The West Thumb Geyser Basin is one of the most over looked basins in the park and this is sad because it is one of the most beautiful. There are two loops: the outer loop is a half mile of easy hiking. There is one section with a rather steep grade, and the inner loop is one quarter mile of flat board walk. There are no steps to navigate, making it ideal for those of us with limited mobility. It only takes forty-five minutes to complete both loops even if you poke along. The Paint Pots are flat mud pots with pastel colors bubbling and churning in a lively dance of greens, yellows and pinks. They are on the right side of the basin as you come in. There is a little jetty going out into their field.
The features that are unique here are Fishing Cone, Paint Pots, and Mud Puffs. Mud Puffs are tiny mud volcanoes about 3-4 feet tall. Their steam sprouts from miniature chimneys with various brick like shades of red. The mud is satin smooth. You may be tempted to touch it, but be warned this is deadly stuff. It is acid and dissolves the rocks around it.
As you tour around the basins inner loop you will see: Surging Spring, Ledge Spring, Percolating Spring, Perforated Pool, Ephedra Spring, and Blue Funnel Spring just before you get to the steep grade is Twin Geysers. Around the outer loop are Black Pool, Big Cone, Fishing Cone, Lakeshore Geyser and Lakeside Spring. On the outer loop but near the inner loop are the Seismograph and Bluebell Pools. Yellowstone National Park is alive and constantly changing, so are the pools and geysers within the park. Abyss Pool has a history of intermittent eruptions the last being 1992 when it boiled sending its entire body of water over the tree tops all day. Twin Geysers will go off at any time sending its fume up to 75 feet. Its last known eruption was in 1999. My point is the basin is alive and active you never know what is going to happen when.
Black pool is now blue but is so beautiful you will never forget it once you see it and Fishing Cone is unique in the world! Rangers used to catch Cut Throat Trout in the Lake and drop them still on the line into the cone to cook! True story! How can you not want to see this historic place? The cone is no longer use to cook … the water is full of nasty things like arsenic, hydrogen sulfide and other stuff that I can’t recall but things that cause a shortness of life.
You can often see Trumpeter Swans in the lake from West Thumb and moose brouse on the zooplankton growing along the edge of the lake. Elk are a common sight around West Thumb also.
There are two nice hiking trails leaving from the parking lot, Duck Lake Trail and Lake Overlook Trail both are back-country trails and require permits. If you plan to go on either hike take water, snacks and layer clothing, even on the warmest day the weather may change at moment’s notice.
Things to keep in mind:
West Thumb Geyser Basin is in the south end of the park near Grant Village.
DO NOT LEAN OVER THE GASSES THEY ARE POISION. If you feel sick leave the area immediately.
Smoking is prohibited on the board walk. There are smoking areas provided.
Pets are not allowed on the board walk.
There is a ranger station, picnic area and restroom near the parking area.
Facts about the lake:
Yellowstone is the largest freshwater lake above 6,000 feet in the world.
Elevation: 7,733 feet
Area: 131.7 square miles
Shoreline: 141 miles
Width: 14 miles
Length: 20 Miles
Max depth:410 feet
Average Summer Temp. 45 F
For more information about the lake visit Yellowstone Forever.