Norris Geyser Basin

Porcelain Basin

Elevation Change at the Norris Geyser Basin

Elevation change for the Norris Geyser Basin
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: Varies: < 1 mile or up to 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Year-round

The Norris Geyser Basin should be high on everyone’s list of sights to see in Yellowstone, or at least part of it. It’s not only the hottest geyser basin in the park, but it’s also home to the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat Geyser. Unfortunately, eruption times for Steamboat are completely unpredictable, so if you catch it erupting, count yourself as one of the luckiest visitors to Yellowstone.

The path from the parking area will take you past a Yellowstone Association Bookstore and then to a small museum. A pop-in to the museum is a good idea before starting on the trail so you can have a better appreciation for what you’re about to see, whereas visiting the bookstore on your way out will make sure any unanswered questions you have get answered thoroughly, or will provide you with more activities and trivia.

My preferred route is to save the best for last and to explore the whole system. To do this, from the museum, head back out toward where you came in and make a right. This will bring you down a trail where you first past Emerald Spring, a beautiful green pool that stands out remarkably from the green of the trees around it thanks to sulfur in the water. Just past Emerald Pool is the enormous Steamboat Geyser, if you’re lucky enough to see it. If you have the time, you can sit and wait for a little while and hopefully see a much smaller eruption from it. Smaller eruptions tend to be a bit more frequent, but just as unpredictable. There’s an upper platform for those feeling optimistic, whereas the main boardwalk will also continue past it.

Emerald Pool

The trail then winds downward to Cistern Spring, a colorful hot spring thriving with both bacteria and algae near its edges to give it incredible color.

Tip: If you see Cistern Spring’s water receding, head back up to Steamboat Geyser! The two are linked and an eruption at Steamboat Geyser will drain Cistern Spring.

The trail also forks at Cistern Spring. Right will bring you on a shortcut through the Back Basin Loop. Those short on time can head that way. For those with the time to see more, there are some fantastic features waiting to the left.

Around a few turns is Echinus Geyser, tucked away at the back end of the trail system. It’s one of the oddest and unique geysers in the park. It’s the largest acid-geyser in the world, most of them found in the Norris Geyser Basin, but at the same time, its eruption times have varied drastically in recent decades. It was quite active in the 1990s, but has seemed to calm down since then. With each eruption, a shower of iron, arsenic, manganese, and aluminum rain down on the area surrounding the source, creating the unique formations and colors you see around it. Activity has been fairly low in recent years, so once again, if you get to see it erupt, you are very lucky! …provided you’re a safe distance from the water.

Echinus Geyser

After meandering down from Echinus Geyser, you’re brought past a number of scenic and interesting formations, Puff ‘n’ Stuff Geyser being one of them, and eventually winding up at Green Dragon Spring. The sulfur rich water and steam have left the cave stained yellow, making the water appear green. For those that have been to the Mud Volcano trail, this will be very reminiscent of the Dragon’s Mouth Spring, with more color but less sound.

The trail continues through some more scenic features and then passes around Porkchop Geyser. There’s a unique history here. In 1985 the geyser began to constantly erupt for over four years until it finally blew itself apart in the fall of 1989. Rocks were sent flying over 200 feet away! Now, it’s a quiet hot spring surrounded by remnants of its disastrous explosion.

Past Porkchop Geyser is the colorful but simple, Pearl Geyser, and beyond that is Vixen Geyser, which shoots a needle of water up in the air quite regularly. It’s worth a stop for a couple of minutes to see it in action.

Vixen Geyser

Minute Geyser is just a bit farther up the trail beyond the shortcut trail from Vixen Geyser and is a sad testament to how poorly the park was treated in its early days. Early visitors clogged the geyser with rocks (among other things) that have now left a remarkable geyser dormant. It used to erupt every 60 seconds to heights of 50 feet. It’s now nearly inactive, though its eastern vent does still produce some activity.

Beyond Minute Geyser, the trail begins to head back up toward the museum and main area. Along the way, you’re teased with views of the Porcelain Basin through the trees. Like I mentioned earlier, going this route saves the best for last.

Head left at the junction to be brought down toward the Porcelain Basin. Along the way downward is the Black Growler Steam Vent, a fumarole that is constantly ejecting scalding steam into the air, and accompanied by Ledge Geyser, a rarely erupting geyser that actually shoots water outward rather than upward because of its unique angle.

Just beyond Ledge Geyser is a fork in the trail leading off to the right. Following that will lead you to a view that can easily make you feel like you’re on another world entirely. Passing Hurricane Vent on your right, continue just past another fork (which will loop you back around to the top of the walk you just started) for an incredible view of the Porcelain Springs. This is a massive area of constantly changing terrain and bright white geyserite deposits covering the landscape. What initially sounded like wind in the trees or lots of highway traffic can now be seen as intense fumarole and hot spring activity below. The view stretches for hundreds and hundreds of yards with dome mountain rising above the trees on the other end. “Siliceous sinter” is responsible for the milky color (and the name) of many of the springs below.

