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Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful via Upper Geyser Basin

This easy 5.8-miler tours a veritable geyser Hall of Fame in Yellowstone National Park before culminating with views of the legendary Old Faithful.

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Old Faithful may be the most famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park, but it’s by no means the park’s only geothermal big-shot. Peruse some of the park’s other incredible thermal features on this spectacular, 5.8-mile out-and-back in Upper Geyser Basin. From the parking lot near Grand Loop Road, visit the steamy, deep-blue Sapphire Pool before turning around and heading east on the Biscuit Basin Trail.
After passing the Gem Pool, stop for an awe-inspiring panorama of the Firehole River, a steaming river partially fed by surrounding hot springs. Next, check out the picturesque Morning Glory Pool before catching performances by the Fan and Mortar Geysers, which always erupt at the same time, and the Riverside Geyser, one of the more consistent exploders in the park.
Moving on, catch an incredible display of endurance with the Grotto Geyser, which sometimes erupts for up to 10 straight hours. Next, prepare to be amazed by the Grand Geyser, which explodes up to 200 feet in the air, making it the world’s tallest regularly-erupting geyser.
Before hitting Old Faithful, catch a quick break from the explosions and steam by walking through a quieter, wooded section of the trail. Then, around mile 2.4, hit the lesser-traveled backside of Old Faithful and prepare for the legend to put on a show. Eruptions occur ever 91 minutes on average and last for up to 5 minutes. Before retracing your steps back to the trailhead, continue around the geyser to visit the majestic Old Faithful Inn or the visitor center.

GUIDEBOOK AND MAP: Yellowstone Treasures, by Janet Chapple ($24, Plan other trips in the park using BACKPACKER’s Yellowstone National Park page.

CONDITIONS: For current conditions and updates, go to
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MORE PARK INFO: Yellowstone National Park, (307) 344-7381;
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-Mapped by Jeff Chow


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.3



Location: 44.484938, -110.85192

From the parking lot on the west side of Grand Loop Road, take a loop around the steamy Sapphire Pool. Then, cross the street by heading east on the Biscuit Basin Trail.


Location: 44.483855, -110.850014

Bear right at the Y-junction to stay on the Biscuit Basin Trail (toward Old Faithful). The left-hand fork leads to the Power Line Trail.


Location: 44.479812, -110.848854

Heading south, scope out the bright berry blue Gem Pool to your right. The pool’s intense water temperatures make it impossible for algae to grow in it.


Location: 44.477217, -110.845731

To the right, capture views of the supernatural-looking Firehole River. Shrouded by wisps of billowing steam, the snake-like river gets portions of its water from surrounding hot springs and thermal features, giving it abnormally high temperatures.


Location: 44.475127, -110.843425

Hang a quick right to scope the dazzling Morning Glory Pool. Once tinted with vivid hues of blue and orange, the pool now appears duller (though still magnificent) because of objects thrown into it by visitors, clogging its vents. Afterward, continue straight onto the paved road past bathrooms and the picnic area.


Location: 44.474178, -110.842373

To your right are the Fan and Mortar Geysers, which always erupt at the same time (although the eruptions are inconsistent and infrequent). Next, cross the river and veer left to catch the Riverside Geyser, which erupts every 5 to 6 hours and is one of the most reliable geysers in the park.


Location: 44.471705, -110.842051

Make a quick left to witness the incredible Grotto Geyser, whose eruptions can last anywhere from 1.5 to 10 hours.


Location: 44.468893, -110.840438

Cross a bridge over the extraordinary Firehole River.


Location: 44.466439, -110.83726

Approach Grand Geyser, the world’s tallest predictable geyser. Adjacent to the Vent Geyser, which it erupts in concert with, the Grand Geyser explodes a towering 200 feet into the air.


Location: 44.46558, -110.836537

Head straight at the 4-way junction near Sawtooth Geyser. Enjoy a respite from steaming craters and tumultuous eruptions as you leave the geysers behind in this wooded section of the trail.


Location: 44.464291, -110.83063

Hang a left at the Y-junction to head north on Upper Geyser Hill.


Location: 44.464718, -110.829778

Bear right to bypass the Observation Point Trail and continue on the Upper Geyser Hill Trail.


Location: 44.4623, -110.827545

Veer right to pick up the Upper Geyser Basin Trail.


Location: 44.461047, -110.826945

Turn right at the Y-junction to trace the Firehole River along the backside of Old Faithful, or stay in this area to wait for the legendary geyser to erupt (photographers love taking photos of Old Faithful from this vantage point). Eruptions, which take place on average every 1.5 hours, can shoot up to 8,400 gallons of boiling water as high as 145 feet into the air.


Location: 44.460948, -110.831017

At the Y-junction, hang a left to stay on the Upper Geyser Basin Trail.


Location: 44.46012, -110.83011

Hang a right to take a quick side trip to the timeless Old Faithful Inn. This timber-framed, log-cabin-style structure was built in 1903 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. After getting your fill of the Old Faithful area, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Old Faithful

Location: 44.460044, -110.829369

Old Faithful

Location: 44.460119, -110.82669

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459606, -110.828077

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459828, -110.82906

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459898, -110.829209

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459791, -110.831215

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459791, -110.831215

Old Faithful

Location: 44.459791, -110.831215

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