Grand Prismatic Spring is a must-see at Yellowstone. As if the park and all of the other hot springs aren't enough, the vivid colors in the Grand Prismatic Spring aren't likely colors you've ever seen in nature, and although they get played up in photos, they really are that brilliant. At the ground level, you can walk on a wooden walkway around by the spring and three other pools. The parking here is tight and the view is more limited, but you can get a more aerial view by driving to the overlook accessed from the Fairy Falls Trail (which is about 1.5 miles south of the turnoff for the Midway Geyser Basin). Try to visit early in the morning (before 9:30 AM) or in the evening (after 6 PM). There will be fewer people and the cooler air can cause a bit of mist, which reflects the colors of the spring.
“the largest Hot Spring in the U.S.”
The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world, after Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand and Boiling Lake in Dominica. It is located in the Midway Geyser Basin. Grand Prismatic Spring was noted by geologists working in the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, and named by them for its striking coloration. Its colors include blue, green, yellow, orange, gold, red and brown, and recall the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism. The first records of the spring are from early European explorers and surveyors. In 1839, a group of fur trappers from the American Fur Company crossed the Midway Geyser Basin and made note of a "boiling lake", most likely the Grand Prismatic Spring, with a diameter of 300 feet (90 m). In 1870 the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition visited the spring, noting a 50-foot (15 m) geyser nearby (later named Excelsior). The vivid colors in the spring are the result of pigmented bacteria in the microbial mats that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The bacteria produce colors ranging from green to red; the amount of color in the microbial mats depends on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids and on the temperature of the water which favors one bacterium over another. In the summer, the mats tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter the mats are usually dark green. The center of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.The deep blue color of the water in the center of the pool results from the intrinsic blue color of water, itself the result of water's selective absorption of red wavelengths of visible light. Though this effect is responsible for making all large bodies of water blue, it is particularly intense in Grand Prismatic Spring because of the high purity and depth of the water in the middle of the spring.
The Springs are absolutely gorgeous from above, If you drive just past them, and hike up the hill behind you get an absolutely breathtaking view! It is also a great place to check out at night!
Amazing sight, both up close on the walkway, and from above. If you want to see it from above, park at the Fairy Falls Trailhead and walk about half a mile down the trail. There'll be a path on the hill to your left that will lead you up. This path is VERY STEEP, but the view from above was well worth it.
We wanted to see this but with the wait for parking we decided to try again later in the day - we saw it at dusk with less foot traffic and amazing silhouette views of the mountains. We just couldn't see the vibrant colors as well at dusk so decided to try again the next day, earlier in the day. We ended up having to park outside of the exhibit and walk in (and it's worth it just to do this any way). So glad we did. It was worth the trouble of parking and the time spent walking to see this amazing spring in person and in daylight!
Sunlight is a huge part in seeing the vivacity of the colors, wait out the clouds if you can!
You can get a great tote bag with an areal view of the spring from the Yellowstone Association stores. From the path the bacteria mats are very interesting. The real showstopper is the mist. The colors of the spring and bacteria mats were reflected in the mist and it actually looked teal and peach. Maybe it's the time of day. Don't expect bright colors but enjoy the beauty of the vast size of the place.
Definitely in the top 5 things to see in Yellowstone. We went there at sunset and it was awesome as there weren't any crowds and the setting sun made some spectacular silhouettes of the steam rising from the spring, along with the reflection off the water. If you have time, hiking up the hill to see the spring from above is well worth it. Also consider tagging along with one of the tour ranger-led tour groups, as they have some interesting information.
This was one of our favorite places to visit in Yellowstone. There are a few RV parking spots available here. Show up early or during dinner hour as it fills up quickly.
Absolutely beautiful! Our favorite sight in Yellowstone. Definitely worth the wait which was very long. Construction going on in that area too but a must see. 👍
This is what I looked forward to seeing most. It is so packed though because I'm obviously not alone! Wish we had a chance to do the hike from above, but it's still breathtaking at eye level and there are so many gorgeous springs around the area as well.
stunning. A must see while in Yellowstone!
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Grand Prismatic Spring
- Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
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Good for hiking, Adventurers, and Cultural travelers.
Credit Cards Accepted