Monday, June 14, 2021

Yellowstone National Park : Day 3 {Geysers}

Thanks for popping back in to come along on our Yellowstone National Park trip! If you missed the road trip from SoCal to Wyoming, read about it HERE. Also, if you haven't read about Day 1 or Day 2 in YNP, check them out HERE and HERE

Now that everyone is on the same page, let's get on with Day 3. As I mentioned in Day 1's post, we split the trip into different geographical areas, then tackled those on different days. Next up is what we are going to call Geysers.

[Note - We were camping in Madison Campground, so the order in which we did everything was due to where we were coming from. If you are staying elsewhere, you might want to look at changing what you start/ finish with.]

Here's a list of everything we did/ saw on Day 3 of our Adventure in Yellowstone National Park {and the order we did it all}:

A. Firehole Falls

This stop wasn't on our original itinerary, but sometimes you just have to pull over when you see something that calls to you. When the hubby and his dad were in Yellowstone years ago for a snowmobile trip, they stopped at these falls so they wanted to check them out again... and who could say "no" to starting your day seeing a waterfall?!

Don't I look excited?! Ha, I swear I was!

With all the snow runoff, the water was definitely a dirty color most places in the park.

Ha, don't ask... The hubby likes to do "live" photos and this is a loop he made of me ;)

1. Grand Prismatic Spring

Originally our Geyser day was going to be our final full day in Yellowstone (like I mentioned in my Day 1 post, Yellowstone is KNOWN for their geysers, so we didn't want it to overshadow everything else we would see afterwards), but our weather app was calling for NO SNOW so we called an audible and decided to go for it so we'd have better weather.


If you've seen pictures of Yellowstone, you've probably seen a picture of the Grand Prismatic Spring (in fact, it's what the photo is I'm using for the title image of the series). It is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world (after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica). The bright colors are due to microbial mats around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The mats produce colors ranging from green to red; the amount of color in the microbial mats depends on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids and on the temperature gradient in the runoff. 


Seeing as this is a hot spring, you can imagine that there's a decent amount of steam coming off of it. Well, with the temps being in the 30s, the steam rising off of it (and the other thermal activity in the area) was a bit more dense than expected.

Good thing I like to wear bright colors so I wouldn't get lost in the fog ;)

The steam/ fog made it a little difficult to see the area in all of its glory, but we made the most of it. We waited for the winds to change direction so hopefully some of the moisture would dissipate above the pools and we could see more clearly. 

Some of the pools were just so darn blue... and amazing!

With the overcast skies (and not being able to get too close) it is hard to see the true colors in the photos.

The Grand Prismatic (along with the other features in the area) was awesome, but I'd say what we saw definitely didn't match the pictures you often see. Obviously weather was a huge factor, but shoot, we were stoked there was no snow!

Even through the steam and fog you can tell there is a rainbow of colors in there.

I guess to get the amazing photos you probably need everything to line up perfectly (and to have more than an iPhone camera ;))

2. Fairy Falls Trail

Being right next to the Grand Prismatic Spring is cool and all, but it's hard to take in its beauty because you're too close. With that being said, I was stoked to check out some of the trails nearby that had "better" views because they were further away. Fairy Falls Trail is supposed to have a waterfall on the route and an offshoot for the Grand Prismatic overlook. 

The issue we ran into was BEARS! When we pulled into the parking lot we saw that the trail appeared to be CLOSED

And, yes, in case you were wondering, I am a HUGE stickler when it comes to following rules!

Although we were all pretty bummed, there was nothing we could do about it. The closure was meant to keep us safe (as to not get attacked by bears if/ when they thought we were challenging them for food) and the bears safe (since this area is one of the first where the snow melts, the bears frequent the area for food after they awaken from their hibernation and if it's overrun with people they won't be able to get the fuel and nutrients that they need to survive). {We also realized that due to all of the fog and steam in the area while we were there, we probably wouldn't have had super amazing visibility anyway, or at least that's what we tried to tell ourselves so we would be less sad about missing the views.}

B. Biscuit Basin

This was a stop we originally didn't have on our schedule, but because the six mile hike of Fairy Falls was cancelled, we saw this and decided to stop. There's a looped boardwalk where you can walk around some cool thermal activity.

