Hot Springs of Yellowstone and Tips for Your Yellowstone Trip | Debbi Marquette Photography

December 28, 2022

Hot Springs of Yellowstone and Tips for Your Yellowstone Trip


Regardless of where you are from, you have probably heard about Yellowstone National Park.   It has everything you want to see in a National Park – dramatic landscapes, geothermal activity, and wildlife such as bison, bears, pronghorns, wolves and elk. I’m going to explore the hot springs of Yellowstone and then tips for your trip in this blog.  Other blogs will contain more information on the other geothermal features.   

Yellowstone is huge.  I’ll say that again.  Yellowstone is huge.   Yellowstone is one of the most diverse National Parks that I ever visited.  It is over 2 million acres.  That is larger that the states of Rhode Island and Delaware.  Plan enough time for your trip.   I have seen so many people plan two days and there is no way you can see it all in two days.  Then they try to cram so much into a day they don’t enjoy the park.   Don’t underestimate the driving distances in the park.  When you are there expect traffic jams, especially in the summer.  In addition, wildlife and roadwork will also cause traffic jams.  Yellowstone averages over 4 million visitors each year with June and July averaging 100,000 per day.   Read below and I have tips for your Yellowstone trip to make it more enjoyable despite the crowds. 

But Yellowstone offers extraordinary views, it is constantly changing, and the landscape and wildlife you will see is beautiful.  Yellowstone is meant to be experienced.  Certainly, there isn’t any other place in the United States like it.   

Hot Springs of Yellowstone

So what is a hot spring? Hot springs are pools of hot water that have risen to the Earth’s surface to form small ponds. Yellowstone sits on top of one of the world’s most active volcanos so that is the heat source for the hot springs.   The super heated water cools as it reaches the earth. Then iIt sinks and is replaced by hotter water from below.   This circulation prevents the water from reaching the temperature needed to set off an eruption.   

You will see some hot springs boiling and some steaming.   Since hot springs are the most common geothermal feature in the park,  you will see them everywhere.  

Hot Spring Colors

Did you know you can tell how hot a hot spring is by the color of the water?  The hot springs of Yellowstone are not ones you are going to lounge around in.   The temperatures are high enough to blister your skin.  They are also as acidic as a car battery.   Bacteria thrives in this environment.  The different colors that you see are most times different bacterias.  Microbes that adapt to different conditions such as the temperature and PH make the colors.   

ColorTemperature in Fahrenheit degrees
Bright blue/aquamarineUp to 189 degrees
YellowUp to 165 degrees
OrangeUp to 149 degrees
Red brown to burgundyUp to 131 degrees

Chocolate Pots

This is one of the hidden treasures of Yellowstone! The chocolate pots are concentrated colors of bacteria and algae. The chocolate color is due to an extremely high iron concentration.   They are right along the road and certainly a traffic stopper when people see them.  

Lower Geyser Basin

Lower Geyser Basin is the largest geyser basin in Yellowstone.  It is flat, and about 18 miles.   The lower geyser basin also has the most hot water discharge.   

Below is Olo Callente Spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.  It is exceptionally hot – over boiling temperature.   Since this spring is located near the Firehole River, it helps warm the river.  

Midway Geyser Basin

Midway Geyser Basin is the home of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, one of the most photographed locations in Yellowstone.   It measures approximately 370 feet in diameter and 121 feet deep.   Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone and the third largest on earth.   

As mentioned above, the colors come from microorganisms.  

Biscuit Geyser basin

This is Sapphire pool in bisquit geyser basin.   

Black Sand Basin 

Black sand basin is named for the fine, black obsidian sand that covers some of the area.   This is a small basin area, but one of the more colorful.   Another hot spring of Yellowstone is Opalescent Pool in Black sand basin.  Notice the dead trees.  The tree trunks have white at the bottom.  They have soaked up the silica rich waters.  This is the first stage of petrification. 

Hot Springs of Yellowstone Lake 

Yellowstone Lake was created by a large volcanic explosion about 150,000 years ago.   The lake and the beautiful mountains in the background provide a stunning backdrop to West Thumb Geyser Basin.  This is a small area ,but I have often seen Elk here and it is one of the most beautiful.  

Lakeshore Geyser is a dormant feature.  The mountains in the background appear to rise out of the lake.

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest and hottest of thermal area in Yellowstone.   A scientific drill once measured over 401 degrees Fahrenheit about 265 feet down.   

Below is porcelain basin.  I’m sure you can guess how it got its name!   

Tips for your Yellowstone Trip

  1. Don’t try to do too much in one trip.  There is so much to see.  Take your time and see it.   Over planning a day is the top thing I see people try to do.   
  2. Most head to Old Faithful when they first get into the park.   Go see Old Faithful early in the morning or late afternoon.   There will be less crowds.  
  3. Take a hike.  It’s beautiful country. 
  4. Bring binoculars.   
  5. Don’t worry, you will see bison.   My first trip to Yellowstone I was so excited to see a bison walking along the road.  By the second day, I had seen enough bison for a while.  
  6. Don’t underestimate the bison.  They may look docile, but they are wild animals and if provoked or frightened will turn aggressive.   I believe the nearest hospital is about 4 hours.  
  7. Keep on the paths at the geyser basins.  They are for your protection.   Don’t step off to get the selfie!!  It’s not worth it.  
  8. Pack for multiple weather conditions.  I wore hiking pants that zipped at the knee.  They worked well.  It’s cool in the morning and hot during the day. 
  9. If you want to stay in the park, reserve a year in advance.   There is so much driving in Yellowstone, it is far easier to stay in the park.  
  10. There is little cell service in the park.  
  11. Pack food and snacks.  You may be a drive from somewhere to eat and may get stuck in a traffic jam. 
  12. Have a full tank of gas when entering the park.
  13. Split up seeing the geysers.   The geysers are a must see attraction, but split up the basins and see some on each day.  Trying to see all the geysers on one day is not only ambitious, you may get a little tired of them by the end of the day.  


Yellowstone is a huge park.   There is so much to see and do make sure you allow about a week to get most of the areas in.   If you enjoy hiking there are some beautiful trails.   Make sure to get bear spray.   I have never encountered a bear on my hikes, but I was prepared.  

Above is a sampling of the hot springs of Yellowstone.  There are too many to put them all here.   It is truly a fascinating place to visit and unlike any other in the United States.   We always went in the fall and it was a little less busy.  Read more about Yellowstone geothermal features here.

Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.  Debbi is  a travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography.   She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.

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