The Mountain Goat Gallery

Morning Glory Pool and Artemisia

Posted by Jim Steele on May 22nd, 2009 filed in Yellowstone National Park

            The Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park – the hectic area that includes Old Faithful – has so much to see that it’s difficult to suggest a route. You really can’t go wrong grabbing a trail guide and following your nose. But I have found a less discovered adventure that leads you to some of the coolest geysers in the park and past a couple of gorgeous hot pools. It also offers the possibility of at least a little solitude.

Sapphire Pool, photographed April 18, 2009.

            This path leads you down the paved trail from Old Faithful Geyser past Castle Geyser, Grotto Geyser and Riverside Geyser, over the Firehole River, and to the Morning Glory Pool. From Morning Glory, you continue on a dirt path past the gorgeous Artemisia Geyser and Gem Pool and end at Biscuit Basin, where you’ll rejoin a developed boardwalk and see the spectacular Sapphire Pool and numerous other thermal features. The total distance from the heart of the Old Faithful village to Biscuit Basin is 2.3 miles, so plan on at least five miles with all the side trips. If you time your trip right, you’ll see the eruptions of some of the coolest geysers in Yellowstone.

View Larger Map

            The trail starts in front of the Old Faithful Inn and the west Old Faithful Conoco station, initially running parallel to the road that leads back to the Grand Loop Road. The trail from here to the Morning Glory Pool is paved. In addition to being a great place for a walk or a jog, the trail is open to bikes in the summer and is a popular cross country skiing and snowshoeing route in the winter. You’ll skirt the edge of the heart of the Upper Geyser Basin and follow the path of the Firehole River.

            The first geyser you’ll see is the impressive Castle Geyser, which is roughly 0.4 miles from Old Faithful Inn. Castle, with its large cone, is impressive. Eruptions reach almost 100 feet every 10 to 12 hours. Don’t be surprised to see a crowd if an eruption is imminent; predicted eruptions are sometimes posted.

            At Castle, you have two options. You can take the boardwalk that heads northeast from the geyser, following it past the impressive Grand Geyser and Giant Geyser and past a number of smaller geysers and pools before rejoining the paved path just before the Morning Glory Pool. Note that bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk.

            Otherwise, continue on the paved path. This area of the geyser basin is a great place to see buffalo roaming – they love the flat, grassy terrain. After about 0.6 miles, you’ll come to a trail that leads you on a small loop past Daisy Geyser and a few other features. If you have a few extra minutes, this area is also worth exploring. The small Punch Bowl Spring, which is an additional 0.3 miles off the end of the loop, is interesting. The loop rejoins the paved path about a tenth of a mile later.

            Your next stop is Grotto Geyser, which is truly fascinating. Grotto has a jagged, surreal appearance; an interpretive sign theorizes that a grove once existed there and the geyser formed in its midst, gradually hardening the trees and creating the uneven geyser cone that you see today.

            If you took the side trip past Grand Geyser and Giant Geyser, you’ll rejoin the Morning Glory Pool trail here. Your next stop is Riverside Geyser, which formed just above the chilly waters of the Firehole River. You have to take a small loop trail off the main Morning Glory Pool trail to get to Riverside, but it’s worth the trip. Again, you have to time your trip right – or be very patient – if you want to see an eruption, but it’s intriguing if you do. Riverside’s cone comes out of the earth at an angle, and so do its eruptions, which reach about 75 feet every six hours.

A sunset near the Firehole River on September 12, 2005.

            After detouring past Riverside, you’ll loop back to the main trail, where your next stop is a bridge over the Firehole River. This is a really cool setting. You can see the Firehole flowing downward, with the hills that surround Old Faithful as a backdrop. There are numerous small thermal features near the banks of the Firehole. Overall, it’s just a cool place to soak in the beauty of Yellowstone. Stop and enjoy the scene for a minute or two. It’s especially gorgeous at sunset.

            Next you’ll come to the end of the paved trail and the Morning Glory Pool, which is about 1.4 miles from the Old Faithful village. Morning Glory Pool is a sad testament to the influence of people on Yellowstone. Morning Glory once was a vibrant blue color, but over the years, people have thrown numerous objects into the pool, clogging the vent and leading to a reduction in the pool’s temperature. As a result, it just isn’t the same gorgeous blue that it used to be. I can tell a difference just in pictures I’ve taken a few years ago. The National Park Service removes as much of the debris as it can, but it is clearly a losing battle.

            Most people will turn around here and return to the Old Faithful area or continue to explore the Upper Geyser Basin. But if you continue for another few minutes down the unpaved trail that wanders in and out of the forest, you’ll see the gorgeous Artemisia Geyser and Gem Pool, which are about a half mile past the Morning Glory Pool. These pools are the color that Morning Glory used to be, a deep, gorgeous blue, and are well worth the trip. Additionally, it’s one of your better chances to get off the beaten path and away from the throngs of people around Old Faithful. The crowds thin considerably when you leave the paved trail (note that you would also have to leave your bike behind.). The trail is well above Artemisia and Gem Pool, giving you a great vantage point to take in their stunning beauty. I’m always surprised by how few people you see on this trail, and highly recommend it.

            If you continue another half mile, you’ll come to a junction where you can head north to the Fairy Falls trailhead or cross the highway between Old Faithful and Madison Junction and come to Biscuit Basin. You can drive to the Biscuit Basin trailhead – it’s only a few minutes from the Old Faithful area – but if you’re already at Artemisia, it’s not much further. Biscuit Basin is also fun to explore. It only takes a few minutes to explore the entire geyser basin, and you’ll be glad you did. There are numerous interesting thermal features, but none more gorgeous than the Sapphire Pool, which is another gorgeous blue and is worth the trip itself.

            There are plenty of other options to continue exploring. A trail from the edge of the Biscuit Basin trail leads to Mystic Falls. Another bike trail skirts the south shore of the Firehole River and connects to the Morning Glory Pool trail near Grotto Geyser. From Punch Bowl Spring, you can continue walking out to the Black Sand Basin. And on your way back, you can enter the Old Faithful area boardwalk system and hike up to the Old Faithful Overlook. That’s one of the great things about the Old Faithful area – you will never run out of places to explore. If you check with the Visitor Center to find out when some of the secondary geysers, like Castle and Grand, are going to erupt, you could plan a whole day trying to catch some of these eruptions and exploring the nearby areas.

Comments are closed.