West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail is a 1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from May until October.

DISTANCE
1.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
59 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

beach

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

West Thumb is a caldera within a larger caldera. Active hydrothermal features exist on the lake bottom here and elsewhere in the lake. West Thumb Geyser Basin overlooks Yellowstone Lake, the largest lake at high elevation in North America. You can best appreciate its vastness in winter when the frozen surface extends as a white sheet for miles. Summer is the season to appreciate the lake's many moods. Here you can enjoy its calm, quiet mornings or witness the wind-whipped whitecaps of afternoon storms. After storms, look for rainbows arching into the wilderness beyond, a land nearly as wild as when Native Americans and explorers experienced it centuries ago. The surface of the lake hints of what exists below. Surveys of the lake bottom in the 1990s documented hot springs and hydrothermal vents just offshore in West Thumb. Look closely-you may see their swirling patterns in the water. Framed on the east by the Absaroka Range, the lake may be thought of as the heart of Yellowstone. Its waters are the lifeblood for a large network of plant and animal communities. Trumpeter swans and moose thrive on the aquatic growth in shallow waters along the shore. Trout are drawn to zooplankton living in these waters. Cutthroat trout are food for pelicans, otters, eagles, black and grizzly bears, and other wild life. Unfortunately, this population of cutthroat trout is now threatened by non-native lake trout. As you walk among the basin's superheated waters, you may wonder if the lake is warmer here than elsewhere. After all, the geyser basin pours an average of 3,100 gallons (11,733 liters) of hot water into the lake every day. But even here, the lake's average summer temperature is 45ºF (7ºC). The large circular bay of West Thumb is an excellent example of a volcanic caldera. A powerful volcanic explosion approximately 174,000 years ago caused the earth's crust to collapse, creating the West Thumb caldera. The depression produced by the volcano later filled with water to become this large bay of Yellowstone Lake. The West Thumb caldera lies within an even greater caldera, the Yellowstone Caldera, which is one of the world's largest and encompasses the central and southern portions of the park. Much of your visit in Yellowstone may be spent within the boundaries of this huge caldera. This larger caldera, and the lava that eventually filled it, shaped much of the present Yellowstone landscape. It resulted from a massive eruption roughly 640,000 years ago. Since that time, numerous lava flows have filled the caldera. People have long been drawn to West Thumb. Native Americans favored campsites in this area as they hunted bison in the summer. The Crow people gathered medicinal herbs here. Shoshone and Bannock peoples have stories about the formation of the lake. Early scientific expeditions, which corroborated the tales of colorful hot springs mentioned by mountain men, rested here. Visitors in the late 1890s and early 1900s appreciated a refreshing boat ride to Lake Yellowstone Hotel after several dusty days on rutted roads. The rustic log cabin near the parking lot was the original West Thumb Ranger Station built in 1925; it is one of the few such stations remaining. Now it serves as a summer visitor information station and a winter warming hut. The colors you see in the pools of West Thumb are created, in part, by thermophiles (heat-loving microorganisms). Generally, green and brown indicate organisms living in cooler water, orange and yellow indicate those living in hotter water. Only a few microorganisms thrive in the springs where the temperature is close to boiling, so you see the clear, blue water. In these hot springs, the water absorbs all wavelengths of light except blue, which the pool reflects.

11 days ago

Real cool spot to check out some hot springs

A nice short walk.

walking
3 months ago

I personally enjoyed the beautiful pools of West Thumb even more than the Grand Prismatic area. It features beautiful views of Yellowstone Lake, and the pool depths and colors are other-worldly. The trail offers a brochure that talks about each feature that can either be returned or they ask for a dollar donation.

walking
3 months ago

nice walk along the lake. can be quiet windy but beautiful with the pools.

hiking
3 months ago

Nice walk. Beautiful views.

3 months ago

a short boardwalk stroll to very beautiful thermal pools
get there before it warms up to see the steam wafting through the air

hiking
3 months ago

When I went there it's raining and too much fog. I think it will be better in a sunny day. Besides, I didn't see the fish cone. I think it is related to the water level in the lake.

walking
4 months ago

Nice little walk close to the lake and around the geyers. Very crowded, though (I was there when it rained heavily, and there were still so many people).

4 months ago

Far too crowded when I visited and slightly worn. The boardwalk needs renovations and there were unattended children running amuck. It's ok for strolling but tourists have torn the place up.

walking
4 months ago

Super family friendly and easy walk around these gorgeous, vibrant hot springs. Great view of Yellowstone Lake as well, definitely worth a stop.

hiking
5 months ago

This isn't really a hike, it's a boardwalk path. It's good, quick loop that gives you views of the lake, plus some hot springs and other thermal features. If you don't have much time in the park, this is a great spot to see a lot in one short walk. Be prepared to fight through crowds.

I'd recommend doing this and the Yellowstone Lake Overlook trail, another short hike which leaves from the same parking lot. There you can get overhead views of the lake away from the crowds.

5 months ago

Easy hike with great views of Yellowstone lake and geothermal features.

5 months ago

don't miss out on this. super easy and lot of great photo ops

6 months ago

An easy boardwalk trail but one of my favorite “quick stops” in the park!

hiking
6 months ago

Heavily trafficked; takes a while to get around through the crowd, especially if you are interested in photographing the thermals. But extremely beautiful, particularly with the right lighting on a sunny day!!! You just have to put up with a lot of inconsiderate tourists. One guy actually hopped off the boardwalk, touched a pool and was continuing to walk the thin crust area! Thankfully, he eventually listened to the ranger yelling at him to get back on the boardwalk for his safety.

8 months ago

It was so fun and pretty. Had an awesome time and definitely recommend

8 months ago

Beautiful easy hike underwater thermo features pretty not super crowded when I was there. Avoid times of due north or me wind

hiking
9 months ago

Just do it. It's beautiful, easy and underwater geysers are just plain cool. Plus---the Colors!

hiking
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Unbelievable sights. Very beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake.

hiking
Monday, October 09, 2017

Unique geothermal activity by the side of the lake gives it a different appeal.

hiking
Monday, October 02, 2017

Saw Elk at this interesting group of hot springs adjacent to the Yellowstone Lake

walking
Friday, September 15, 2017

Awesome to stand right over the hot springs from the safety of a boardwalk. The water is so clear you almost can't tell its there. Then look up for the picture purfect lake!

walking
Friday, September 08, 2017

Very nice trail ,beautiful lake and colorful pools .
We had great pictures there. We did this mid July 2017.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

beautiful, easy walk, nice to do before dinner at lakeside restaurant. GREAT view of the lake.

walking
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Easy trail, beautiful lake view.

hiking
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Easy hike/walk. Great view of Geysers

Thursday, August 31, 2017

2016 great trail.

hiking
Friday, August 25, 2017

Nice basins and plenty to see, nested well against the Yellowstone Lake and some gorgeous colors and easy boardwalk make this an accommodating hike that rewards.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Easy trail with views of the lake as well

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Great view.

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