Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is one of the iconic destinations of all travelers in Yellowstone. It’s one of the poster photos for the park, and one memory I remember so fondly that it graces the walls of my room as a beautiful photo. I don’t often print my work, so when I do, it’s usually a photo I hold in very high regard. There are two ways to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, and we’re going to cover one. If there’s enough interest, perhaps I’ll cover the second option! I’ve seen both, completing the overlook trail in 2018. For now, let’s get to the Midway Geyser Basin portion!
- Mileage: 0.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 20 ft.
- Highest Point: 7,260 ft.
- Best time to visit: Late May through mid-October
- Total hiking time: 20-30 minutes. Allow additional time for crowds and photos.
- Kid-friendly: Yes.
- Dog-friendly: No.
- Bathroom at trailhead: Yes.
- Gear I brought: Camera, hat, sunglasses, water bottle.
The walk is pretty easy! Parking is the main issue; I’ll get into that later. The walk starts from the parking lot (or the side of the road) and is contained to boardwalks the entire time. It’s great for all ability levels and has mild ups and downs. Handrails frequent the boardwalk for the inclines. The whole trail is a loop, best seen in a clockwise manner. Head over the Firehole River and begin a small incline up a switchback boardwalk. You’ll pass by the beautiful Excelsior Geyser Crater before heading to the pain attraction: Grand Prismatic Spring.
This spring claims the distinction of being the largest spring in the park at 370 feet in diameter and over 121 feet deep. It’s quite a big pool! From here, you’ll continue around the boardwalk, seeing the Opal Pool and Turquoise Pool on your way out. Cross the Firehole River once again and you’re done!
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 severe burns or death. These areas have boardwalks on them for a reason. Stay on them and enjoy the hot springs from a distance!
Hot springs are often in barren areas, given the nature of thermal features. Because of this, loose clothing can fly off in high winds. There are multiple signs at this trailhead in particular that recommend holding your hats in your hand or putting them away. We saw multiple hats in thermal pools and on the fragile crust! If you lose your hat, consider it gone unless you can find a park ranger to retrieve it for you.
Again, never step off the boardwalk to retrieve a lost item. Crusts are thin and people have died from falling into springs.
Parking is very difficult here, even during the weekend after the historic flood event. We ended up parking on the road and walking over to the beginning of the trail. Expect high vehicle traffic and foot traffic in this area. Reduce your speed and keep an eye out for pedestrians.
This is a classic in the park. If you make it out towards the western portion of the park and are fortunate enough to find parking, definitely stop and see the sights! You’ll also be able to get a better view of the spring by hiking on the Fairy Falls trail. It’s a gorgeous trail with a fantastic view!
If you can’t make it due to crowds, consider coming in the early morning or late evening for a chance to miss the crowds. If you want to wait it out, you can eat lunch at the nearby Whiskey Flat picnic site or go for a scenic drive along the Firehole River route. There are some fantastic mud pools, geysers, hot springs, and large lakes along the drive. Give it a try, and come back to Grand Prismatic Spring later.
Take A Hike!
Have a great time on this boardwalk! This classic is a staple for most visits to Yellowstone. It’s crowded, but it’s totally worth it! Make sure you plan to see this when you visit, I promise you won’t regret it.
If you’re looking for other hot springs and thermal boardwalks in the area, check out Biscuit Basin and Black Sands Basin! And, while you’re doing Biscuit Basin, tack on Mystic Falls for one of the best waterfalls in the park! As always, you can find all of my Yellowstone blogs together on one page right here.
See you on the next one!
Next blog: Maybe one more Yellowstone blog as a wrap-up post. Then, we’ll move on to the last July hikes in Utah and some overnight trips to the Uintas in August and September. There’s a lot more to come from a variety of National Forests, regions of Utah, and even a quick trip to Idaho.