Porcelain Basin

From here, you can head back toward the main trail until you’re back on the loop you started prior to the detour. The trail loops past many other hot springs and sparkling features coated with colorful bacteria before winding around to Crackling Lake, a colorful blue and green lake with many popping and hissing sounds that gave it its name.

Continue up the trail back to the main area where you can pass through the museum again (this time to put it all into perspective) and into the bookstore if you wish to further your education.

Getting there: From the Madison Junction, head north on the main highway for 13.3 miles until you reach the Norris Junction. Make a left turn and follow the road into the parking area. Look for the walkway on the west end of the parking lot.

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November 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH: A Monthly Journal

“November is a “sneaky” month — loaded with photographic possibilities!”

Daily Updates Archives:
2015: Nov:Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

Welcome to the November Journal page!  The links above should give you a great idea of what to expect in any month around Jackson Hole. Additionally, click the link below to get a quick overview of each of the 12 months.

Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP .

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November 2, 2015 :

New Feature Post:

Wyoming’s Fighting Stallions ~ Iconic Symbols of the American West. This new page contains lots of action photos, some general information about wild mustangs, maps and links. Check it out!

Fighting Pintos

I jumped up before sunrise today anticipating going out on another gray day. Instead, I finished a new Feature Post I started yesterday about the stallions at McCullough Peak Wild Horse Management Area near Cody.

Afternoon in the Great White North:

Moose In Snow

Moose In Snow: These two bulls were sparring near the Gros Ventre Road during an afternoon snow squall. I saw additional bull moose near Ditch Creek, along the Moose-Wilson Road, and just south of hte Gros venter Bridge on the Highway. D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Homestead in Snow

Homestead in Snow:  Taken from the Antelope Flats Road. D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Beaver Crossing Dam

Beaver Crossing Dam: Taken at Schwabacher Landing.  D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Beaver with Willows

Beaver with WillowsD810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Beaver Pond

Beaver Pond with Afternoon SnowD810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

One-On-One Excursions Openings: I have an opening for most dates in November. The trips are designed to help people learn to use their DSLR cameras and help photographers find some of GTNP’s nice shooting locations. Click the link for more information. (Golden Era Studios / Mike R. Jackson is an Authorized Permittee of the National Park Service and the National Elk Refuge.)

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November 1, 2015 :

Broken Paddles

Bull Moose in Ditch Creek: D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Settling into Winter:

Most of the winter months offer similar opportunities for both wildlife and landscapes: Nov: 2014 |  Dec 2014:Jan: 2014 | Jan: 2015. The first part of November should resemble the last part of October: October 2015:

Suggested “Opportunities: Right now, here are my top spots to check out. Some will be a bit of a gamble, but they might also pay off in a big way if you hit it right:

  • Flat Creek Observation Deck: Look for Swans, Geese, and Ducks.
  • Boyles Hill Swan Pond & Swans Along Flat Creek:
  • Miller Butte (after Thanksgiving): Look for Bighorns and a herd of around 50 Pronghorns.
  • Ditch Creek Road: Look for Moose, elk and flying bullets. Wear orange!
  • Kelly Area: Look for Mule Deer at the edges of town and around the Shane Cabins.
  • Alpine Junction: Watch for Mountain Goats. near the mouth of the canyon.

Important Road Closures: 

  • Inner Park Loop Road from Taggart Lake trail head parking area to Signal Mountain Lodge.
  • Moose-Wilson Road from Death Canyon road to Granite Canyon trail head parking area.
  • Mormon Row from the south homestead to just north of Gros Ventre Road.
  • South Entrance into Yellowstone.

Locked Gate

Moose-Wilson Road Comments: The first three miles of the Moose-Wilson Road is still open. In fact, it stays open all winter! This three mile section has always been the most productive section of the road with possibilities of Owls, Elk, Pine Martens, Foxes, Coyotes, Moose, Deer, Ravens, Magpies, Beavers and so forth. Many of the big game animals leave the area once the snow builds up to several feet in depth.

Snake River Moose

Snake River Moose: Taken near the Snake River Bridge at Moose Junction. D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 

Moose in River Bottom

Moose in River Bottom: Taken in Ditch Creek. D810 and Tamron 150-600mm lens. 


Please let your friends know about Best of the Tetons and share the pages with your friends on Facebook.

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Ribbon Lake and Point Sublime

Eroded Canyon Walls

Elevation Change for Ribbon Lake and Point Sublime

Elevation change for Ribbon Lake and Point Sublime
Elevation profile and route courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: 6 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall

Artist Point in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River has some of the best views of the canyon, or even anywhere in the park itself. For those wanting a bit more with an extra detour to a remote lake, Ribbon Lake and Point Sublime make for great destinations!

The trail begins at the back side of Artist Point and begins to wind its way around a large curve in the canyon. Inspiration Point overlooking the north rim soon comes into view as you begin to wrap around it from the south rim. Along the way, there are many different views of the canyon, each of them just as mesmerizing, if not more so, than the previous.

