Want to join geyser groupies in Yellowstone because you just want to see boiling water blow from the earth? In Yellowstone, geysers enchant. But the sheer power of explosive displays create awe. From heat roiling underground, Yellowstone has little spurters that spit up tiny torrents to huge gushers that surge streams straight into the sky. More than anywhere else on the planet, Yellowstone belches forth best-of-show eruptions.
No matter the size, all geysers have constricted plumbing. As boiling water backs up, pressure builds to cause the explosion. As water discharges, cone geysers shoot like a hose while fountain geysers spray in multiple directions like a sprinkler.
Most of Yellowstone’s geysers cluster around the southern arc of Grand Loop Road. To be in the closest proximity to the action, stay at Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge, or Snow Lodge. Madison and Norris offer the nearest campgrounds.
Before romping off to see the action, geyser groupies first go to Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Here, rangers update the prediction schedule for six geysers: Old Faithful, Castle, Grand, Riverside, Daisy, and Great Fountain. They also update predictions on the Yellowstone Geyser phone app. These geyser predictions are usually available late April through early November and mid-December through early March, concurrent with visitor center days of operation. Geyser groupies plan sightseeing schedules around these predictions.
To see most geysers requires walking on pavement, boardwalks, or trails. Real geyser groupies will bring along a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
The Upper Geyser Basin houses the world’s largest concentration of geysers. But for many visitors, it’s all about seeing Old Faithful. Right outside the visitors center, the largest crowds gather around the cone of the famed geyser about a half hour before its eruption every 90 minutes.
Real geyser groupies go beyond Old Faithful. They try to catch eruptions of at least four other geysers: Castle, Grand, Riverside, and Daisy. Rangers predict eruptions for these, but within a window of time. For some geysers, that can be several hours. Unfortunately, geysers also erupt at staggered intervals, but not necessarily on a schedule that allows for catching them all in one sweep through the Upper Geyser Basin. Most geyser groupies need at least two days here to see all the big ones, some of which may be scheduled to erupt at night.
Three other geyser basins sit on the western outskirts of the Upper Geyser Basin. From the visitors center, you can reach them via a five-minute drive or walks of 4-6 miles round trip. Biscuit Basin houses Jewel Geyser and Shell Geyser. In Black Sand Basin, Cliff Geyser spouts water into Iron Spring Creek. East of Old Faithful, a walk or bike ride along the Firehole River leads to Lone Star Geyser, a cone geyser that erupts about every three hours.
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North of Upper Geyser Basin about eight minutes, the Lower Geyser Basin sports a rash of small spouters and a few large geysers. Many visitor just tour Firehole Lake Drive quickly. But geyser groupies will schedule in and eruption of Great Fountain Geyser, which can put on huge, predictable shows. Neighboring White Dome Geyser blows off erratically while plenty of smaller geysers, including Pink Cone, rim the drive.
A few minutes north, Fountain Paint Pots contains several geysers. You’re almost sure to see Clepsydra Geyser spluttering as it spits water continuously with only brief pauses.
From Upper Geyser Basin, drive 29 miles north to reach Norris Geyser Basin, the hottest of the geothermal collections. Predictions for this rapidly changing geyser basin are difficult; you can ask in the Norris Geyser Basin museum for any updates on eruptions.
Norris contains two basins with a broad collection of small and large geysers. Steamboat gains fame as the tallest geyser in the world, but it’s unpredictable eruptions mean that you may only watch it splutter. Spending a few hours at Norris will let you catch the action of most of its frequently active geysers.