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This quick, 0.9-mile lasso loop in Norris Geyser Basin visits the ever-changing thermal features of Porcelain Basin. Boasting the hottest thermal landscape in Yellowstone National Park, Norris Geyser Basin is a memorable stop on your park tour. From the parking area, head west to the Norris Geyser Basin Museum. Stop at the museum to check out the exhibits, then head north to a 4-way junction. Continue straight at the intersection and enter the stark expanses of Porcelain Basin.
At the next junction, bear left to start the clockwise loop (you’ll find a geyser at every turn). Take your time and examine the wide variety of thermal features that surround the boardwalk—some bubble calmly before exploding in a shower of steamy water, while others sputter continuously like an old lawn mower. Fix a keen eye on the white rock surfaces near the trail to see it bubble and pulsate from the heat and pressure of water flowing just below. Lucky hikers may even see a new feature burst forth from the crust. At the end of the loop, turn left to return to the trailhead.
MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381; nps.gov/yell/.
-Mapped by Jeff Chow
- Distance: 1.5
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Norris Geyser Basin Trailhead: Follow the path to the Norris Geyser Basin Museum and heed the warnings to stay on the boardwalk.
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Norris Geyser Basin Museum: Stop to check out the museum’s exhibits, which explain the origins of the features found here. Next, leave the building and pick up the paved pathway on the other side.
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Continue straight at 4-way junction.
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Look out across the basin to what may be the hottest point in the park. Black Growler Steam Vent has recorded temperatures between 199 and 260 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn left to continue the tour of the basin.
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Whale’s Mouth: Some people think this hot spring resembles the mouth and gullet of a giant fish. Look down onto this pool of heated water and decide for yourself.
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Turn left at 3-way junction, skirting the edge of the milky white Porcelain Basin. The color in this area originates from the siliceous sinter that also makes this area so malleable. Similar to the material that makes up cone geysers in the park, the siliceous sinter accumulates at a comparatively slow rate of 1 inch per century but will occasionally form and block hot springs and geysers only to force the pressure to be released in other weak spots.
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Continue straight at 3-way to check out Porcelain Springs. The phototrophs and chemotrophs thrive in the superheated environment surrounding the vent. Next, backtrack to Waypoint 7 and turn left. Ahead, the path reconnects with Waypoint 3. Turn left at this 4-way junction to return to the museum and the trailhead.
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