Yellowstone Discovery: Upper Geyser Basin Jewels

Before we continue east on Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road across the Continental Divide, we are going to explore additional parts of the Upper Geyser Basin.

“The majority of world’s active geysers are in the Upper Geyser Basin, including Old Faithful. Only four other places in the world have large concentrations of hydrothermal features: Russia (Kamchatka), Chile, New Zealand, and Iceland.

The heat for the hydrothermal features comes from Yellowstone’s volcano. Molten rock or magma may be as close as 3-8 miles (5-13 km) underground. Rain and snow supply water that seeps downs several thousand feet (more than a kilometer) below the surface where it is heated.

Underground cracks form a natural plumbing system. Hot water rises through the plumbing to produce hot springs and geysers.” From NPS website

While we covered the Old Faithful thermal area(s) – two often overlooked thermal areas (part of the Upper Basin) are located less than a mile from the Old Faithful parking area:

Black Sand and the Biscuit Geyser Basins – provide visitors fantastic views of the Yellowstone Caldera Rim and dynamic thermal features from spouting geysers, otherworldly blue hot springs and colorful bacterial mats.

We’ll start at the Biscuit Basin – this .6 mile boardwalk hike meanders through a variety of thermal features. The ‘basin’ (a mini thermal area inside of the larger Upper Geyser Basin) was originally named for its unique ‘biscuit’ like formations surrounding thermal features. These features were completely destroyed after a 7.5 mile earthquake (Hebgen Lake) just outside of Yellowstone led to Sapphire Pool erupting violently and blowing away the large rock biscuits around the crater.

Thermal ‘jewels’ at Biscuit Basin include ‘Sapphire Pool’, ‘Avoca Spring and ‘Jewel Geyser’

Remember Yellowstone is a dangerous beauty.

Popular Mystic Falls Trailhead can be accessed from the Biscuit Parking lot.

Funny adventure story here – Mystic Falls is a relatively easy hike that is popular for families – but in 2004 when I worked in YNP – my room mate and I literally got kicked off the trail by a protective mama elk. We didn’t realize her baby was hidden near by and she charged us.

It was super scary and I’ll admit I decided I would listen to TLC and not ‘chase waterfalls’ – at least Mystic. I’ll try it again when I return. It is a great hike – just be prepared for wildlife and always keep your distance. That saved me when the elk started charging! She was protecting her baby 🙂

Jewel Geyser

Also in the Old Faithful vicinity is Black Sand Basin, which is named for the ‘black sand’ – obsidian and other volcanic rock/glass sand.

Popular features at Black Sand include: Emerald Pool, Rainbow Pool, Sunset Lake (actually a geyser with infrequent eruptions) and Cliff Geyser.

Take a hike!

I will compile of list of a few of my favorite hikes in a future post – but wanted to provide a great resource from NPS on Old Faithful Day hikes. This link break downs great hiking options in the OF area to give you great views of YNP’s amazing backcountry.

A personal favorite is Lonestar. As we drive east away from Old Faithful – you will see a turn out/parking lot for Kepler Cascades – STOP – this is a great photo op of the gorgeous Kepler Cascades (right off the road!)

From the Kepler parking lot you can follow and easy (mostly paved) trailhead to Lonestar Geyser. This used to be a service/tourist road many decades ago and is a wonderful and flat trail – perfect for those who want an easy but fun hike.

The trail takes you through lush forest to the isolated and active Lonestar Geyser.

From NPS

Lonestar erupts every 2-3 hours, gushing out forty-five feet from a unique and colorful cone.

Hardcore hikers can continue to hike past Lonestar to backcountry camping and the Shoshone Geyser Basin (I’ll blog about my adventure there in a future post)

Next time – we’ll enjoy the view as we cross the Continental Divide and reach Yellowstone Lake!

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