• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    1.2 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    150 Feet

Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Hot Springs
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

The hike to the hill behind Yellowstone National Park's world famous, Grand Prismatic Spring, is a rewarding way to spend an hour or two while visiting this iconic site.

Grand Prismatic Spring is Yellowstone's largest hot spring and is the third largest spring in the world. Stretching over 350 feet, it is a gargantuan pool of steaming hot and colorful water that cannot be missed while visiting the world's first national park. However, due to it's size, it is impossible to fully appreciate from the boardwalk along it's north side. However, there is a way around this and that way would be to go up.

While driving along the lower loop road, you will find a parking lot for "Fairy Falls". This parking lot if before you reach the Midway Geyser Basin (where Grand Prismatic is located) parking lot, and only about 5 miles past the Old Faithful (Upper Geyser Basin) area. Park here and you will cross a bridge over the Firehole river and begin your walk on a loose gravel pathway that is both flat and very wide. Immediately, you will begin to see the massive hot spring ahead as the colorful steam rises out of the pool. Keep walking for under 1/2 mile and you will eventually be right across from the spring with a hillside to your left. There are signs that advise to not climb the hill due to an incident a couple years back, but you will find that a good handful of people are ascending the hill anyways. There is no marked trail up the hill, but there is a well defined natural path made by the thousands that have ascended it before. Climb up the hill and after just a few feet of climbing you will begin to see your reward. While thousands trek across the boardwalk below, you will have a bird's eye view of one of nature's most spectacular creations. Climb wherever you wish, but do be advised it is best to come down or not climb at all if there are strong winds or an impending thunderstorm. This hillside was once burned by a fire roughly 25 years ago, so many of the trees are dead and fall every year due to storms. Be careful on your way down as well due to the loose gravel.

Be advised that it is possible you may encounter wildlife while hiking here or anywhere in the park, so absolutely make sure at least one member of your party has bear spray handy!

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Bear Sprary
  • Hiking Poles
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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There is an official trail and viewing platform now. The parking lot fills up fast, so make sure you get an early start!

7 months ago
7 months ago

The Grand Prismatic Spring is an absolute phenomena. Seeing it in person is a million times better than the pictures. Well worth it!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Make sure you check the status of the trail before you go. It can often be closed due to bear activity.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Be sure you pack a bottle of insect repellent. I have been there in summer without one and I fed armies of mosquitoes already :P

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

The "trail" up the hill is rocky and unstable. But if you take your time and are careful about where you step, you'll be rewarded with incredible views of Grand Prismatic Spring. Definitely worth seeing it from both viewpoints!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Currently closed due to bear activity in the area, but I highly recommend it. Best way to fully appreciate the pool.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

After seeing the Grand Prismatic from ground level, we weren't satisfied because we had seen pictures from a higher vantage point. This is the vantage point that most pictures are taken at. A little tricky to find at first, but the description is super solid. Even though the trail isn't maintained, tons of people have worn it down enough to see where to go.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

This is a wonderful way to get away from the crowds on the boardwalk and experience a totally different view of Grand Prismatic. We went for sunset and had the view all to ourselves. This is a must do when visiting Yellowstone.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Chase Dekker

Wildlife photographer and biologist currently based in my coastal hometown of Monterey, California. Always looking for the next wildlife adventure!

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