DISTANCE: 1.2 MILES
Trail Type: Out and Back
Start Location: OK5 Fairy Falls Trailhead
Total Hiking Time: 40 minutes
Animal Sightings: N/A
Fishing Report: N/A
The Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook Trail is Yellowstone’s newest trail, offering a unique vantage point of Grand Prismatic Spring and the Excelsior Geyser Crater. The temperature of Grand Prismatic ranges from 145⁰F and 188⁰F, with the highest temperature at the center in its clear blue waters. As you move outward and the temperatures cool, the Synechococcus bacterium becomes predominant as noted by its greenish color. Calothrix and Phormidium are cyanobacteria that form the respective dark brown and orange bacterial mats around the outer rim of the spring. Blue steam rises from Excelsior Geyser Crater just past Grand Prismatic. Excelsior was once one of the world’s largest geysers, but its last major eruptions were in the 1880s.
Hikers first cross a bridge over the Firehole River, before walking along a wide crushed gravel trail. The trail gently climbs up 105 ft through young lodgepole growth, a result of the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Arrive at a large viewing platform surrounded by a rail. The distance, accessibility, and safety of this hike make it an ideal adventure for the family.
In anticipation of this new trail, the park added a new parking lot by the Fairy Falls trailhead. However, parking in this area is still notoriously congested and visitors should be prepared. The trail itself was constructed by Montana Conservation Corps and Yellowstone’s Youth Conservation Corps to protect resources and visitors while alleviating traffic around the popular Midway Geyser Basin. Members of both crews also rehabilitated the many social trails (unofficial trails) formed from years of visitors scrambling up the hill for a better view of Grand Prismatic. One visitor died in 2014 doing the exact activity when a lodgepole pine fell and struck him on the head.
This trail provides the best vantage point of Yellowstone’s famous Grand Prismatic Spring.