As the world’s first national park, Yellowstone has been attracting visitors from around the world since 1872 with its natural wonders and diversity of wildlife.
It preserves the most extraordinary collection of geothermal features on Earth, including hot springs, geysers, mud pots, travertine terraces, and fumaroles (steam vents). Combined with majestic scenery and the vast open wilderness, these features form part of the park’s beautiful landscape. At the heart of Yellowstone, a supervolcano fuels the heat that powers the world’s largest group of hydrothermal features. From rainbow-hued springs to gushing geysers, I’ve photographed some of the most magnificent geothermal features in Yellowstone.
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Old Faithful Geyser
Of the 10,000 hydrothermal features found in the park, Old Faithful is the best-known geyser and is world-famous for its spectacular eruptions. The eruptions can be predicted right on schedule, erupting every 92 minutes. With vast amounts of reliable and regular steaming water, crowds watch in awe as each eruption rockets into the sky in spectacular fashion for several minutes at a time.
Grand Geyser is another thermal spring located in the Old Faithful area within the Upper Geyser Basin and is best known for the tall eruptions it produces. In fact, it is the world’s tallest predictable geyser. It can be accessed via a boardwalk from the Old Faithful Inn and although it is less predictable than Old Faithful, some say it is the most dramatic geyser in the park.
Only a short walk away from Grand Geyser is one of the most beautiful hot springs in the area, the 40-foot deep Crested Pool. The water in the pool is a deep blue color where “bubble shower” eruptions occur as the boiling increases. The super hot water is said to be warmer than boiling point and sprays a few feet in the air at regular intervals in a natural cycle.
Witnessing a geyser eruption is one of the best experiences any visitor to Yellowstone could have. When the Cliff Geyser crater in the Black sand Basin fills with boiling water, you know an eruption is about to take place. The fountain geyser releases hot steaming water from its pool that can surge up to heights of 30 feet, making it a mesmerizing sight, particularly at sunset.
Some of the best lesser-known features are located along the Firehole River in the upper and lower geyser basins, including Mustard Spring. As one of the best springs situated in Biscuit Basin, the spring heats to temperatures between 172-198°F and spouts at intervals between five to ten minutes. At eight to ten feet in diameter, it receives its name due to the mustard-colored lining that circles its crater.
Black Opal Spring
Visiting these fabulous attractions doesn’t require superhuman strength or an epic hike. In fact, Black Opal Spring is just a few-minute walk from the car park over a boardwalk. This eye-catching hot pool is a gorgeous opalescent blue color and is one of the nearest to the Firehole River.
Sapphire pool is one of the most beautiful pools to be found in Yellowstone. The gorgeous blue color of the pool is simply stunning and resembles a sapphire. On windy days, the warm steam that blows from its surface can be quite refreshing but don’t be tempted to dip into its pristine waters, as temperatures can reach over 200 degrees.
Shaped like a heart, Heart Spring is 15 feet deep and 10 feet wide. It is an attractive spring displaying a colorful pool of clear blue water and a thin crust around its edge. With its water temperature remaining slightly below boiling, the pool is generally inactive. It has a unique pattern and is great for visitors to observe.
Great Fountain Geyser
Great Fountain Geyser is one of Yellowstone National Park’s geothermal wonders, located in the Lower Geyser Basin above the Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano that creates the park’s geothermal activity. During the eruptions, the geyser spouts in fits and bursts in spectacular fashion before the explosions suddenly come to an end.
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
The Yellowstone River thunders its way for 20 miles through the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which has helped to erode and carve out the canyon over time. The majestic sight is spectacular and unmissable, especially with the roaring waters of the Upper and Lower falls showcasing the true power of nature.
Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs is an incredible geothermal site located in the north end of Yellowstone National Park. With the largest number of hot terraces in the world, the hot springs reside on a hill of travertine and were created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate. You can walk on a mile-long boardwalk to see the colorful travertine terraces that are displayed in dramatic patterns.
Grand Prismatic Spring
Grand Prismatic Spring might be the best sight in Yellowstone National Park. Larger than a football field at 370 feet in diameter and deeper than a 10-story building at 125 feet, it is the largest hot spring in the park. The deep blue and green color of the pool and the rings of yellow and orange-colored thermophiles surrounding it combine to produce a beautiful rainbow prism effect.