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Get ready for an exciting journey through Yellowstone on the Grand Loop Drive!

Discover the 16 best stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive that will transform your road trip into a legendary adventure. From mind-blowing geysers to soul-calming lakes and awe-inspiring canyons, experience the best of nature’s wonders.

And the best part? We’ve got maps and tips to enhance your journey. So, gear up and hit the road, Yellowstone style!

Grand Prismatic Spring – Stop#2 on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive 

Yellowstone National Park At-A-Glance

Before diving in, here are a few Yellowstone National Park highlights to help you plan your trip:

  • When Is the Best Time to Visit Yellowstone National Park

The best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April and May) and fall (September and October). The weather is relatively mild and the crowds are thinner. Wildlife is also active during these times, making it an ideal opportunity for viewing animals. However, if you’re looking to experience the park’s full range of activities and amenities, the summer months offer the most options despite larger crowds. On the other hand, winter provides a unique chance for a serene and snowy adventure.

  • Which Entrance Is the Best Gateway to the Park

Before you embark on your journey to Yellowstone, there is a pivotal decision to be made: which Yellowstone entrance is the best gateway for your adventure?

With a grand total of 5 entrances to Yellowstone to choose from, each offering its unique set of advantages and considerations, the task of selection might seem a tad overwhelming.

So here, we present your comprehensive guide to Yellowstone’s 5 entrances complete with insights on the optimal routes to reach each entrance, the nearest attractions to explore, and the best lodging options: 5 Entrances to Yellowstone (Which One Is the Best Gateway to the Park)

  • Where to Stay When Visiting Yellowstone National Park

Accommodation options include lodges and cabins inside the park like the Old Faithful Inn, camping at various campgrounds, and lodging in gateway towns such as West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Cooke, and Cody.

Reservations are essential for in-park lodges and popular campgrounds due to high demand. Find out Where to Stay When Visiting Yellowstone (20 Best Lodging Options Inside and Near Yellowstone).

  • How to Get Around in Yellowstone National Park

Unlike many other national parks, Yellowstone does not offer a public shuttle system. There is an automated shuttle pilot program in Canyon Village that launched in 2021, and there could be more to come in the future. But for now, having your vehicle is the only way to get around the park.

  • How Much Does It Cost to Vist Yellowstone National Park

To visit Yellowstone National Park, you need to purchase a recreational day-use pass, which costs $35 per vehicle and is good for 7 consecutive days. You can purchase the pass right at the entrance to the park. If you are visiting several national parks then make sure to get America the Beautiful National Park Pass. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites!

  • Check Yellowstone National Park Website for Trail Closures and Road Construction

You must check Yellowstone National Park’s Website for any trail or road closures before going to the park. You can check for updates HERE.

Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive Facts And Tips

  • Length: The Grand Loop Drive is approximately 142 miles (229 km) in length, forming a figure-eight shape. Start your drive early in the morning to avoid heavy traffic and secure parking spots at popular attractions.
  • Time Needed: A full day is recommended to complete the loop, but the time can vary depending on traffic, road conditions, and the number of stops.

INTREPID’S PRO TIP: If you have limited time, focus on one half of the loop (either the upper or lower) and explore it more thoroughly.

  • Attractions: The drive passes by numerous iconic attractions, including Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin, and more.

INTREPID’S PRO TIP: Check the predicted eruption times for geysers like Old Faithful at the visitor centers to maximize your chances of witnessing these natural spectacles.

  • Geothermal Features: Yellowstone is known for its geothermal wonders, including geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. Many of these features are easily accessible along the loop.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bison, elk, wolves, grizzly bears, and more. Be cautious and keep a safe distance when observing wildlife.

INTREPID’S. PRO TIP: Bring binoculars or a telephoto lens to safely observe animals from a distance. Keep a safe distance of at least 25 yards from large animals and 100 yards from wolves and bears.

Bison in Yellowstone

Bison on Fountain Paint Pot Trail – Stop#4 on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

  • Scenic Views: The drive offers breathtaking views of mountain ranges, lush valleys, rivers, and waterfalls, providing plenty of opportunities for photography.
  • Road Conditions: The loop is paved and accessible by standard vehicles.
  • Seasons: The loop is typically open from late spring to early fall.
  • Hiking Trails: Numerous short hikes and longer trails can be accessed from the loop, allowing you to explore the park’s beauty up close.