At nearly .75 miles, the trail will fork, allowing you the opportunity to head back to Ribbon Lake. The trail to Ribbon Lake heads through a thick forest dotted with an occasional meadow. On its way to catch another junction to Ribbon Lake, the trail will pass over a small bridge followed by Lily Pad Lake, a quiet lake covered with lily pads. The trail continues south to the next junction.

Lily Pad Lake

At the junction, head left to reach Ribbon Lake. The trail continues through the dense forest, gradually increasing in elevation here and there. After about a mile, the trail will begin to drop noticeably in elevation. At the bottom of the hill, the trail joins meets another junction and just through the trees is Ribbon Lake, a more majestic lake than expected surrounded by lush meadows. Poke around for a bit and enjoy the peace and quiet. When you’re ready to head back, make sure you catch the right trail! You’ll know because you should start climbing back up that hill within just a few hundred yards.

Ribbon Lake

Heading back out and passing Lily Pad Lake on your way back out, you return to the original junction at the canyon. Left will bring you back to the parking lot, whereas right will bring you to Point Sublime. Naturally along the way, there are also many more views of the canyon. Point Sublime itself is about another .75 miles from the junction, then a 1.5 mile return trip back to the parking area, so if time is an issue take that into account, otherwise, proceed!

The actual view from Point Sublime isn’t quite as dramatic as the views along the way or as the name implies. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. It’s still a great view and makes for an excellent spot to relax and enjoy a break. To head back whenever you’re ready, just follow the canyon trail back to the parking lot.

To see more images from Ribbon Lake and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, check out my Yellowstone National Park Gallery here.

Getting there: From Canyon Village, head to the main highway at the 4-way stop sign and take a left. Head south for 2.25 miles and make a left at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone South Rim Drive. Cross over the Yellowstone River immediately after the turn and proceed to the end of the road, which dead ends at a parking area at Artist Point.

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Midway Geyser Basin

Turquoise Pool and Stars

Elevation Profile for the Midway Geyser Basin

Elevation change for the Midway Geyser Basin
Elevation profile and route below courtesy of the HAZ Tracks App

Distance: .75 mile (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Best time of year: Summer

The Midway Geyser Basin is definitely one of the crown jewels of roadside attractions in Yellowstone National Park (and its parking lot attests to that). It features two of the most spectacular features in the park: the Excelsior Geyser Crater and Grand Prismatic Spring, the latter being the third largest hot spring in the world and the largest in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, due to the heat from both of these features, this walk is really only worth doing on warmer days in the summer. Though open year-round, there’s simply too much steam on cooler days to really see what makes this stop so special. Also, if you’re wearing a hat, hold on to it. Winds along the boardwalk can be gusty and you’ll see evidence of others who weren’t expecting the gusts to sweep the hats off their heads. Since you’re required to stay on the boardwalk, consider it lost if it flies off.

Excelsior Geyser Crater

From the parking area, head along the Firehole River to the bridge where you’ll get excellent views of the runoff from the scalding Excelsior Geyser Crater. It’s created its own small waterfalls pouring down the sinter cliffs into the river. From here, the boardwalk heads up the small hill and brings you back to the runoff of the geyser crater. Orange and yellow thermophiles line the water on the way to the thermal feature until the water is too hot from its source for them to survive. The Excelsior Geyser Crater is a massive, brilliant blue pool whose water is roughly 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This was previously one of the largest geysers in the park. In the late 1800s, eruptions shot out up to 300 feet high, and just as wide. Because the eruptions were so large and violent, it ultimately blew itself apart, releasing the pressure that caused such dramatic displays. Now, you’ll only occasionally see a few burps from the middle of the pool. Even so, it still discharges approximately 4,000 to 4,500 gallons of water every minute into the Firehole River.

The boardwalk splits at this point. Heading right will take you first past Turquoise Pool and then Opal Pool. Opal Pool tends to drain late in the summer season, and while both are very picturesque, they pale in comparison to Grand Prismatic Spring waiting at the top of the boardwalk. At roughly 300 feet in diameter, Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest hot spring in the world. Its water is about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s surrounded by orange and yellow thermophiles on a much larger scale than any other spring, emitting a fantastic display of color spanning much of the spectrum.

Midway Geyser Basin Abstract

The thermophile bacterial mats extend under the boardwalk, so please do not disturb them. They are living organisms and it’s not worth killing them to write a temporary message that has no meaning for anyone but you. Also, don’t put your hand in the water along any boardwalk. Whether or not the water will burn your hand is irrelevant. It’s just plain disrespectful and completely unwelcome.

After passing by an abstract photographers paradise along the edge of Grand Prismatic Spring, the boardwalk winds back around to head back toward Excelsior Geyser Crater and rejoin the path where you came up.

To see more images from the Midway Geyser Basin, check out my Yellowstone National Park Gallery here.

Getting there: From Old Faithful, head back onto the main highway and proceed north toward Madison. Just shy of six miles later, you’ll see the Midway Geyser Basin on your left. Park in the parking area and proceed to the bridge crossing the Firehole River.

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