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West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail

EASY 277 reviews
#6 of 228 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

hiking

nature trips

walking

bird watching

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
6 days ago

Mommy and I decided to celebrate my 37th birthday by visiting Yellowstone. This was our first hike and it quite the leg burner. Half way through I feel and got a boo boo on my knee. Mommy kissed it and make it better. A must do!

hiking
7 days ago

This was a beautiful view of Lake Yellowstone and the Tetons and some fun geysers along the way.

Beautiful scenery!

hiking
1 month ago

lots of people, good for a short walk not hike

hiking
1 month ago

Go for the sunrise. It’s amazing and I couldn’t find a word to describe it. Just go for it! Pretty cold, but really really worth it

hiking
1 month ago

Easy with plenty to see. Impressive

hiking
1 month ago

great area and not too busy

Great thermal Area

hiking
1 month ago

There are other geyser basins I like more, but easy loops and short.

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

This is an interesting area, but very busy that has very little shade.

Easy boardwalk, nice colours

hiking
no shade
2 months ago

This was our first stop after entering from the south entrance. We arrived around 10:00am and it wasn’t too crowded. It wasn’t my favorite stop but I definitely wouldn’t discourage it. The Abyss pool was amazing and it was a beautiful sight to see the contrast of the Black Pool near the serene Yellowstone Lake. I would recommend this quick stop.

hiking
2 months ago

It’s worth a stop if you’re in the area, but don’t go out of your way to see it. Super crowded, but it’s interesting to read about, nice easy boardwalk and views of the lake, was just a little underwhelming.

walking
2 months ago

Great boardwalk trail. Beautiful views of Yellowstone Lake and lots of different thermal features.

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful spot with a lot of American folklore and history

hiking
no shade
3 months ago

walking
3 months ago

Fairly easy walk around the boardwalk with a handful of hot springs/geysers. If you have visited Norris Basin, Mud Volcano, and other thermo type areas this will seem less impressive but it's still worth a look.

hiking
3 months ago

An interesting walk on boardwalks. There are a lot of people and the facilities were filthy.

hiking
3 months ago

This trail is on wooden boardwalks because the earth is hot and unstable! It was a great introduction to the Yellowstone landscape and ecosystem and the hot springs, geysers, and mudpots were awesome to see. Great views of the Yellowstone Lake too!

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful area! We saw lots of elk (one of which was a baby). People were getting waaaay too close though— please respect the animals and keep your distance.

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful views of the lake!

hiking
4 months ago

This boardwalk hike was located near where we were stay so we decided to check it out. Easy for kids and features some interesting geological features but the best part was the view of the lake

hiking
4 months ago

Nice view of large lake with some very colorful pools and other neat features. We probably spent 45 min here. Nice loop to do coming or going from one area of park to another. One of my favorites.

hiking
4 months ago

You may wonder how many geyser loops you have to do but... you should do this one. And remember. The more geyser loops you do the more you can fart and blame it on the smells of nature.

hiking
5 months ago

Really fun to see some hot springs/pools. Less crowded than some other areas of the park.

paddle sports
no shade
6 months ago

We did an alternate tour of this area kayaking. 6 mile paddle out and back. Pass over underwater geisers that others will never see from shore. No current so all consistent paddling both ways. The afternoons in Yellowstone are windy so the paddle back has a light chop just in time for your tired arms. A nice experience. Passed bald eagles in the trees on shore. such a beautiful trip. Got to meet people too.

9 months ago

The lake behind the geysers made it that much more interesting...one of my favorite geyser basins.

10 months ago

Real cool spot to check out some hot springs

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A nice short walk.

walking
Friday, September 07, 2018

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.

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