geysers. The exhibits in the visitor center were also open, so we filled up on all the geology knowledge. I wanted some more coffee, so we swung through the general store just to find no coffee, but the perfect souvenir mug for my coworker with her name on it.

A quick glance at Old Faithful’s cone as we hustled towards the visitor center
I LOVE the ravens in Yellowstone. That is all.

Back to the car to change into shoes for miles of thermal wonders, grab cameras… time to chase! Or, well, sit at Old Faithful for a little while.

The historic Old Faithful Inn
Just waiting around on Geyser Hill
Geyser gazer mode engaged!

I wish I could get super excited for Old Faithful, but like in 2020, I found myself a bit disappointed. It’s a great geyser, but not the biggest, not the longest… yet most visitors seem to think this? Because we needed data for our Junior Ranger books, I noted length of eruption, and it was only about two minutes and seemed small. I think Grand Geyser ruined me forever, because THAT is an impressive geyser. I don’t know… but the geyser chase had at least successfully started!

Old Faithful always looks magnificent in photos, I can’t lie about that!

After coffee in the lodge, we set out for the Observation Point, which is reached by a trail that climbs the hill behind the Upper Geyser Basin and gives a panorama view of the area. Neither Eric and I had been up here, and it was listed on several of our national park scratch off posters and books, so had to do it!

Crossing the Firehole River

Upon arriving at the top point of Observation Trail, I noticed Castle Geyser was erupting! I couldn’t tell if it was a major or minor eruption, but either way I was overjoyed! In 2021 I sat in the hot sun for 90 minutes past the prediction time hoping for an eruption of Castle, but it was a dud and never happened… redemption!

Start of the trail up to the Observation Point. It is an uphill hike, but not as bad as other things in Yellowstone (like Brink of the Lower Falls).
Castle Geyser blowing its top as seen from Observation Point
The birds eye view from Observation Point is nifty

After Castle faded out, we headed down to Solitary Geyser. This small geyser is really all out by itself, and plays every 4-8 minutes. The spring actually never erupted until in the early days of the park water was diverted from it for a swimming pool, and it has erupted ever since then (even though water diversion stopped a long time ago). The loop around Observation Hill was great and filled with quietness away from the crowds. I can’t speak for how it is in the middle of summer (though I do believe I was solitary at Solitary Geyser back in August 2020), but definitely I would recommend this trail as a way to get away from the crowds.

Walking through the thick trees to Solitary Geyser
Solitary Geyser
Deposits on the edges of Solitary Geyser
The eruption of Solitary Geyser.

A short descent later, we were back into the thick of things on Geyser Hill, and begun miles of exploring. I was super happy to see Eric really getting into the thermal features, as this meant we meandered and enjoyed things. I can get quite geeky about these things, so happy I wasn’t feeling rushed!

Aurum Geyser
Looking towards the Lion Group
Doublet Pool is always one of my favorites
The thermophilic mats of Doublet Pool
Close up of Sponge Geyser
Just some weird hydrothermal stuff
Pump Geyser splashing away
Infant Geyser. On previous trips this was a chocolate milk color, so it was a nice surprise to see Infant being a little more clear this time around.
Dome Geyser
Looking up towards Giantess, which I saw erupt in 2020.
Sulphide Spring
Close up of Anemone Geyser
Improbable Geyser
Anemone Geyser erupting

As we approached Beehive, a geyser gazer stopped us and explained Beehive was in the eruption window and asked if we had a two-way radio so we could be notified when the indicator started playing. I had explained the geyser gazers to Eric, but I had to giggle that he finally got to witness the true enthusiasts of geysers that camp out for eruptions! Sadly we didn’t have a radio, but it was good to note we might see Beehive.

Beehive Geyser cone
Scissors Spring
Depression Geyser
Arrowhead Spring
A little bit of sunshine!
Heart Spring in front of the Lion Group
Goggles Spring in the foreground of the Lion Group
Little Cub Geyser in the background erupting a bit.

After Geyser Hill, we headed north on the boardwalk to see the other parts of the Upper Geyser Basin. Though it tried to spit rain every once in awhile, we were lucking out with the weather.

