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Norris Geyser Basin Complete Loop Trail is a 2.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming that features hot springs and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from March until October.

Length 2.9 mi Elevation gain 190 ft Route type Loop
Kid friendly Hiking Nature trips Walking Bird watching Hot springs Partially paved Views Wild flowers Wildlife No shade No dogs
Description
Waypoints (42)
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Access to trail is steep and may not be appropriate for wheelchairs. The information for this guide was taken from the Norris Geyser Basin Trail Guide, which is available at the trailhead. Norris is outside the Yellowstone Caldera, but inside the first and largest caldera. Norris is one of the most active earthquake areas in the park. This is one of the most acidic hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone. Many acidic geysers, which are rare in the rest of the world, are here. Steamboat Geyser is the tallest active geyser in the world. Norris Geyser Basin is one of the hottest and most dynamic of Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas. Many hot springs and fumaroles have temperatures above the boiling point (200°F) here. Water fluctuations and seismic activity often change features. It's hard to imagine a setting more volatile than Norris. It is part of one of the world's largest active volcanoes. And it sits on the intersection of three major faults. One runs from the north; another runs from the west. These two faults intersect with a ring fracture from the Yellowstone Caldera eruption 640,000 years ago. These conditions helped to create this dynamic geyser basin. Each year at Norris new hot springs and geysers appear; others become dormant. Geologic events cause many of these changes. Even small earthquakes can trigger changes in hydrothermal behavior. Some changes are brief; others last longer. Geysers and hot springs may also create changes in themselves. Some Norris hot springs, like Cistern, rapidly dissolve underground rock. As hot water moves toward the surface, the dissolved minerals deposit along subterranean passages and around the surface vents. Eventually, these deposits can choke off the flow of water. New features may be born as hot, pressurized water seeks a route to the surface. Some features in Norris Geyser Basin can undergo dramatic behavioral changes simultaneously. Clear pools become muddy and boil violently, and some temporarily become geysers. Geysers cease erupting or have altered cycles. New features appear. This sudden activity is known as a "thermal disturbance" and can last a few days or more than a week. Gradually, most features return to "normal." Why this happens is not fully understood. Norris has the greatest water chemistry diversity among Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas. Multiple underground hot water reservoirs exist here and as their water levels fluctuate, concentrations of chloride, sulfate, iron, and arsenic change. Although Norris is known for its acid features, it also has alkaline hot springs and geysers. As underground waters and chemistry shift, they could contribute to sudden dramatic changes in minerals and pH. Further study will help unravel the mystery of this phenomenon. The Colors of Norris Many of the colors you see here are evidence of thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms) and their activity. Yellow deposits here typically contain sulfur. They form when hydrogen sulfide gas (the rotten egg odor you may have noticed) is converted to sulfur. Some thermophiles live in these areas because they use chemicals like sulfur for energy. They form communities of mats and streamers (formations that look like waving clumps of hair) in the hottest acidic runoff, which measure between 140°F and 181°F. Dark brown, rust, and red colors abound in Norris and contain varying amounts of iron. Red-brown mats may also contain bacteria and archaea that help build the mats by metabolizing and depositing iron. These iron-oxide deposits often contain high levels of arsenic. These communities form in water below 140°F. Emerald-green mats color many of the runoff channels of hot springs and geysers here. Algae are the dominant life forms in these mats and contain chlorophyll, a green pigment that helps convert sunlight to energy. Some bacteria and archaea grow in these mats, which form below 133°F. Dark blackish-green mats form in even cooler water. An alga called Zygogonium forms these communities of mats and streamers. Color placement within thermal water changes, in part, because temperatures and chemistry change. In a hot spring, for example, the hottest water is closest to a hot spring's vent. As the water flows outward, it gradually cools. This range of water temperature, called a thermal gradient, supports various thermophilic habitats. Chemical composition also changes as water flows from thermal features, mixes with other water sources, and is diluted or concentrated. As temperatures or chemical compositions change, microbial populations—and the colors they create—shift to a location they favor. Norris Geyser Basin supports an astounding diversity of life. The majority of species here are microscopic thermophiles—heat-loving microorganisms. They survive in conditions of high heat and acidity or alkalinity that would instantly kill most other life forms. This domain includes bacteria that can cause disease, fertilize soil, recycle material, and renew oxygen.

