Observation Point-Geyser Hill
ElevationAscent: 263' 80 m
Descent: -263' -80 m
High: 7,587' 2,312 m
Low: 7,353' 2,241 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (3°)
Max Grade: 18% (10°)
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“Get a birds-eye view of Old Faithful and the entire Upper Geyser Basin!”— Tom Carter
At the .6-mile mark, near the top of the hill, the trail divides.Turn right and follow the loop trail as it switchbacks up the plateau rhyolite to Observation Point. The view from the point is magnificent! The entire Upper Geyser Basin spreads out before you. The 150 active geysers that lie here comprise more than 25% of the world's total and include some of the largest and most predictable geysers.
Old Faithful Geyser was named by the 1870 Washburn Expedition who wrote: "we emerged from the woods opposite Old Faithful just as it was giving vent to its internal motions. From that time our spirits rose and all our personal woes and sufferings were forgotten." For over 145 years, Old Faithful's regular, predictable eruptions have had a similar effect on millions of Yellowstone visitors. Other geysers with eruptions large enough to identify from the point include Castle, Beehive, and Giantess, all of which were also named by the Washburn Expedition.
Old Faithful is the most frequent and predictable large geyser in Yellowstone and richly deserves its fame. It erupts to between 106 and 184 feet (average height is 130 feet). Each eruption lasts between 1.5 to 5 minutes. The interval between eruptions is 60 to 110 minutes.
As you wait for the geyser to erupt, contemplate another of nature's forces. On September 7, 1988, wild fire attacked this area with a vengeance. Fanned by wind gusts of up to 70 mph, a massive wall of fire descended on Old Faithful from Madison Plateau to the southwest. It roared across this large valley, jumped the Firehole and climbed this ridge. There was nothing man could do to stop it. In fact, it took a herculean effort and a lot of luck to save the Old Faithful Inn.
After Old Faithful erupts, continue west along the trail as it loops back down to the main trail. Turn right and follow it another 0.3 miles to Solitary Geyser. It has an interesting history. Prior to 1915 it was an infrequently visited hot spring. That year water from the spring began being piped down to fill a commercial swimming pool. As the water level lowered, the water pressure dropped. This in turn caused the superheated water below to flash into steam and the spring was transformed into a geyser. Today it continues to erupt to a height of 6 feet every 5 to 7 minutes.
From Solitary Geyser the trail continues to a junction with the Geyser Hill Trail at the 1.7-mile mark. Turn left on this paved trail and follow it past beautiful deep blue Doublet Pool (on the right) to Giantess Geyser. Giantess is one of the largest and most powerful geysers in the park. Its infrequent eruptions explode from its large pool to a height of 200 feet. Its duration lasts many hours and progresses from a water phase to a powerful steam phase. During eruptions the seismograph in the visitor center can detect small tremors in the ground and the roar of the steam can be heard more than a mile away. The Washburn Expedition who named this magnificent feature exclaimed, "All we had previously witnessed seemed tame in comparison with the perfect grandeur and beauty of this fine display . . . This geyser we named the Giantess."
The Geyser Hill Trail you are following returns you to the bridge used earlier to cross the Firehole River. From there it's a short distance back to the Visitor Center. However, there are miles of additional boardwalks and trails in the Old Faithful area. The extra time you take to explore them will be richly rewarded.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park