ElevationAscent: 60' 18 m
Descent: -94' -29 m
High: 7,580' 2,310 m
Low: 7,508' 2,288 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 6% (3°)
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“Head around Norris’ Back Basin, home to the world's tallest geyser and other interesting features.”— Tom Carter
Continue through the trees and start down the hill. Soon you reach Steamboat Geyser, the world's tallest active geyser. Its major eruptions shoot water more than 300 feet. Observe the massive area this amazing geyser affects. It’s unlikely you'll see a full eruption, but even Steamboat's more frequent 10 to 40-foot micro-bursts exceed many other geysers in size. Further down the hill is Cistern Spring. Steamboat Geyser and Cistern are linked underground. During a major eruption of Steamboat, the water in Cistern's pool drains. Normally, Cistern is a beautiful blue pool from which water continually overflows.
Near Cistern, the trail divides. To the right the Back Basin Connector can be used to reduce the trail from 1.6 miles to .9 miles. [Note: As springs shift and grow, the boardwalks are often rerouted to protect the features. Look carefully around the basin, you'll see the scars where boardwalks used to be.] The main trail continues left across Steamboat's runoff channel. At the .4-mile mark is Echinus (e-KI-nus) Geyser. Echinus is the largest acid-water geyser known. Its waters are almost as acidic as vinegar with a pH around 3.5. For years this crowd-pleaser erupted every 35 to 75 minutes. More recently, Echinus eruptions are extremely rare. Like other geysers and hot springs, Echinus can change without warning.
The trail sweeps right, then back left, to visit Puff ‘n Stuff Geyser and Green Dragon Spring at .8 miles. Steam often fills Green Dragon’s cavern, forcing visitors to wait patiently to glimpse its sulfur-lined cave and boiling green water. The trail then turns back to the north and cuts across the Back Basin, passing Porkchop Geyser, Pearl Geyser, and a personal favorite, Vixen Geyser. Even the smaller geysers are fun to watch and worth a wait. They each have a personality of their own.
The trail passes a junction with the Back Basin Connector (on right), a shorter but steeper route back. Continue straight to see Palpitator Spring, Fearless Geyser, Monarch Geyser, and the remains of Minute Geyser. The trail then climbs through the trees back to the Museum.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Need to Know, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes
Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park