Hydrothermal features are fragile rarities of nature. Yellowstone preserves the largest collection of hydrothermal features on the planet. You have an unparalleled opportunity to view hot springs, geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles in a natural setting. Change takes place naturally in a hydrothermal area, but people can disrupt these processes and cause irreparable damage. Rocks, sticks, and other objects thrown into a hydrothermal feature may be permanently cemented in place, choking off water circulation and ending all activity. For the sake of all who follow, never throw objects into any feature. Stay on established walkways for your safety and to protect fragile formations that have formed over thousands of years. It is illegal to collect any natural or cultural objects or to remove, deface, or destroy any plant, animal, or mineral in Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas. Bring drinking water; take out all trash. While viewing or photographing the area, protect your camera, glasses, and binocular lenses from hydrothermal heat and stray. Toxic gases exist in Yellowstone. Dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide have been measured in some hydrothermal areas. If you feel sick, leave the location immediately. Help preserve Yellowstone for the future.

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Reviews (283)
Photos (698)
Recordings (239)
Completed (837)
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mo cap
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Scenic driving
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mo cap
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 16, 2020
Scenic driving
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Maria Chang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 9, 2020
Hiking

So beautiful- we went earlier this week as the sun was setting (630pm) and it was perfect - pretty empty and lighting was phenomenal. Boardwalks are small so was nice to have the place to ourselves not to mention made for great photos. Would definitely suggest early morning or golden hour to fully enjoy this one!!

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Kenneth Lund
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Hiking

Incredible hike!

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Dimitry Latushka
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HikingGreat!
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Roberto Rodriguez
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WalkingGreat!

Beautiful, almost apocalyptic, like a scene from Mad Max

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Alycia Preston
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Hiking
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Ariana Hoffman
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HikingGreat!

Parking was congested, but because of the size and area of the trails it was quite enjoyable.

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brian sersch
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Hiking
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Kristen Fortman
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Hiking
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Wes Harris
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Hiking
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Kimberly Brown
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Walking

Only giving 3 stars because I didn’t go early and it was a nightmare of parking and people everywhere. Hard to enjoy in those conditions but understand how it could be a nice experience.

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Alex Drobes
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Hiking
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Michael Runfeldt
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Hiking

Beautiful!

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Bryan Holekamp
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Hiking

The trail is several boardwalk loops through a geyser basin with a variety of geysers, steam vents, and hot pools. There is a normal restroom and good-size parking lot at the trailhead. Be aware that the boardwalk trail can be slippery when it’s freezing outside. Especially near the steamboat geyser. The steam re-condensed and sleets down on the walkway, creating a trail that’s easier to ice skate than walk.

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Abigail Keene-Babcock
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 9, 2020
Hiking

Go early morning around sunrise and you’ll be treated to pink clouds of steam, otherworldly quiet, and possibly bear tracks.

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Blake Coombs
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Walking
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Ankit karwasra
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HikingGreat!
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Bianca Engels
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Hiking
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Chinh Do
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Hiking
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Nate Duffus
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Hiking

Windy, but beautiful

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Stewart Carnes
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Hiking

Great tourist hike. Busy place but because it's spread out the crowds were not overwhelming. Very diverse sights.

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Ariella Wells
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WalkingGreat!No shade
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KRIS D
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Hiking

Boring, skip it. Waaayyy better ways to spend your time here.

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Aaron Longmire
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 17, 2020
HikingNo shade

Mainly boardwalks. Beautiful views and many geysers to see.

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Scott Fancher
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Hiking

The geyser basin has an amazing collection of thermal features and is a must see when visiting Yellowstone. Unfortunately, even though the crowds seem moderate during our visit the week before the 4th, social distancing practice was almost non-existent. Because of this , we visited Norris at 630 am and had the entire basin to ourselves for nearly 2 hours. What a treat! If you go....go early!

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Danny Adams
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Hiking

Beautiful steam vents, springs, and geysers! Lots of variety. Loved both the back basin and porcelain basin!

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Cieara Donati
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Hiking

Breathtaking! Definitely worth the short trail loop.

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Jimmy Team T
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 26, 2020
Hiking

Loved every minute of this one! Boardwalk and dirt and so much to look at! Pretty crowded, but worth it!

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