Hike above Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

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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RT Distance 1.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 150 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Hot Springs
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Updated Trail

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

Nothing Like You've Ever Seen Before!

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

Check Status Before You Go

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


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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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