West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail

EASY 79 reviews
#9 of 198 trails in

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.

hiking
5 days ago

Unbelievable sights. Very beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake.

hiking
10 days ago

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

hiking
17 days ago

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

hiking
28 days ago

walking
1 month ago

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!

hiking
1 month ago

walking
1 month ago

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

1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

walking
1 month ago

Easy trail, beautiful lake view.

walking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Easy hike/walk. Great view of Geysers

1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

2016 great trail.

hiking
1 month ago

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.

2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago