Norris Geyser Basin Complete Loop Trail

EASY 125 reviews
#18 of 227 trails in

Norris Geyser Basin Complete Loop Trail is a 2.7 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.

Distance: 2.7 miles Elevation Gain: 180 feet Route Type: Loop

kid friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

hot springs

partially paved

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no shade

no dogs

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.

Definitely one of the cooler geothermal areas in Yellowstone.

hiking
1 day ago

Just did the upper loop, but my kids enjoyed the trail and there is some shade on the upper part. Hope to see steamboat geyser one day!

hiking
1 day ago

Niceeeee

Great easy hike to see lots of pots and geysers

hiking
13 days ago

If you’re looking for hot springs this is a great hike for everyone. Be prepared for crowds though. Still worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

There is a lot more to see here than you realize and parking is a bear at different times. I would highly recommend checking this out early morning or in the late afternoon to miss the crowds. As far as what you see, it has quite the variety of Hot Springs, Geysers, and mud pots so you will get to see a little bit of everything. It does have some elevation changes so I would rate this easy-moderate.

Due to the heat of summer we didn't complete the trails here. The boardwalks and trails are well maintained and not particularly difficult. The views are impressive.

hiking
1 month ago

this is an easy walk through a geyser basin. much of the Walk is on boardwalks. the geysers are very interesting. pick up a information brochure at the museum to explain what you're looking at as you walk through the basin. there are some steep areas that would make it difficult to push anyone in a wheelchair through. This listing said there were wildflowers. I would not choose to do this as a wildflower searching hike. there are better hikes for wildflowers in Yellowstone than this. but, all in all, it is a nice walk through the geyser

hiking
1 month ago

We almost skipped Norris geyser basin and I’m so glad we didn’t. We did the small upper porcelain loop first and all the boardwalk was really easy to walk on for kids and older folks. It wasn’t a loop due to construction and ended at whales mouth (this was 2 weeks ago) but very nice. The lower loop had a great surprise as steamboat geyser erupted and kids were ecstatic. Amazing geyser basin and great easy hike!

hiking
1 month ago

This was probably my favourite Yellowstone geothermal hike. We actually only walked Porcelain basin as a storm was coming. The colours at dusk when we were there were amazing and totally unique. Part of one of the loops was under construction but it wasn’t a big deal. All boardwalk and paved path.

hiking
2 months ago

Favorite geyser hike in Yellowstone! Less touristy and plenty of scenic spots for amazing photos!

We only able to hike the two southern loops due to rain. Norris Geyser Basin is totally worth the time and effort to hike the entire thing. The diverse sizes and kinds of geothermal features make this a must see.

hiking
3 months ago

Easy boardwalks to follow that take you around to see all the geothermal sites.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful! A must, less traveled geyser that is just as beautiful. Wooden trails, easy to hike and follow and allows for beautiful pictures.

walking
7 months ago

This short jaunt was like walking out onto an alien planet. The trees give way to a landscape you won’t see anywhere else on Earth.

nature trips
10 months ago

Cold morning created a beautiful steam-filled, icy wonderland. Very easy walk but worth staying a few minutes at each thermal feature to listen and observe. Have to say Vixen was my favorite - nice small geyser, spurting away and then just stopped, starting up again in a minute or so. Amazing.

hiking
Friday, August 10, 2018

Very amazing! Come early to avoid too many people. When I went there, there is so much fog that I cannot see my friend near me. Interesting!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

great to do first thing in morning so have place to yourself!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Fun little walk through all the geysers. Loved watching all the steam in front of the mountains.

hiking
Sunday, June 17, 2018

Awesome hike. Family friendly too!

Monday, March 26, 2018

The sights make this a 5 Star. The path is very easy crowded typically and I doesn’t take too much effort normally is not rate as a 5 Star due to those limits but the thermo sights are special

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Like much of Yellowstone it feels like another planet, simply amazing.

walking
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Did this trail in the very late afternoon into dusk and it was great! The way the sun caught the steam was just breathtaking. There were very few people there at that time so it felt like we had the place to ourselves and that just added to the otherworldly feel. We were able to get some amazing pictures!

hiking
Tuesday, August 08, 2017

super cool! we got there at 7am and walked around the back basin with no one else around. it was magical.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Parking and crowd cycle through can be difficult to park. Did longer loop first, it is flatter. Deeper pools more active geysers. Smaller loop bacterial mats are more vibrant.

hiking
Thursday, July 27, 2017

I hiked on a 45 degree overcast morning before the crowds arrived and before the sun broke through the haze. It was magical to be in that otherworldly place, alone most of the time, in the mist. Mostly flat, and lots and lots of thermal features to grab your attention. Always something interesting to see.

hiking
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Very interesting hike. Not terribly difficult. Not really for us - we love the mountains and summits found in other areas of the park. Geysers are certainly neat, but just not our preference. After a while, the sulfur began affecting our throats and eyes. Definitely a must see, but maybe for a glance instead of a long trail. Very crowded with busloads of people after 9:00 am. Go early to beat the crowds.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The best easy trail on Yellowstone. To do

hiking
Sunday, June 04, 2017

Beautiful & colorful. The hard part is finding a parking space! It took us three tries but worth it.

walking
Sunday, May 14, 2017

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