INTREPID’S PRO TIP: Carry bear spray, dress in layers, and bring plenty of water and snacks for hikes.

  • Cell Service: Cell service can be limited in parts of the park, so don’t rely solely on your phone’s navigation.
  • Leave No Trace: Practice responsible and ethical tourism by respecting park rules, staying on designated paths, and carrying out all trash.

Maps of Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive (Printable, Downloadable, and Interactive)

Map of Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Map of 16 Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

To Print or Download the Map of 16 Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Click: HERE

Interactive Map of 16 Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

16 Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive


Upper Geyser Basin - The Old Faithful Area

Welcome to the first stop on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive!

Upper Geyser Basin is a hub of geysers, hot springs, and captivating natural displays.

At the heart of it all stands the star attraction, Old Faithful, the geyser that lives up to its name by erupting regularly every 90 minutes or so, shooting water and steam high into the air. This is thanks to a natural underground plumbing system that creates the perfect conditions for these stunning displays.

Old Faithful

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Old Faithful 

While Old Faithful is the main event, take a leisurely stroll on Upper Geyser Basin Trail, a pathway that leads you through one of Yellowstone’s most iconic and dynamic landscapes.

As you follow the well-marked boardwalks, you will encounter a mesmerizing array of geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots. Keep an eye out for geysers like the Beehive Geyser, known for its unique cone shape, and the Castle Geyser with its dramatic eruptions.

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Beehive Geyser

GOOD TO KNOW: The trail is approximately 1.5 miles long and is considered easy to moderate in terms of difficulty. It is a loop trail, so you will circle back to where you started.


Grand Prismatic Spring

Get ready to be dazzled by the mesmerizing hues of the Grand Prismatic Spring. This stop along the Grand Loop Drive promises a kaleidoscope of colors and a unique thermal wonder you won’t forget.

Prepare to have your breath taken away by the colossal size and vibrant shades of the Grand Prismatic Spring. From the deep blue center to the fiery reds at the outer edges, this hot spring is like stepping into an artist’s wildest dreams. The steam rising from its surface only adds to the ethereal atmosphere.

You are not imagining things – those colors are real! They are caused by pigmented thermophiles, heat-loving microorganisms that flourish in the varying temperatures of the spring. The hues are most vibrant during the summer months, so plan your visit accordingly.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Grand Prismatic Spring

GOOD TO KNOW: To capture the spring’s full beauty, consider viewing it from the Fairy Falls Overlook Trail. It offers an elevated perspective that showcases the spring’s intricate colors.

PRO TIP: For stunning photographs, arrive during the early morning or late afternoon. The soft lighting accentuates the spring’s colors, making your snapshots truly Instagram-worthy.


Firehole Lake Drive

Map of Firehole Lake Drive

Closeup Map of Firehole Lake Drive

Next is Firehole Lake Drive! It is a short (about 3 miles) long, one-way loop road.

Firehole Lake Drive offers a variety of geothermal features that you can observe from the roadside or on designated boardwalks:

  • Great Fountain Geyser: This geyser erupts irregularly, reaching heights of up to 200 feet. Its eruptions can last several hours and are an impressive sight to behold.
Firehole Lake Drive - Great Fountain Geyser

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Great Fountain Geyser on Firehole Lake Drive

Firehole Lake Drive - Great Fountain Geyser

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Great Fountain Geyser on Firehole Lake Drive

  • Firehole Lake: This hot spring gives the drive its name. The lake’s vibrant blue color is surrounded by a white, silica-rich rim.
  • White Dome Geyser: Known for its cone-shaped dome, White Dome Geyser erupts frequently with powerful bursts of steam and water.
Firehole Lake Drive - White Dome Geyser

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / White Dome Geyser on Firehole Lake Drive

GOOD TO KNOW: The geothermal features along Firehole Lake Drive can vary in color due to the different minerals and microbes present. The colors can range from brilliant blues and greens to striking oranges and reds.

The drive showcases Yellowstone’s hydrothermal system, which is fueled by the park’s underlying magma chamber. The heat from the chamber warms water that rises to the surface, creating geysers, hot springs, and other thermal features.


Fountain Paint Pot Trail

The Fountain Paint Pot Trail is a short loop trail, approximately 0.8 miles in length, and will get you up close to a diverse range of geothermal features. As you explore, you will witness the mesmerizing sight and sound of the Fountain Paint Pot, a mud pot bubbling with vibrant colors caused by the interaction of minerals and microbes.

