Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone best way to see it

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yelllowstone: the Best Way to See it

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Grand Prismatic Spring is a spectacular hot spring located within the famous Yellowstone National Park. Its rainbow colors make it one of the most visited and photographed attractions of the entire park.

In this article, we are going to find out how to get to it, the best way to see it, the overlooks to photograph it, the hikes, and all the information that may be useful for including this stop in your itinerary in Yellowstone National Park.

Where is and how to get to Grand Prismatic Spring

As we said, Grand Prismatic Spring is one of the main attractions of Yellowstone Park and is located about 7.5 miles north of the famous Old Faithful geyser in the Upper Geyser Basin. The area of the park where it is located is called Midway Geyser Basin, so in some maps, you will find this wording to pinpoint it. Recently, we published a Grand Teton and Yellowstone itinerary among the geysers, where we also tell you where Grand Prismatic Spring is located.

How to get to Grand Prismatic Spring? If you are exploring the park by car (as we recommended in our article on how to visit Yellowstone) you can use the convenient Grand Prismatic Spring Parking Lot, which is just a few minutes’ walk from your destination along a special walkway.

Formation and Colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest and deepest hot spring in all of Yellowstone Park, but its main feature is not its size but its characteristic coloring. It was for this reason that it was first noticed in 1871 by some geologists who were trying to expand their knowledge of the area. Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

So what causes its particular colors reminiscent of a rainbow? Unfortunately, the scientific explanation is not as fascinating as the result: we owe this spectacle primarily to the presence of bacteria in the water. These thermophilic living organisms only develop at very high temperatures and multiply along the edge of the water source, producing colored pigments that give rise to the particular coloration of the area.

The different colors correspond to the different temperatures at which the various bacteria can survive. As you can see from the photos, it goes from red on the outer edge (where temperatures are lower) to yellow and green as the temperature rises.

Other hot springs near Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring where is

As you can see from the aerial image above, Grand Prismatic Spring is not a spectacular lone nature formation, but there are three other smaller ones nearby. These are the Turquoise Pool, the Opal Pool, and the Excelsior Geyser Crater, which are connected by a convenient walkway from the Grand Prismatic Spring Parking Lot. You can enjoy noticing all the color differences and the play of light that filters from the ground vapors along the way.

Take about an hour to walk the full tour at your leisure. Obviously, travel times may change depending on how much time you want to spend and how many pictures you want to take!

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook: trail map and hike

Although the Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk brings you very close to Grand Prismatic Spring, if you want to observe it from above you’ll have to be prepared to take a nice walk.

Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook
Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook viewpoint

The vantage point for viewing the Midway Geyser Basin from above in comfort and safety is the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook. For most visitors this is the best way to see Grand Prismatic Spring. Here are the directions for getting there:

  • go to the Fairy Falls parking lot. If you are coming from Old Faithful (south) you will find it on the left, shortly after (about 2.5 miles) passing Biscuit Basin. If you are coming from Midway Geyser Basin you will find it on the right, after about 1.6 miles.
  • take the trail, 0.8 miles one way, which crosses the Firehole River and a wide gravel path and then climbs up to the viewing platform. The elevation is approximately 100 feet.

Below is the map I picked up at the Old Faithful visitor center, you can use it as a reference to get to the parking lot.

grand prismatic spring trail map
Grand Prismatic Overlook Spring Trail Map
Some useful info about the hike
  • The Grand Prismatic Overlook trail is easy to walk
  • The parking lot doesn’t have a lot of spaces and it’s often full
  • There are no bathrooms in the area

If you would prefer to enjoy this spectacle with fewer people around you, my advice is to head to the Midway Geyser Basin area in the early morning hours.

Some warnings

how to get to grand prismatic spring
Midway Geyser Basin

It is forbidden for tourists to walk off the official paths, both to maintain the beauty of the area as uncontaminated as possible and for obvious safety reasons. The water temperature in fact exceeds 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not therefore the usual “standard” warning, but it is practically an obligation to be taken seriously as in the course of the national park’s history, there have been accidents, unfortunately also fatal ones. For this reason, the sanctions to transgressors are very severe as shown by this article.

Also, due to the misbehavior of some tourists, the use of drones has been prohibited in this area for some years.

Where to sleep near Midway Geyser Basin

The closest hotels to Grand Prismatic Spring are those in the Old Faithful area, as we wrote in our article “Where to sleep in Yellowstone“. In particular, I would like to point out the Old Faithful Inn, which, besides being the largest hotel in the park, is the most elegant and sought-after, located a short distance from the most famous geyser in the world.

There are, however, many alternatives to take into consideration based on your chosen route. For an example of an itinerary with overnight stays near the Midway Geyser Basin, please refer to my Yellowstone itinerary, for an overview of all the possibilities of overnight stay take a look at our guide on where to stay in Yellowstone.

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone: Video

Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone: Gallery

Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Warning: Operating hours can change and closures for extraordinary events can occur, so we strongly suggest to check the venues official websites.

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Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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