Rubber Pool
The unnamed UNNG-CGG-6
Boardwalk dreams heading towards Sawmill

Sawmill was still playing away, which I was excited to see. Sawmill went silent in 2017, but then stirred back alive in June 2021 and has continued eruptions. Tardy Geyser also erupted, and Spasmodic was splashing away, so it was an exciting little corner.

Sawmill Geyser erupting
Close view of one of the vents of Spasmodic Geyser
Belgian Pool
Dead trees behind Grand Geyser
The runoff channel of Grand Geyser is colorful
Turban Geyser playing away
East Economic and Economic Geysers
Beauty Pool in its non-energized state
Chromatic Pool in its energized state
Close up of the colors of Chromatic Pool
Crossing the Firehole River towards the Giant Group, with a view of Oblong Geyser
Firehole River
Giant Geyser last erupted in 2019
Spotted these gentlemen from the distance
Bijou Geyser erupting
Another look at Giant Geyser’s impressive cone

We wandered all the way out to Morning Glory Pool before turning around and heading back to the car… miles away. (Helpful tip – there are vault toilets near Morning Glory at Riverside Geyser, which I was much thankful for!) We were able to catch a distant view of Daisy erupting. Sadly, timing for Grand and Riverside just did not work out for this trip, as we had other things to see and couldn’t hang out all day just at the Upper basin.

Unnamed spring UGGNN005
West Sentinel Geyser in the background as we crossed the Firehole River yet again
Fan Geyser erupting
Morning Glory Pool
I will always think Morning Glory is just bizarre
Norris Pool
Culvert Geyser (foreground) and Square Spring (background)
A good example of “bobby socked trees.”
Rocket and Grotto Geysers
Grotto Geyser is super unique looking and it is thought the cone contains petrified tree stumps
An eruption of Daisy Geyser, obscured by steam and mist
Some little splashing feature off in the distance, Pulsar Spouter

As we approached Castle, I noticed Beehive shoot off, so I took off running to get a better view. Woohoo, we get a show of Beehive! Both times I have seen Beehive have been from Castle, so Castle must be my good luck charm.

We have eruption! Yay Beehive!
I’ve only seen Beehive erupt from a distance, and I’m kind of thankful, as it seems like the spray always comes down on those watching from the boardwalk. Geyser spray has a lot of minerals that can damage glasses, camera lenses, and phones.
Tortoise Shell Spring, Beehive Geyser, Castle Geyser
Boardwalk heading towards the Sawmill Group

After Beehive stopped, I chatted up a fellow geyser enthusiast for a few minutes, and then Eric and I set out for the car. We made it almost to the car before the skies unleashed with heavy rain. I made sandwiches under the rear hatch of Fozzy, and we ate in the car as the rain fell. I was feeling exhausted, but knew the day was still young enough for us to catch some other things before setting out to the Madison Campground, where we would stay for the next two nights.

Black Sand Basin is right across from the Old Faithful complex, so it is easy to pop into. The name is from obsidian sand found in the area. Cliff Geyser erupts every couple of minutes and sits on Iron Spring Creek. Spouter Geyser was also doing its thing. Eric and I explored the entire boardwalk.

Spouter Geyser
Iron Spring Creek
Into the mist at Black Sand Geyser
Rainbow Pool. I always seem to visit Black Sand Basin when it’s rainy, so steam has always obscured my views
Sunset Pool
UNNG-BSB-5 in the foreground, Cliff Geyser in the background
Emerald Spring
One more look at Cliff Geyser

Next up was the overlook for Grand Prismatic Spring, which definitely has to be one of the weirdest things on this planet. I had visited here in 2020, but knew Eric needed to see this view. We had to park in the overflow lot for the Fairy Falls Trailhead, as this is one of the most popular areas of Yellowstone, even in the shoulder season.

Egeria Spring
Egeria Spring
Tire Pool
Silent Pool looked heart shaped! I kept finding so many thermal hearts on this trip.
Looking at the steam in the distance
This view of Grand Prismatic is one of my favorites, where all you can see are the colors reflecting in the steam.

Due to the clouds and occasionally rainy weather, Grand Prismatic wasn’t quite as brilliant as it would be on a sunny, summer day.