The trail leads you to witness the eruptions of Clepsydra Geyser and the rhythmic boiling of Silex Spring. Iron Creek’s vibrant orange and red hues add to the visual splendor.

Clepsydra Geyser

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Clepsydra Geyser on Fountain Paint Pot Trail

Silex Spring

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Silex Spring on Fountain Paint Pot Trail

Additionally, the trail takes you to Red Spouter, a feature that transitions between a bubbling hot spring and a spouting geyser.

Red Spouter

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Red Spouter on Fountain Paint Pot Trail 

GOOD TO KNOW: There is a wooden boardwalk that you can embark on that ensures both safety and protection of the delicate thermal area.


Gibbon Falls

The next stop is Gibbon Falls, renowned for its impressive cascade and stunning surroundings.

With a height of approximately 84 feet, the falls plunge over rugged cliffs into the Gibbon River, creating a striking visual spectacle.

GOOD TO KNOW: A short paved walkway will lead you to a viewing platform that offers a great vantage point for observing the falls.

Gibbon Falls

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Gibbon Falls

Gibbon Falls

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Gibbon Falls


Artists Paintpots

Artists Paintpots is a geothermal area known for its bubbling mud pots, colorful hot springs, and steaming fumaroles. It is easily accessible by a short 1.2-mile loop trail.

The highlight of Artists Paintpots is its collection of mud pots. These unique geothermal features consist of thick, bubbling mud that resembles paint. The mud’s colors can range from white to gray to shades of brown, providing an artistic and ever-changing landscape.

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Artists Paintpots 

Artists Paintpots

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Artists Paintpots 

In addition to the mud pots, Artists Paintpots is home to a variety of hot springs with vibrant colors. The presence of different minerals and microbial activity creates a palette of hues that contrasts against the surrounding terrain.

The area also boasts steaming fumaroles, which are vents emitting steam and gases. The contrast between the white steam and the vivid colors of the hot springs and mud pots adds to the visual appeal.

As you journey along the boardwalk, you will witness the rhythmic eruptions of Clepsydra Geyser and the bubbling antics of Black Spouter. The trail also offers a unique vantage point of Mount Holmes in the distance.

GOOD TO KNOW: The appearance of the geothermal features can change with the seasons due to variations in temperature, water levels, and mineral content. This ensures that each visit provides a slightly different experience.


Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin is a captivating hotspot of geothermal activity that offers a diverse array of geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and steam vents.

Divided into two main areas, the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin, this unique geothermal wonderland presents visitors with a dynamic showcase of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features.

The Porcelain Basin, characterized by its white mineral deposits and steaming vents, is home to geysers like Echinus Geyser and Vixen Geyser, known for their unpredictable eruptions.

Porcelain Basin

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Porcelain Basin 

The Back Basin boasts features like Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser, which can erupt to astounding heights.

Steamboat Geyser

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Steamboat Geyser

Norris Geyser Basin is also known for its changing landscape, with thermal features shifting over time. Due to the high acidity and extreme temperatures of some features, the area can be one of the most thermally active and challenging to predict in the park.

Trails and boardwalks will guide you safely through this otherworldly terrain, allowing for an immersive experience amidst bubbling pools and hissing steam.


Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

Map of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

Closeup Map of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces Area is a mesmerizing display of nature’s creative forces.

These terraces are the result of the interaction between hot water from underground geothermal activity and limestone deposits from the surrounding rock formations. As the hot water rises through the Earth’s crust, it dissolves minerals from the limestone and deposits them as intricate terraces, creating a visually stunning landscape.

The terraces are made of travertine, a type of limestone that precipitates out of the hot water as it cools. They are built up over time by the constant deposition of minerals, resulting in intricate and ever-changing formations.

