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Norris Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park

Norris Geyser Basin is one of the hottest and most dynamic of Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.9 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  The information for this guide was taken from the Norris Geyser Basin Trail Guide, which is available at the trailhead.

Norris is... more »

Tips:  Hydrothermal features are fragile rarities of nature. Yellowstone preserves the largest collection of hydrothermal features on the... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Bookstore

3. Porcelain Basin Overlook

Rainbow colors, hissing steam, and pungent odors greet your senses in Porcelain Basin. This basin pulsates from steam and boiling water beneath the surface. Its features appear and disappear often, but some hot springs and geysers have become relatively stable features. Take it all in from Porcelain Basin Overlook. You might see a small geyser... More

4. Black Growler Steam Vent

As you descend into Porcelain Basin, you'll pass Black Growler Steam Vent, a steady column of steam. A strong steam vent has been in different locations on this hill for many years, and it has always been called Black Growler. No one knows why it disappears and reappears, but Black Growler always roars back.

5. Thermophiles

The boardwalk across Porcelain Basin takes you over hot, acidic waters. It also provides a place to observe thermophile communities such as the streamers and mats populated by Zygogonium, an alga dark on the surface but bright green beneath. It thrives in water of pH 2-3 and temperatures of 68-96°F. Also look for the movement of ephydrid flies... More

6. Constant Geyser

Constant Geyser could catch you by surprise. Its eruptions burst 20-30 feet high but last barely ten seconds. One or more erupt ions may occur within a few minutes of each other; the geyser may be quiet for 20 minutes or several hours.

7. Whirligig Geyser

When Whirligig Geyser erupts, its pulsing sound often can be heard around the basin. Its rust-orange color comes from iron that has been oxidized, in part, by thermophiles.

8. Pinwheel Geyser

Pinwheel Geyser, seen from the overlook beyond Whirligig, hasn't erupted for many years. But its runoff channel provides one of the clearest thermal and chemical gradients in Norris. The brilliant green belongs to acid-tolerant thermophiles, including Cyanidium. This community begins when water cools to l00-126°F. Rust-red mats are colored by ... More

9. Whale's Mouth

You'll pass Whale's Mouth, which is currently a quiet spring,

10. Crackling Lake

and Crackling Lake, named for the popping sounds from springs on its southern shore. The lodgepole pines to your left were killed by thermal activity. Silica penetrates the trees and hardens their bases.

11. Wooded Area

From the wooded hill, you can see other geysers and hot springs near Black Growler Steam Vent. When you reach the asphalt path, turn right and then left onto a trail leading to Congress Pool.

12. Solfatara

13. Congress Pool

This hot spring was named in 1891 when scientists from around the world converged upon Yellowstone for the Fifth International Geological Congress. Its activity varies from a steaming, dry vent to a boiling murky hot spring to an over-flowing blue pool. It was one of the first pools discovered to contain Sulfolobus, a thermophile that uses sulfur ... More

14. 1-mile Trail to Norris Campground

If you are staying in Norris Campground, a 1-mile trail connects the campground and geyser basin. This unpaved trail is mostly flat, well marked, and easy to follow. The geyser basin parking lot is typically full throughout summer, so using the trail can save you time and gasoline and help ease parking congestion.

If you began your visit at the... More

15. Porcelain Springs

At the junction, turn right to find Porcelain Springs, an ever-changing area. It may be full of water from new springs or geysers, or it could be dry and quiet.

16. Hurricane Vent

Hurricane Vent once rivaled Black Growler in steam and noise. It has also been boiling and full of steam, with a small waterfall on the far side.

17. Sunday Geyser

As you circle back across Porcelain Basin, look for small patches of brilliant blue. They are salts containing sulfur, arsenic, and boron.

18. Colloidal Pool

19. Ledge Geyser

Take your time on the steep climb back to the museum. Ledge Geyser may be spouting from its several vents. Its rare eruptions send water 80 feet or more over the basin.

20. Back Basin

In contrast to Porcelain Basin, Back Basin is forested and its features are more scattered and isolated. Notice the young lodgepole pines growing up among the remains of a fire that burned through the area in 1988. Their abundant growth provides ample evidence of the resiliency of Yellowstone's ecosystem.

21. Emerald Spring

The magnificent color of Emerald Spring comes from the inherent blue of the water combined with the yellow of the sulfur-coated pool. The water in this 27-foot deep pool is so hot—close to boiling—that only the most heat-tolerant thermophiles can survive.