Grand Prismatic Spring on a gloomy day
Definitely a bit muted
As the trees keep growing, I’m not sure the Grand Prismatic overlook will remain something with a view…
Grand Prismatic Spring

As we drove past the parking lot for Midway Geyser Basin (where you can get ground level next to Grand Prismatic), I noted a long line of cars waiting for parking, so we skipped this. Yep, even in October this is an issue…

I was sad to discover Firehole Lake Drive was closed, which is one of my favorite things to do in Yellowstone. I (half) jokingly declared that the entire trip was ruined, and was a bit salty about it. I always get great photos of geysers erupting by my car on this road, and enjoy getting up and close to so many of the features. I am not sure why it was closed and have had a hard time locating specific information on this online – whether it is from the June 2022 flooding disaster or from thermal activity damaging the road (like in 2014).

To try to make up for my astounding disappointment, I pulled into the Lower Geyser Basin so we could watch some bubbling mud.

Celestine Pool. If you read day 1’s blog, I talked about people who jump into thermal features after dogs that shouldn’t have been on boardwalks… this is the site of one such occurrence. That’s me, ever the encyclopedia of Yellowstone thermal deaths…
Silex Spring is always one of the prettiest
Fountain Paint Pot
Red Spouter
Textures of Red Spouter
Leather Pool
I had Parkie with me, my prairie dog I acquired at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. A woman spotted Parkie, and asked if she could get a photo with her traveling Yogi Bear. So here is British (? Couldn’t quite place the accent…) Yogi Bear and Parkie together at Leather Pool! These are the moments that make traveling just so fun!
Looking across the Volcanic Tableland
Spasm Geyser (foreground) and the perpetually erupting Clepsydra Geyser.

Finally, we had filled our hydrothermal cups for the day and turned north towards Madison. But we could not make it straight there, as the bison were out in full effect near Fountain Flat Drive, so we stopped to grab photos.

Evening views at Fountain Flats
Dinner time
Okay, so I took a lot of photos of the fluffy cows!

I have stayed at Madison Campground at all my recent Yellowstone visits. It is one of the two (along with Lewis Lake) that are still open this time of year currently. Learning a lesson from 2021 on site size, I reserved a large tent site for two nights, and we received site #G264. This is a big site, but is very out in the open and exposed – no trees to shield the tent! The site behind ours was really cool, I believe it is G237, and I would’ve loved to be in that one. The commercial campgrounds assign you a spot, but maybe it is possible to request one?

Madison Campground #G263 and our home the next two nights.

First task was setting up the super soggy tent in the rain, and then cooked some dinner as the rain fell. The moisture was making everyone’s campfires really smoky, aggravating my asthma that has become increasingly reactive to campfire and wildfire smoke over the last few years, adding to my grumpiness. Luckily after a heart dinner of mashed potatoes with some Dinty Moore stew on top, I perked up!

After dinner, we had a bit of daylight left so we set out to the one-way Firehole Canyon Drive. The highlight of this was finding a massive biomass foam “donut” in the Firehole River! Eric asked the ranger about this the next day, about how it formed, etc, and we learned all about biomass foam in rivers.

Appreciating the volcanic geology on Firehole Canyon Drive
Small rapids on the Firehole River
Firehole Falls
The biomass foam donut!! Now here is something I wanted to put in the car and take home, ha!
Rapids at the start of the Firehole Canyon

Back to camp, sinus medication acquired at the small campground store, into sleeping clothes, Junior Ranger homework, sleep! Day 2 done!

3 thoughts on “Falling for Yellowstone: Day 2 – The Geyser Basins”

  1. That’s a lot of great photos. I’ve been there three times so I recognized many of the places and geysers you feature in your photographs. It is certainly a fascinating place and somewhat dangerous. Some people who had left the trails at the geyser basins fell through and died (the ranger told us). We had a risky encounter with a grizzly bear and her cubs. She was running towards us as we were running back to the car. A friend of mine was actually stalked by a grizzly bear and I watched another friend being charged by a bison/buffalo. The bison stopped though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well a bear encounter while sitting inside a car or from a far distance is fun and exciting. Encountering a grizzly outside and closeup or even having one chasing you that’s less fun. That’s why you should never hike alone in Yellowstone and if you hike don’t put sandwiches in your backpack.


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