Following are some sections of Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces Area that you should not miss:

  • Main Terraces: The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces consist of several main terraces, each with its own distinct features. These include the Lower Terraces, the Upper Terraces, and the Canary Spring Terraces.
  • Minerva Terrace: Minerva Terrace is known for its cascading pools and vibrant colors. It is a prime example of the constant change that characterizes the terraces, as new formations can emerge and old ones may no longer be active.
Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Minerva Terrace 

  • Liberty Cap: One of the most iconic features in the area is Liberty Cap, a tall, cone-shaped formation. It was named for its resemblance to the caps worn by the French Revolution’s supporters. Liberty Cap is an example of a dormant hot spring cone.
  • Cleopatra Terrace: Cleopatra Terrace is a stunning cascading formation with vibrant mineral deposits. This unique terrace exhibits a terraced structure reminiscent of ancient architecture, with mineral-rich waters flowing down its tiers. The vivid colors, ranging from orange to green, result from the interaction between thermal water and various minerals.
Cleopatra Terrace

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Cleopatra Terrace

  • Palette Spring: Palette Spring is another unique feature, with its colorful layers of minerals creating a painterly effect. The spring’s palette of colors is due to different types of thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria that thrive in various temperature zones.
Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Palette Spring

GOOD TO KNOW: The Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces are known for their dynamic nature. The deposition of minerals can shift rapidly, creating new formations and altering the appearance of existing ones. What you see one year might be significantly different the next.

PRO TIP: Make sure to stay on wooden boardwalks and trails that wind through the terraces. They will get you up close to see the delicate formations and also ensure safety, as the thermal features can be dangerously hot.


Undine Falls

Undine Falls is a hidden gem! This waterfall, located near the Tower-Roosevelt Junction, plunges approximately 60 feet over a series of rocky steps, creating a picturesque cascade.

Undine Falls is easily accessible via a short, paved trail that offers a view of the falls from a wooden viewing platform.

The falls’ name is inspired by mythology, with “Undine” referring to a water spirit or nymph.

While it may not be as famous as some of Yellowstone’s larger waterfalls, Undine Falls will captivate you with its charming beauty and tranquil atmosphere, making it a wonderful addition to your Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive itinerary.

Undine Falls

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Undine Falls


Blacktail Plateau Drive

Blacktail Plateau Drive is a scenic route that will give you a chance to explore a less-visited area of Yellowstone. The drive spans approximately 6 miles and offers picturesque views of the surrounding landscapes.

The drive connects the Mammoth Hot Springs area with the northern section of the park, specifically the Tower-Roosevelt Junction.

Blacktail Plateau is known for its opportunities for wildlife viewing. Bison, elk, deer, and even bears are frequently spotted in this area. The quieter nature of the road compared to more popular routes can make wildlife sightings more intimate.

Blacktail Plateau Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Blacktail Plateau Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Blacktail Plateau Drive

Blacktail Plateau Drive is less crowded than some of the park’s more famous routes, offering a quieter and more serene experience. This makes it a great choice for visitors who prefer a more relaxed and peaceful drive.

The drive offers expansive views of the surrounding meadows, forests, and mountains. It’s a great opportunity for photographers to capture the beauty of Yellowstone’s diverse landscapes.

GOOD TO KNOW: The road is unpaved and gravel-covered, however, most regular vehicles can traverse the road.

PRO TIP: Blacktail Plateau Drive is typically open from late spring through fall. The road’s elevation makes it subject to snow closures during the winter months, so it is important to plan your visit accordingly.


Petrified Tree

The next stop on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive is the Petrified Tree, a fascinating natural relic from a distant era.

This ancient tree, estimated to be around 50 million years old, has undergone a remarkable transformation over time. The process of petrification replaced the tree’s original organic material with minerals, resulting in a fossilized, stone-like form that retains the tree’s original shape and texture.

The Petrified Tree is accessible via a short paved trail, which will bring you closer to this unique geological wonder.

Petrified Tree

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Petrified Tree


Tower Fall

Tower Fall is a majestic waterfall known for its stunning beauty. The waterfall drops approximately 132 feet over a dramatic rock formation, creating a striking and picturesque scene.

The viewpoint for Tower Fall is reached via a short, paved trail that leads to an observation platform offering a breathtaking view of the waterfall and the surrounding canyon.

Tower Fall gets its name from the rock pinnacles that stand nearby, resembling the turrets of a tower.

While the viewpoint provides a great vantage point, if you are looking for a longer hike then you can take the trail that descends to the base of the falls, offering a closer perspective.

Tower Falls

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Tower Falls


Dunraven Pass

Dunraven Pass is a scenic mountain pass that offers breathtaking vistas. Connecting the Canyon Village area with the Tower-Roosevelt Junction, this winding road takes you through lush forests and alpine meadows while providing panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

The pass is named after British explorer and writer Lord Dunraven.

