Tips for Visiting Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful & Beyond)

This guide will help you explore the famous Old Faithful and take you beyond, highlighting key attractions and practical tips for an unforgettable experience. Get essential tips for visiting Upper Geyser Basin and discover more of this amazing area housing the world’s largest collection of geysers.

Key things to know

  • Plan your visit around Old Faithful’s eruption times, available at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center or the National Park Service (NPS) app.
  • While Old Faithful is the star, also explore nearby attractions like Geyser Hill, Morning Glory Pool, Black Sand Basin, and Biscuit Basin.
  • Remember to stick to the marked trails for your safety and to protect the park. There are wheelchair-accessible paved paths and benches for those who need a break.
  • Give yourself at least a half-day to take in all the sights. There’s a lot to see.
  • Comfortable walking shoes and layers are the way to go in Yellowstone. The weather can be unpredictable, and there’s a fair bit of walking to do, so be prepared.
geyser erupting in the middle of a wide expanse like a sandy field
While Old Faithful is the key attraction at Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin, don’t miss the other amazing geothermal features there. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Quick overview

Upper Geyser Basin, along the Firehole River, hosts the world’s largest concentration of geysers, including Old Faithful and other significant geothermal features like hot springs, pools, and fumaroles.

Upper Geyser Basin is organized into several major groups of features. These include Geyser Hill plus Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin. The latter two are a little more isolated.

Most of the pathways here are paved with asphalt or wooden boardwalks, making it pretty easy to explore the area. You’ll also find benches available along the trails to rest and take in the scenery.

TIP: Keep track of all the amazing sites you’re seeing in the park with this printable Yellowstone National Park bucket list.

Or turn your explorations into a game with the printable Yellowstone Scavenger Hunt.

On a quest to visit all 63 U.S. National Parks? Grab your own copy of the printable national parks tracker to check off your progress as you visit each park.

A small river winding through a grassy area with trees and a steaming geyser cone in the background.
Castle Geyser’s cone vents steam beyond the Firehole River in the Upper Geyser Basin. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Tips for your visit

Keep these tips in mind when visiting the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone to make the most of your time there.

1. Pick up an Upper Geyser Basin map at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Using this map, you’ll be able to plan out how you want to explore the area.

2. Set aside enough time: The Upper Geyser Basin is home to the largest concentration of geysers in the world, so give yourself at least a few hours to a half-day to explore everything you can. Some visitors even recommend spending a full day in the area.

2. Plan your visit around eruption times: Catching the eruption of the world-famous Old Faithful geyser (and other active geysers in the area) is a must for most visitors. To make sure you don’t miss these eruptions, check the estimated eruption times posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

3. Stay on the designated trails: For your safety, stick to the trails when exploring the geysers and hot springs. The ground around these features can be dangerous.

2. Wear appropriate clothing: Make sure your Yellowstone packing list includes comfortable walking shoes and layered clothing. The weather can change abruptly in Yellowstone, and you’ll be better prepared if you have options for different temperatures. This area is large, so expect a lot of walking, especially if you plan to see the Morning Glory pool. 

6. Consider staying at Old Faithful Inn so that you can see Old Faithful erupt with much lower crowds. We stayed there for one night and enjoyed seeing the geyser erupt twice later in the day with fewer people around.

See more Yellowstone travel tips.

Large building with a steep roof and a very large window. A sign out front says Visitor Center.
Pick up a map of the Upper Geyser Basin trails and features at the Old Faith Visitor Education Center. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

My recommendation for how to see the Upper Geyser Basin

This is how I recommend you explore the Upper Geyser Basin.

  1. Prioritize viewing an Old Faithful eruption and do that first.
  2. Then, using your Upper Geyser Basin map, follow the path around Old Faithful and then to the bridge across Firehole River to Geyser Hill.
  3. Continue on the boardwalk trail all the way out to Grotto Geyser then follow the paved trail to Morning Glory Pool; this will take you past Grand Geyser and Riverside Geyser. Please note that this is not a short walk. It’s nearly 3 miles roundtrip from the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to Morning Glory and back.
  4. After enjoying Morning Glory take the paved trail all the way back to the Old Faithful area, past Daisy Geyser and Castle Geyser.
  5. If you still have time and energy after visiting these attractions, consider driving to Black Sand Basin and Biscuit Basin. We stayed the night at the Old Faithful Inn and then did Biscuit Basin the next morning on the way to Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin.

Famous geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin

Fun fact: National Park Service rangers predict the eruption times of five geysers in the Yellowstone Upper Geyser Basin.

Infographic titled "Old Faithful & Friends: Quick Guide to the 5 Upper Basin Geysers that the NPS forecasts eruption times for. On the infographic is a photo of each of the following geysers: Old Faithful, Castle, Grand, Daisy and Riverside plus basic information about how often they erupt, for how long, and how tall they are.

Old Faithful

You’ve probably heard of the famous Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin. It’s called “faithful” because it erupts regularly, about every 90 to 100 minutes or so. The eruption itself can last up to 5 minutes and reach heights of over 180 feet. 

I recommend planning your visit to the Upper Geyser Basin around Old Faithful’s eruption time. You can find the time of the next predicted eruption posted prominently in the Old Faithful visitor center and on the NPS app. Keep in mind that the actual eruption can vary by up to 10 minutes on either side of the predicted time.

My Old Faithful Tip: if you arrive at Old Faithful within 20 – 30 minutes of the predicted eruption time, don’t wander far. Stick around so you don’t miss it!

