According to the LA Times, Yellowstone National Park ranked number 5 on the most popular National Park list with a recorded number of 4,116,525 visits in 2017. Old Faithful, the most popular geyser to be seen at Yellowstone National Park, attracts millions of visitors each year from around the world. This famous geyser was first named in 1870, according to Wikipedia. Now, 148 years later, Old Faithful remains true to its name by its constant, daily eruptions. While this is a must-see geyser, crowds can be overwhelming at times. Here are 5 tips to help you fully enjoy your visit to see Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.
#1 Have realistic expectations about the size and grandeur of Old Faithful
I first saw Old Faithful about 25 years ago when I was a little girl and have since revisited it in 2016 and then again in 2018. When I was little, I imagined a giant, narrow gust of water shooting 100-200 ft in the air, as seen in the Yogi Bear Cartoons.
While the eruption from Old Faithful still astounded me, it was a lot smaller and wider than I had imagined, though nonetheless impressive. Remember that just because it is neither the tallest nor largest geyser in Yellowstone National Park, it is still worth a visit. Just keep your expectations low and you will be pleasantly surprised!
#2 Old Faithful has a fairly constant eruption time, and can be planned for, but still requires patience
The next tip is to plan ahead. The Old Faithful geyser, located in the Upper Basin at Yellowstone National Park, has average eruption time every 94 minutes. This frequency makes it possible to see the eruption at almost any time of the day, though it can vary between 44 – 125 minutes apart.
Yellowstone National Park has created a Geyser app that predicts when the most famous geysers will erupt. This app comes in handy outside the park, however, once inside Yellowstone, my cell reception was bad and I could no longer use it. Because of that, we arrived just as the eruption ended one time, and far too early another time.
When arriving at the wrong time, Old Faithful is nothing more than a small hill with steam coming out of the top. Thankfully we were able to save a front row seat and then we patiently waited. You can ask a park ranger the predicted eruption time as well to help aid your planning.
#3 Plan For Large Crowds at Old Faithful Village
As Old Faithful is the most popular geyser, Yellowstone National Park has done a fantastic job accommodating everyone.
Old Faithful Village has ample parking, shops, a visitor’s center, a photography/art center, and places to eat and shower. This allowed us to kill some time and do some shopping as we waited for Old Faithful to erupt.
You can avoid some of the crowds by going at non-peak times. The best time to watch the eruption, in my opinion, is in the late evening. My son and I went after 5 pm and had a great time.
There were still crowds, but nothing close to the amount of people that were there at 1:30 pm.
#4 Take advantage of the Upper Geyser Basin walkways and vistas
One thing we did to kill time was to walk along the wooden pathways all through Upper Geyser Basin. It was definitely worth the detour! Chinese Spring was small but really beautiful and interesting. Apparently it was named after stories of a Chinese man washing laundry in the spring. I can’t imagine, but apparently it happened in the past.
We saw constant bubbling from the Chinese Spring.
Next to the Chinese Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin was the East Chinaman Spring. Located right next to the Firehole river, this tiny spring delighted us with its blue color and unique bacterial growths.
The Blue Star Spring is also located in the Upper Geyser Basin, close to Old Faithful.
I was amazed at how clear the water was in this volcanic, bubbling, blue hot spring.
In addition to hot springs, interesting bacterial formations dot the landscape in the Upper Geyser Basin. The landscape constantly changes, as is evidenced by the recent eruption of the Ear Spring in the Upper Geyser Basin. Be sure to check for closures along the Upper Geyser Basin Trail before you go.
Thankfully we could see Old Faithful from the Upper Geyser Basin Trail and so we walked back when the smoke got thicker.
#5 When Old Faithful Starts to Erupt, Sit Back, and Enjoy the Show!
Finally, the last bit of advice I can give is to simply sit back and enjoy the show. The Old Faithful geyser eruption lasts from about 1.5 – 5 minutes.
It’s so much fun being a part of this historic show and watching nature in action.
At times the eruption is small, and at other times it is quite large!
The park rangers allowed us to sit on the edge of the wooden walkways to allow other visitors to see as well. That said, we were constantly reminded not to touch the thermal ground beneath our feet.
Thankfully I had my tri-pod set up right in front of the benches and clicked away to my heat’s content!
I hope you get the opportunity to see Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park for yourself. If not, at least you can see it through my photos! Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me!
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