GOOD TO KNOW: The pass’s elevation reaches over 8,800 feet, making weather conditions variable and sometimes unpredictable, even during the summer months. Wildlife sightings are common along this route, with opportunities to spot bison, elk, and other animals.

Dunraven Pass

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Dunraven Pass


Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a breathtaking geological marvel within Yellowstone National Park, renowned for its stunning vistas and powerful waterfalls.

Carved over thousands of years by the Yellowstone River, the canyon stretches approximately 20 miles long and reaches depths of up to 1,200 feet.

The canyon’s vibrant colors, ranging from deep reds to vivid yellows, are a result of the iron compounds in the rocks.

The two main waterfalls, Upper Falls and Lower Falls are iconic features of the canyon. The 109-foot Upper Falls and the 308-foot Lower Falls offer awe-inspiring views from various viewpoints along the North and South Rims.

The most popular vantage points include Artist Point, Lookout Point, and Brink of the Lower Falls. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a testament to the park’s geologic history and natural beauty, showcasing the powerful forces of water and time that have shaped this remarkable landscape.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The area offers various hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the canyon from different angles. The South Rim Trail and North Rim Trail provide opportunities for longer hikes along the rims, while Uncle Tom’s Trail descends steeply to offer a closer view of the Lower Falls.

GOOD TO KNOW:  Artist Point is definitely the most famous viewpoint in the canyon area. Its name comes from the many artists who were inspired by the stunning vistas. This viewpoint offers a panoramic view of the Lower Falls, the canyon, and the river below.


Mud Volcano Area

Map of Mud Volcano Area

Closeup Map of Mud Volcano Area

The next stop is Mud Volcano Area, a geothermal area known for its unique and dynamic features. Unlike traditional lava-spewing volcanoes, Mud Volcano is characterized by its bubbling mud pots, steaming vents, and hissing fumaroles.

Here are some notable features that you should explore on this stop:

  • Dragon’s Mouth Spring: Dragon’s Mouth Spring is a prominent feature in the Mud Volcano area. It is a cave-like opening that emits steam and water in a manner that resembles the growls and hisses of a dragon. The steam and water create a dynamic and captivating display, especially in the cooler months when the contrast between the steam and the surrounding air is more pronounced.
Dragon's Mouth Spring

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Dragon’s Mouth Spring in Mud Volcano Area

  • Black Dragon’s Caldron: Black Dragon’s Caldron is a bubbling hot spring with a dark, murky appearance. It’s known for its churning water and steam, and its surface often has a blackish color due to the minerals present in the water.
  • Mud Cauldron: Mud Cauldron is a mud pot that’s often in a constant state of churning and bubbling. The thick mud bubbles and pops, create a unique auditory experience. The constantly changing surface of the mud gives it the appearance of a boiling cauldron, hence the name.
Mud Caldron in Mud Volcano Area

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Mud Caldron in Mud Volcano Area

  • Sour Lake: Sour Lake is a thermal pool with a distinct yellow color, caused by sulfur deposits. The pool’s surface ripples with the movement of escaping gases, creating an otherworldly atmosphere.
  • Churning Caldron: Churning Caldron is a large mud pot that lives up to its name with vigorous bubbling and sloshing. The mud inside has a thick consistency, and its activity can vary from gentle bubbling to more pronounced eruptions.
  • Boiling Spring Lake: Boiling Spring Lake is a large and visually striking thermal pool. The water is in a constant state of agitation, with bubbles and steam rising to the surface. Its surface appearance ranges from calm to turbulent, making it an intriguing spot to observe.

GOOD TO KNOW: The Mud Volcano area is known for its diverse color palette, ranging from vibrant blues and greens to earthy reds and browns. These colors are a result of the minerals and microbes present in the thermal features.

Sour Lake in Mud Volcano Area

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Sour Lake in Mud Volcano Area


West Thumb Geyser Basin

Map of West Thumb Geyser Basin

Closeup Map of West Thumb Geyser Basin 

The last stop on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive is the West Thumb Geyser Basin located along the western shore of Yellowstone Lake. It is a unique and picturesque geothermal area within Yellowstone National Park.

Situated at a high elevation of around 7,800 feet (2,377 meters), this basin is characterized by its hydrothermal features that interact with the pristine waters of Yellowstone Lake. The palette of vibrant blues and steam rising from the pools and geysers contrasts with the serene lake backdrop.