22. Steamboat Geyser

Days, months, or years pass between the major eruptions of Steamboat Geyser. The world's tallest active geyser, Steamboat throws water more than 300 feet high, showering viewers and drenching the walkway. For hours following its rare 3-40 minute major eruptions, Steamboat thunders with steam. As befitting such an awesome event, full eruptions are ... More

23. Cistern Spring

Cistern Spring and Steamboat Geyser are linked underground—a fact confirmed in 1983 when Cistern began emptying after each major eruption of Steamboat. Otherwise, Cistern is a beautiful blue pool with constant overflow. Its waters deposit as much as 1/2 inch of sinter each year. Look at the trees around and below this spring; the silica-rich water... More

24. Black Spring Pit

As you walk up to Echinus, notice the boiling pools on the hill. Black Pit Spring began as a group of small steam vents in the mid 1970s.

25. Echinus Geyser

Echinus (e-KI-nus) Geyser is named for its deposits, which look like the spines of echinoderms such as sea urchins or sea stars. Iron oxides cause the red-orange color around the pool and along the runoff channel. Echinus is the largest acidic geyser known; its waters are pH 3-4, almost as acidic as vinegar. Its eruptions are now months to years... More

26. Arch Steam Vent

After Echinus, the walkway takes you past a number of hydrothermal features. You are traversing dangerous ground. Do not leave the walkways—boiling water may lie beneath the ground.

27. Mystic Spring

28. Puff 'n Stuff Geyser

Puff 'n Stuff Geyser often chugs and sprays water a few feet.

29. Black Hermit Caldron

Although you can observe the steam from Green Dragon Spring from the main path, descend the lower path to fully appreciate its bubbling gassy water and to glimpse its sulfur-lined cave.

31. Blue Mud Steam Vent

Blue Mud Steam Vent, which began as a powerful steam vent, can still be muddy and dry—or muddy and overflowing.

32. Yellow Funnel Spring

Yellow Funnel Spring often is roiling and murky. It can also be calm and clear, or dry and steamy. At one time, its pool was lined with sulfur, which accounts for its colorful name. Beyond Yellow Funnel, the trail begins a route new in 2004. Previously, it crossed the flats to Pearl Geyser. However, in 2003 this area became superheated—enough to... More

33. Porkchop Geyser

Porkchop Geyser was once a small hot spring that some people said occasionally erupted. It began spouting continuously in 1985. Then, in September 1989, Porkchop exploded, throwing rocks more than 200 feet. Afterward, it became a gently roiling hot spring. In July 2003, Porkchop roiled as if in eruption. This activity, which probably was caused by... More

34. Pearl Geyser

Pearl Geyser is a beauty—full or empty. Its eruptions can spray water 8 feet high. When it is empty, you can view its colorful formations and listen to its underground gurgling.

35. Vixen Geyser

Between here and Tantalus Creek, the boardwalk passes Vixen Geyser, usually a slightly-steaming hole in the ground on the right side of the trail. If active, you may hear gurgling below the surface and see steam rising—or you may witness a brief, narrow, and tall eruption.

36. Junction

At the junction, turn right to view Corporal Geyser, Veteran Geyser, and Cistern Spring before ascending the steep stairs back to the museum. Or go straight to view another small group of hydrothermal features. This route is longer but much less steep than the stairs.

37. Corporal Geyser

38. Veteran Geyser

39. Palpitator Spring

Palpitator Spring seems to be constantly beating like your heart, with large "palpitations" caused by gas bubbles doming the surface. It has been known to drain completely for several hours, then refill and begin palpitating again.

40. Fearless Geyser

41. Monarch Geyser

According to PW. Norris, Monarch Geyser's eruptions in the 1880s shook the geyser basin and discharged huge amounts of water. Monarch remained active until the early 20th century, and resumed much smaller eruptions in the mid 1990s. An earthquake may have caused its increased activity, but the change was short-lived. Today it quietly overflows.

42. Minute Geyser

Minute Geyser spouts vigorously 1-3 feet above its crater—much less activity than during the time of stagecoaches. Visitors waiting for coaches amused themselves by tossing coins and other objects into the geyser. Over time, this vandalism plugged the geyser's plumbing, effectively killing it. No one can predict if Minute Geyser will ever again... More

43. Unnamed Geyser

From here, the trail climbs slowly up the forested hill. Look for a short spur to the left, which takes you to an unnamed geyser. After passing this feature, the trail begins to offer views of the East Fork of Tantalus Creek and Porcelain Basin, before reconnecting with the trail up to the museum. Norris Geyser Basin is named for P. W. Norris,... More