Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful to West Thumb

Grand Loop Drive:

Driving Time: 30 minutes
Distance: 17 miles

Within one square mile of the Upper Geyser Basin are some 150 geysers, a higher concentration than anywhere else in the world. Many of these, like Old Faithful, are not only spectacular, but fairly predictable. Old Faithful Geyser was named by members of the Washburn party, explorers who visited the region in 1870. Contrary to popular belief, Old Faithful is not the tallest geyser in the park, nor even the most predictable; honors for regularity go to Riverside Geyser, also located here in the Upper Geyser Basin on the bank of the Firehole River.

Nevertheless, Old Faithful is an impressive feature and certainly far more regular than most geysers. In addition, Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers — twenty to twenty-three eruptions a day, with a show that lasts two to five minutes. During each eruption it discharges roughly 4,000 to 8,000 gallons of water, shooting an average of 130 feet into the air.

In the visitor center, located 200 yards from Old Faithful Geyser between the Old Faithful Inn and the Old Faithful Lodge, you will find the Yellowstone Association bookstore, as well as an auditorium where you can see a movie about the workings of geysers. You will also want to visit the magnificent Old Faithful Inn, one of the world's best-known log structures, which is just west of the visitor center. Construction of this massive building began in 1903, and more than 500 tons of stone were used in its lobby fireplace.

Back on the Grand Loop Road beyond Old Faithful, you will come to Kepler Cascades in about 2.4 miles. From the parking area on the right, it is just a short walk to a wooden platform, where you can view Kepler's sparkling waters.

Beyond Kepler Cascades, the road bears east and goes over Craig Pass which crosses the Continental Divide at 8,261 feet. At the divide, the road passes over Isa Lake, whose waters flow to both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

This road between Old Faithful and West Thumb will carry you through an unforgettable slice of vibrant lodgepole forest. Pioneer species like aspen and lodgepole are usually first to take root after a fire, blow-down, or disease. However, shade-tolerant trees like the Engelmann spruce and Douglas-fir, the so-called climax forest, ultimately take the place of lodgepole stands and remain until a natural force, such as fire, restarts the cycle.


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