Following are some of the notable features you should not miss at this stop:

  • Abyss Pool is one of the most famous features in the West Thumb Geyser Basin. It is a deep, emerald-green hot spring with a nearly circular shape. Its depth and color are captivating, and it is a prime example of the interaction between hydrothermal activity and the waters of Yellowstone Lake. The contrasting colors of the pool against the pristine blue of the lake make it a popular spot for photography.
Abyss Pool in West Thumb Geyser Basin

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Abyss Pool in West Thumb Geyser Basin 

  • Fishing Cone is a historic feature within the basin. It was named because early explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake and then immediately cook them in the boiling waters of the cone. While fishing within the cone is now prohibited to preserve the area, the historical significance of this practice adds to the basin’s allure.
Fishing Cone in West Thumb Geyser Basin

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Fishing Cone in West Thumb Geyser Basin 

  • Bluebell Pool is known for its striking blue color, which is caused by dissolved minerals and the unique way light interacts with the water. The pool’s appearance can vary, and the color can change over time due to fluctuations in temperature and mineral content.
  • Black Pool is another intriguing thermal feature in the basin. True to its name, the pool’s center is a deep black color, which is caused by the way sunlight is absorbed by the pool’s deep water. The black center is surrounded by a vibrant blue ring.
West Thumb Geyser Basin - Black Pool

Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive / Black Pool in West Thumb Geyser Basin 

GOOD TO KNOW: The West Thumb Geyser Basin is accessible via an easily navigable boardwalk, which will allow you to explore the area and experience the fascinating geothermal phenomena up close.

Intrepid Scout's Tips for Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive

That is quite a list. So, to narrow it down, here are some of my recommendations:

  • Must-See Stops:
    • Old Faithful: Witness the iconic Old Faithful Geyser erupt on a predictable schedule, surrounded by a variety of thermal features.
    • Grand Prismatic Spring: Visit the Midway Geyser Basin to see the stunning and vibrant Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the park.
    • Yellowstone Lake: Take a moment to appreciate the serene beauty of Yellowstone Lake, one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America.
    • Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Explore the captivating Grand Canyon area, where you can see the Upper and Lower Falls, as well as the stunning canyon walls.
  • Additional Recommended Stops:
    • Mammoth Hot Springs: Witness the unique terraced formations of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, a striking geothermal area near the park entrance.
    • Norris Geyser Basin: Explore the dynamic Norris Geyser Basin with its impressive geothermal features and unique hydrothermal landscapes.
    • Fountain Paint Pot Trail: Experience a diverse range of geothermal features on this short-loop trail in the Lower Geyser Basin.
    • West Thumb Geyser Basin: Admire the thermal features that interact with Yellowstone Lake, providing a unique geothermal and lakeside experience.
    • Artist Point: Capture breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Lower Falls from this renowned viewpoint.
  • Tips for Short On Time:
    • Focus on Key Areas: Prioritize the Old Faithful area and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, as they offer iconic features and a variety of thermal attractions.
    • Plan Efficiently: Plan your route to minimize backtracking and cover the most significant attractions within your available time.
    • Early Start: Begin your day early to avoid crowds and make the most of your time at each stop.
    • Visitor Centers: Stop by visitor centers to get maps, information, and recommendations to optimize your limited time.
    • Scenic Overlooks: Take advantage of viewpoints and overlooks to capture panoramic views and appreciate the park’s beauty without extensive hiking.

Remember that Yellowstone’s beauty is vast, so even with limited time, you will have a chance to experience some of its remarkable natural wonders. It is a good idea to be flexible and open to unexpected discoveries along the way.

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2 thoughts on “16 Best Stops on Yellowstone Grand Loop Drive (Maps+Useful Tips)


Great information! My husband and I are leaving this weekend for Idaho and plan on spending a day at Yellowstone. I am so excited, especially after finding your site. I am wondering if these 16 stops are doable in one day? I realize that there are so many variables such as traffic and wild animals, but about how long would it take to do this route?

Thanks so much!


    Hi Leslie,
    Thank you so much.
    Start your day early so that you will be able to find a parking at all of these amazing stops. Keep track of time and focus just on the highlights. You do not have to do all the stops. Just do the ones that I highlighted at the end.

    I have done this loop several times and to really explore it, you need at least 3 days.
    The Lower Loop is spectacular. I have just finished another post, so check it out and maybe just focus on the Lower Loop:

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