Exploring the Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone, WY

Explore this half-mile thermal area located just north of the Old Faithful area in West Yellowstone National Park. This short trail features some of the best thermal pools and geysers in the park and receives moderate to heavy traffic. A small parking lot and small boardwalk ensure high turnover, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with parking. It’s great for all ability levels and is wheelchair accessible. Now, for the beta part of the blog!

Quick Beta

  • Mileage: 0.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 10 ft.
  • Highest Point: ~7,290 ft.
  • Best time to visit: Late May through mid-October
  • Total hiking time: 10-15 minutes.
  • Kid-friendly: Yes.
  • Dog-friendly: Yes, must be on a leash.
  • Gear I brought: Camera, water, sun protection.
Green Spring!

The hike

This one is short and sweet but packed with lots of springs, pools, and geysers. Take your time on this one and absorb the steam coming off the pools. It’s so neat on a cooler day as you walk through thermal areas – going from hot to cold to hot to cold again is such a cool feeling! The hardest part of this is trying to get your photos in through all the people. Be patient and work your way to the front if it’s more crowded on your day!

The darkest blue I’ve ever seen. It’s truly incredible!
The color changes here are beautiful. I love them so much!

Need to Know

Thermal areas are fragile.

Never, for any reason, step off of the boardwalk and onto the fragile thermal area.

You could fall through the thin crust above the pools and suffer serious burns or death. These areas have boardwalks on them for a reason. Stay on them and enjoy the pools from a distance!

This area could be higher trafficked given its proximity to Old Faithful. However, in my experience, it’s been pretty light. There were several parking spots open both in July 2022 and July 2020 – both were during Holiday weekends! However, both were during unusual events – during the height of the pandemic and during the historic flooding event in June 2022. Perhaps Mercedes and I got lucky both times!

The boardwalk has guard rails on certain portions. Stay on the boardwalk!
Emerald Pool. It’s beautiful!
Rainbow Pool was gorgeous! The colors here were immaculate.

Justin’s Suggestion

If you’ve got time and you’re in the area, this is a quickie. You can get in and out within 20 minutes if you’re fast enough and lucky enough to find parking! It’s a great spot for thermal areas since this area is chock-full of thermal spots, meaning tourists may be dispersed over the many areas. Definitely worth the trip in my opinion! However, if you’re heading over towards Biscuit Basin, you could skip this in favor of the larger area. Still, all pools are different!

Sunset Pool. The names for these pools always seem so appropriate!
Mercedes taking in Sunset Lake. It was gorgeous! We stood here for a while.

Take A Walk!

If you’ve got the time and the energy, enjoy another thermal area! Black Sand Basin holds some of the larger pools I’ve seen, making this a cool stop along the way. It’s beautiful, and part of the natural draw to Yellowstone!

If you’re in this area, make sure you explore Biscuit Basin just 2 miles north for more thermal walks! And, if you’re feeling adventurous, tack on Mystic Falls. It’s so cool walking from a thermal area to the middle of the forest. And, as always, for all of my Yellowstone blogs, click here!

Parting shot:

Mercedes is a Happy Mercedes because we got coffee over at Old Faithful!

Next blog: Old Faithful? More thermal? Sure!

10 thoughts on “Exploring the Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone, WY

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