Yellowstone Discovery: West Thumb Basin

Fishing Cone

West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the most unique and beautiful spots in Yellowstone. It is a confluence of geology and scenery. Smoldering thermal features from hot springs to mudpots line the shore of the western thumb of Yellowstone Lake.

Just sixteen miles east of Old Faithful, West Thumb is one of the most colorful and serene thermal basins, but is often overlooked by tourists focused on driving from Old Faithful to the Lake Hotel (north of West Thumb) or south towards the Tetons.

Don’t miss your opportunity to meander the boardwalks of this mystical landscape. West Thumb’s proximity to Yellowstone Lake provides a unique wonder and serene beauty.

Yellowstone Lake is North America’s largest high altitude lake (over 7,000 feet) and is the source of the mighty Yellowstone River. It is home to the largest population of cutthroat trout in the US.

West Thumb was the first Yellowstone feature to be written about in the 1820s when an account of an area trapper, Potts, found the basin. The letters in the hyperlink detail his description of geyser features on Yellowstone Lake. This is one of the earliest accounts of Yellowstone at all – the other being the testimony of Lewis and Clark veteran John Colter

Mountain men were known for tall tales, but this account is on the money.

West Thumb’s was first studied by scientiests in 1869 by the Folsom-Cook-Peterson Expedition

West Thumb has a variety of thermal features including the goregous Abyss and Black Poos and unique Fishing Cone.

Fishing Cone was a fan favorite for years when early visitors used the geyser to ‘cook’ their fish – this unfortunately damaged the feature and this practice has been prohibited for years. The geyser formation is actually in Yellowstone Lake.

Abyss Pool is one of the deepest hot springs in YNP – with a depth over over fifty feet

To learn more about West Thumb features – I recommend this article.

If you like to camp, I recommend the Grant Village Campground – which is fairly close to West Thumb.

Grant Village is a wonderful spot that offers all the amenities without the hustle of Old Faithful. It includes restaurants and gift shops plus an abundance of housing options including campsites right on Yellowstone Lake.

The lakeside architecture feels more akin to a weekend in Acadia – with serene mountain waters and forested trails.

Be warned though – Yellowstone Lake country is colder than other areas of the park especially at night. I nearly froze to death without a negative zero sleeping bag on one excursion.

Our next step on the Grand Loop Road is Lake Yellowstone itself including – Fishing Bridge and the Lake Hotel.

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