Old Faithful is one of the most popular spots in the entire park and crowds there can be quite large. If you have time and don’t mind the hike, head up to Observation Point for a broad view of the Old Faithful area.

Large crowd lined up in front of Old Faithful as it erupts.
Even during non-peak travel times like May, Old Faithful draws big crowds. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Castle Geyser

Castle Geyser is known for its distinctive cone that resembles the turret of a castle. Castle Geyser’s eruptions are less frequent than those of Old Faithful, but they are still impressive. Castle erupts about every 10 – 14 hours for about 20 minutes and is followed by a steam phase of up to 40 minutes or so. Castle can reach heights of up to 75 feet.

Grand Geyser

Grand Geyser’s eruptions can come in 1 to 4 bursts, reaching heights of up to 200 feet and lasting for up to 12 minutes. Its eruption schedule is posted at the Old Faithful visitor center, and it typically erupts every 7 to 15 hours.

Daisy Geyser

You’ll find Daisy Geyser in the heart of the Upper Geyser basin. This geyser typically erupts every 120 to 210 minutes, for about 3 to 5 minutes. The eruptions can shoot water up to 75 feet high. Daisy is notable for its angled eruptions.

Riverside Geyser

Last but not least is Riverside Geyser, which you can admire as it erupts over the Firehole River. The eruptions from this geyser can reach up to 75 feet high. Riverside Geyser’s eruptions occur approximately every 5.5 to 7 hours and last about 20 minutes.

Other features of Upper Geyser Basin

Bright turquoise hot spring pool with a many-pointed shape similar to a star.
Blue Star Spring is one of the many non-geyser features you should see at the Upper Geyser Basin. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go.

Beyond its famous geysers, Upper Geyser Basin is home to many of Yellowstone National Park’s hot springs, pools, and fumaroles. These include:

  • Blue Star Spring
  • Wave Spring
  • Beauty Pool
  • Chromatic Pool
  • Crested Pool
  • Morning Glory Pool

The springs are beautifully colored because of the pigmented bacteria in the mineral-rich water.

Large pool in a shape similar to a Morning Glory flower. The outer portion of the pool is a vibrant golden yellow and the inner portion is green.
Morning Glory Pool is about a mile and a half from the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, but I think it’s worth the walk. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Black Sand and Biscuit Basins

Black Sand Basin and Biscuit Basin are considered part of the Upper Geyser Basin although they’re more isolated from the main collection of geothermal features that stretch from Old Faithful to Morning Glory Pool. You’ll find both Black Sand and Biscuit on the opposite side of the Grand Loop Road from Old Faithful.

Black Sand Basin

Black Sand Basin is located about a mile from Old Faithful. You can drive there or walk from Daisy Geyser. This basin got its name from the small fragments of black obsidian sand that cover parts of the area. Black Sand Basin is noted for its colorful hot springs, notably Emerald Pool, Rainbow Pool, and Sunset Lake. 

Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin lies along the Firehole River about 3 miles north of Old Faithful. Don’t miss Sapphire Pool, Mustard Spring, or Jewel Geyser.

Large bright turquoise pool with steam rising off of it.
Sapphire Pool is one of the stars of the Biscuit Basin. Photo: Plan, Ready, Go

Important safety reminders

  • Remember to stay on designated trails and boardwalks at all times.
  • Stepping off marked paths poses risks not only to your safety but also to the delicate ecosystems of the geysers.
  • Hydrothermal features like geysers and hot springs can reach temperatures well above the boiling point.
  • When wildlife is present, maintain a minimum distance of 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from all other animals.

Upper Geyser Basin FAQs

How long does it take to walk the Upper Geyser Basin?

Walking the entire Upper Geyser Basin can take several hours. The roundtrip distance from the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center to Morning Glory and back is nearly 3 miles. Plan for at least a half-day to fully enjoy the area.

What are the must-see geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin?

Don’t miss Old Faithful Geyser. In addition, you might want to make time to see Castle Geyser, Grand Geyser, Daisy Geyser, and Riverside Geyser.

Is there a recommended route to explore the Upper Geyser Basin?

Start exploring the Upper Geyser Basin at Old Faithful. Then, take the path to Geyser Hill, followed by Grotto Geyser, and finally, visit Morning Glory Pool, passing by Grand and Riverside Geysers along the way.

How do I find out when the geysers will erupt?

You can find the estimated eruption times posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, in the NPS app, and on the NPS website. Prediction times are not available during the times of year when the Visitor Center is closed in late fall and early spring.

The National Park Service forecasts eruption times for six geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Five of those geysers are in the Upper Geyser Basin: Old Faithful, Grand, Castle, Riverside, and Daisy. The NPS also predicts the eruption time of Great Fountain in the Lower Geyser Basin. Remember, these times can vary, so it’s a good idea to arrive early.

Is Upper Geyser Basin accessible for visitors with limited mobility?

Most pathways in the area are paved with asphalt or wooden boardwalks, making the Upper Geyser Basin accessible for those with limited mobility. Benches are also available along the trails for those who need to take breaks. Check your Upper Geyser Basin map for paths that meet federal standards for wheelchair accessibility.

Are there any other attractions near Upper Geyser Basin worth visiting?

Black Sand Basin and Biscuit Basin are part of the Upper Geyser Basin though on the other side of the Grand Loop Road from most of the other features. Midway Geyser Basin and its famous Grand Prismatic Spring are a short drive from the Upper Geyser Basin.

There are numerous hidden gems in Yellowstone waiting to be explored. For a guide to these lesser-known but equally beautiful spots, check out my article on Yellowstone’s hidden gems.

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