Of the “90 percent of people who come to Yellowstone only see 10 percent of the park,” Dawson Smith says. “They come mostly for the highlights. However, with about 10,000 individual features in the park, there are many spectacular geysers, hot springs, and mud pots that most people don’t know about.” Smith, the lead naturalist at Spring Creek Ranch in nearby Jackson Hole, WY, shared his five favorite unique hidden gems of Yellowstone, which are still under the radar, secret spots that ensure you’re the trendsetter among your friends.
1. Morning Glory Pool
This not yet overly popular pool used to be accessible by cars or stagecoach, but today visitors need to take a short hike to view it. “Start by hiking toward Biscuit Basin from Old Faithful and go about three quarters of a mile,” Smith advises. “You’ll find a brilliantly colorful pool with the deep blue of a Morning Glory.” You can also expect to see other vibrant colors which come from bacteria that surround the margins. “This feature is well worth the hike,” Smith promises. “As you move toward it, keep your eyes out for eruptions from Grand, Grotto, and Riverside Geysers too.”
2. Shoshone Geyser Basin
Looking for a secret spot to explore sans crowds? This backcountry geyser basin may be it. “While viewing the features such as Gourd Spring, Minute Man Geyser, and Taurus Geyser, you’ll probably be the only one there,” Smith notes. This beautiful basin is a hidden gem that lies on the West end of Shoshone Lake, which has the distinction of being the largest lake in the Lower 48 not accessible by car. Get there via an 8.5 mile hike from Lone Star Geyser, another lesser known geothermal feature that’s about a mile east of Old Faithful.
3. Mr. Bubbles Spring
This remote spring (which flows into the Ferris Fork River) is in the Bechler Region, a remote area in the Southwestern part of Yellowstone Park. To find it, begin at Cave Falls Road (this road starts 26 miles from Ashton, Idaho) and follow to the Bechler Ranger Station. From there, take a 13-mile hike to reservation-only camping near the river and spring. “Although it’s not safe to swim in Mr. Bubbles, you can dip into the Ferris Fork near where the hot spring water flows into the river, which makes for a relaxing backcountry soak and unforgettable experience,” Smith says. Adventurers take note: You’ll want to stash some bear spray in a sturdy daypack or lightweight duffel for this one, as you’ll be trekking through bear country.
4. Black Sand Basin
These bright and vibrant hot springs make for snapshots that’ll wow, even if you’re just carrying your smartphone in a small waistpack of backpacking essentials. “Often overlooked, find these colorful hot springs in this small geyser basin; arguably the most incredible blue color is found in opalescent pool,” Smith promises. “Black Sand Basin is easy to access with a parking area just off of Lower Loop Road, a quarter of a mile from the Old Faithful off-ramp. You’ll get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ at this basin!"
5. The Ferry Falls Trail Overlook
Yellowstone’s picturesque Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the park’s largest and one of the park’s most beautiful. While most pencil in a stop on their itinerary, Smith says that far fewer people seek out a view beyond the hot spring’s edges, and this is a true hidden gem in Yellowstone. “The best way to see the colors and shades of blue refracted from the large pool and colorful bacteria mats on the margins is to take a short hike along the Ferry Falls trail,” he notes. “You’ll reach an elevated outlook about 400 yards from the pool and 250 yards up above; the view is a truly ‘wow’ moment.” If you were looking for permission to skip the ultra-crowded boardwalks around Grand Prismatic, consider this it.
Before you set off to explore Yellowstone’s hidden secrets, be sure to double check your national park packing list. If you’re new to visiting national parks, this guide will walk you through everything you need for a successful trip to Yellowstone’s most unique spots.
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