Yellowstone National Park: Mammoth Hot Springs

Explore the otherworldly landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs on this easy, 1.7-mile boardwalk loop in northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park.
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Explore the otherworldly landscape of Mammoth Hot Springs on this easy, 1.7-mile boardwalk loop in northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park.

Tour the spectacular geothermal features of Mammoth Hot Springs on this 1.7-mile hike past hot springs, thermal pools and terrace structures. Although Yellowstone National Park is home to half the world's known geothermal features and has the world's largest concentration of geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs is especially unique. The water in this area ascends through ancient limestone deposits rather than the lava flows common in other parts of the park. The result: A wonderland of otherworldly-looking features unique to Yellowstone National Park.
Starting from the Mammoth Terraces Boardwalk, head north for 0.4 mile before reaching the constantly-changing Main Terrace. This feature is characterized by eerily-stunted trees, countless travertine cascades, and clouds of steamy vapors filtering the view of Mount Everts in the background.
Next, pass New Blue Spring, Cleopatra Terrace, and Palette Springs as you continue your boardwalk loop. Vividly colored by the heat-loving bacteria living in and around them, these features serve as appetizers for one of Mammoth’s most popular attractions, the multi-tiered Minerva Terrace. Plunging down 30 feet of intricate travertine steps, this feature is constantly growing, thanks to the 500 gallons of mineral-rich water that flows from it each minute.
Continuing your loop, you’ll pass the Mound Terrace—another magnificent structure—as you head toward the hike’s grand finale: a breathtaking vista of the Main Terrace spilling over the edge of a plateau with views of the Gardner River Canyon and Snow Mountains in the distance. Spend some time here and take in the scene before heading back to Waypoint 11 and turning left to return to the trailhead.

MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/.
-Mapped by Jeff Chow

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 2.7

Waypoints

MAM001

Location: 44.9650959, -110.7080269

From the parking lot, head north through a bubbling, vaporous landscape on the Mammoth Terraces Trail.

MAM002

Location: 44.9672156, -110.7067461

Head left at the Y-junction.

MAM003

Location: 44.9679519, -110.7074636

Pass a trail on the right: The once-vibrant spring the trail leads to is now dormant.

MAM004

Location: 44.968455, -110.707312

Main Terrace: This plateau-like terrace is comprised of white travertine (a sedimentary rock that forms when calcium bicarbonate is deposited by mineral or hot springs). Because of the unstable nature of the area, the Main Terrace may appear different from one visit to the next.

MAM005

Location: 44.968902, -110.707496

New Blue Spring: An expansive travertine structure with several pools fed by one active pool in the middle. With Mount Everts looming in the background, the New Blue Springs provides postcard-like vistas.

MAM006

Location: 44.970147, -110.70638

To the left, take in views of what is now known as Cleopatra Terrace (the nearby original Cleopatra Terrace is now called Minerva Springs). This active hot spring owes its eye-catching white and orange hues to millions of tiny bacteria.

MAM007

Location: 44.971988, -110.705817

The aptly-named Palette Spring spouts steaming water down a terraced slope painted in vivid shades of green, brown, and orange.

MAM008

Location: 44.970806, -110.7048941

Widely considered to be one of the more dazzling displays of Mammoth Hot Springs, the multi-tiered Minerva Terrace features 30 feet of intricate travertine steps. When active, travertine accumulates at a rate of 8.5 inches per year. The terrace run-off channels sport a rainbow-like display of reds, yellows, oranges and greens.

MAM009

Location: 44.9706162, -110.7043254

Turn right to head west at the Y-junction.

MAM010

Location: 44.9701361, -110.704599

Pass by the monumental Mound Terrace, which frames the Main Terrace like the walls of a castle. At the Y-junction, turn right to head west.

MAM011

Location: 44.9701266, -110.7063492

Bear left and head south at the Y-junction.

MAM011

Location: 44.9671948, -110.7067153

Take the short spur to the left for a incredible views of the Main Terrace and Gardner River Canyon.

MAM012

Location: 44.966808, -110.705185

At the end of the boardwalk, catch awe-inspiring views of the Main Terrace cascading into the valley below. The Gardner River Canyon to the east and the Gallatin National Forest and Snow Mountains to the north form the backdrop. To return to the trailhead, retrace your steps back to Waypoint 11 and turn left.

Standing Symbols Of Change

Location: 44.967213, -110.706723

Trees suffocate as calcium carbonate released from the springs slowly builds around their trunks and clogs their roots.

Terraces

Location: 44.967229, -110.706823

Glimpse of the edges of Main Terrace.

Keep Off!

Location: 44.970563, -110.706606

What appears to be solid ground in active and frequently changing thermal areas may only be a thin crust covering the springs' scalding waters. Exercise caution and observe all warning signs.

Terraces at Sunset

Location: 44.970637, -110.706755

Cleopatra Terrace

Location: 44.970637, -110.706755

The terrace gets its colors from the microbes and bacteria that populate the stream.

Minerva Terrace

Location: 44.971861, -110.70561

Comprised of countless tinier terraces, Minerva Terrace is one of the most popular attractions in the park.

Minerva Terrace Panorama

Location: 44.971861, -110.70561

Because the terraces grow so rapidly, the terrain seen today differs drastically than the terrain seen in generations past.

Sunset over Lower Terrace

Location: 44.971149, -110.704825

Take in northern panoramas of the Lower Terrace, the outpost of Mammoth, and the far-off Elk Plaza plateau.

Mound Terrace

Location: 44.9704037, -110.7046956

In dry times, imagine these rounded hills of calcium carbonate alive with colorful microbes and steaming water from hot springs above.