The landscape sort of reminded me of the Salt Flat of Death Valley.

If the steam wasn't there, you might not know the water averages 160*.

Tell me we are not the only ones who enjoy playing with panoramic photos.

Towards the back of the loop there are some trails. When we saw Mystic Falls met up with Fairy Falls we were hopeful that maybe we could do a portion before it would be closed for animal activity. Unfortunately that trail was closed from the jump, so the hubby and I decided to venture off on a different (open) offshoot to check out a nearby meadow and stream.

It might not have been snowing, but it was still a chilly morning.

The geese didn't seem to mind about the chill in the air.

"I see a break in the clouds."

3. Old Faithful Geyser

You all know I've gotta #KeepItReal, so I'm gonna be honest here. I was expecting BIG things from Old Faithful. I feel like it gets talked up and it is a "must do" when you go to Yellowstone, but I was a little underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong - it was pretty awesome - but with tons of benches set out for people to sit down and watch, with a schedule on when to expect it to erupt {obviously this is one of the "positives" for Old Faithful, that it runs pretty much like clockwork and the park can estimate the eruption times within about a ten minute window}, etc, it just didn't really feel like the nature I was expecting. It felt like a performance or an attraction at a theme park. Again, the geyser was cool and all, but I guess because of ALL THE HYPE, I was expecting my mind to be blown and I walked away feeling like it was okay. (With that said, maybe I went in with unrealistic expectations... so if you plan to visit, maybe adjust your anticipation a bit.)

Now entering the busiest area of the park...

It was a little hard to tell the eruption from the clouds, but I still liked the reflection in the water.

Old Faithful doing its thang.

4. Old Faithful Inn

The hubby's dad and his wife were planning to have lunch here while we explored more of the Upper Geyser Basin, but when we got there to scope it out, it was still closed for the winter. (They'd be opening in June... a few days after we left.) 

5. Old Faithful Visitor Education Center

I've gotta say, I thought that if any of the visitor centers would be open, it'd be this one seeing as how many people visit the Old Faithful area {#RealTalk - it sort of felt like Disneyland... with tour buses, school trips, etc}, but alas, it was closed. It was nice that they had rangers standing outside the doors to help answer questions (we didn't "need" to check out another visitor center since I had already gotten my passport stamped elsewhere, but we still love popping in).

6. Hike Observation Point Trail

Similar to the lookout for Grand Prismatic, I had read about Observation Point, a trail that takes you above Old Faithful for a different perspective. The information suggested that you set out on the hike about 40 minutes before the next eruption of Old Faithful was set to take place so you would be ready and at the lookout by the time it was ready to blow.


We made sure to give the bison we encountered a wide berth when passing on the trail.

The hike wasn't too strenuous (although it was pretty muddy from the melting snow and fairly uphill the entire time there) and apparently we must have been flying (or just didn't time things right) because we got to the lookout and still had like 45 minutes until the next time the geyser was supposed to "go". Well, we didn't necessarily just want to sit around, so we checked out the views but decided not to wait around and headed back down to the basin to check out everything else.

Old Faithful is in the middle of the photo, but at the moment it was just a mound of earth...

Might as well take a picture at the top before we made our way back down.

7. Upper Geyser Basin

When we got down from Observation Point we decided to walk around the other loops in the Upper Geyser Basin. There were quite a few people around (which felt different from the previous two days in the park, where we felt like we were sharing the huge area with maybe like a hundred other people... probably due to the weather and folks hunkering down and probably due to where we were exploring), so the hubby and I cruised around quickly to try and avoid the crowds. We'd stop and check out a pool or geyser here or there, but for the most part we looked while we walked.

Heart pool!

I think they can change the sign... It WAS erupting ;)

Look at how BLUE that water is!

Castle Geyser has the largest cone and may be the oldest of all geysers in the basin.

We were meeting up with the hubby's dad and his wife near Old Faithful (they wanted to sit and enjoy their surroundings, while we wanted to hike and explore more of the area). By the time we finished the loop the crowds had gathered so we knew we were back just in time. They had a front row seat so I sat on the ground and took a timelapse of the eruption.

Once the geyser had wrapped its performance, we made our way to grab an art print for our office and snap some pics.

We had to take these photos in portrait mode because of the hoards of people in the background ;)

The ladies had to stand on our tiptoes to be above the sign :)

Since the crowds were a bit overwhelming, we decided to take our time getting back to the car so we wouldn't have to sit in traffic while waiting to leave (we commented how it felt like a Michigan football game ending and everyone was leaving at the same time...). We popped into one of the general stores but the amount of people {especially those not wearing masks or practicing social distancing} made us a little anxious so we quickly walked out and walked over to the post office so I could mail the postcards I had been collecting and writing. Who doesn't love snail mail from a friend?!

Love sending postcards to friends and family while on adventures!

This post office allowed you to ship things to yourself if you needed to refuel while on long hikes.

C. Kepler Cascade Waterfall

Another quick roadside stop that wasn't on the itinerary, but worth popping over to check out. #AlwaysGoChasinWaterfalls

It's sort of like there is as many waterfalls as bison in the park ;)

8. Lone Star Geyser Trail

I'll be honest (and probably come off sounding bratty/ entitled), but after our Old Faithful visit, I was a bit 'eh' about the hike and wasn't expecting too much from this geyser (I mean, I put it on our itinerary for a reason, but wasn't 100% sure it'd be "worth it"). Sure, geysers are cool when they're erupting, but there's a possibility hundreds of years could go by without it squirting, so I went in glad to be getting in some miles but knew it could be more about the hike than a geyser.

Wow, was I wrong! First off, let me say the hike itself was gorgeous. You are on a bike trail, which normally wouldn't be my jam (I prefer a little more "rugged" trail than a paved path), but it was right along the Firehole River and the views were stunning. (The hike itself was about four miles roundtrip and fairly flat so everyone in the group could enjoy it.)

You can tell the trail is more "paved" than dirt, but it was perfectly fine by us.

The views definitely didn't suck on this one.

The river was an amazing backdrop for our hike.

When we got close to the geyser we could see and hear it erupting. We thought it would bode well for our visit, but then we got closer and the eruption died down. The few folks that were there (it's about a two mile hike in, which seems to keep the crowds down) started packing up and heading back to the trailhead. The hubby and I thought we'd check out the area and saw there was a little stand and notebook. There was a laminated note that asked folks to record what they saw and gave some deets about the geyser. It mentioned that there is normally a major eruption about 30 minutes after a minor eruption and someone had just written in the notebook that the eruption we saw in the distance was a minor one. We figured we'd hike around for about a half hour, wait to see if a major eruption happened and, if not, we'd head back.

Maybe next time we will get in some LONG hikes... maybe not ;)

I am so glad that we waited, that the information was posted and that the previous visitors actually recorded what they saw. Shortly after returning to the geyser it started rumbling to life. It might not have been as tall as a geyser like Old Faithful, but it was AMAZEBALLS! We stayed there for legit 30 minutes watching it erupt and had the place almost to ourselves! Obviously you need to give geysers their space, but it was so awesome to be able to be somewhat near it. 

So cool!

The hubby and I had to get a shot while it was going off!

How amazing is God's creation?!

Hubby playing around and acting like he was breathing fire ;)

The hubby set up his phone and took a timelapse of it all. It is probably one of my favorite timelapses of the trip. I love that you can see the clouds moving throughout the eruption, that some of the mist hits the camera lense, etc. 

We all agreed that it was the highlight of the day (if not the trip itself). It was like we had our own personal geyser show! I was actually nervous to write about how awesome it is because I don't want the crowds to overtake the area ;)

My watch had more mileage because we did some hiking while 
waiting for it to erupt and a few detours for photo ops.

9. Continental Divide 

We stopped here on Day 2 because there wasn't anyone at the sign, but originally it was located here in the itinerary.

What a difference a day can make, right?! 

We had a day filled of ups and downs, but we did our best to turn lemons into lemonade and really made some fan-freakin'-tastic memories! And I guess with things being closed it just means we will have to return again in the future... 

Would you prefer to know what to expect when visiting somewhere new or find out firsthand? 

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