When we think of Yellowstone National Park, we envision nature on a grand scale. Tall geysers, huge lakes, and expansive vistas all helped Yellowstone become world famous. But not all of Yellowstone’s magic is measured by size. Black Sand Basin is small, but its beauty is second to none.
The basin was named for the obsidian gravel that covers much of the area. Obsidian is formed when lava cools too quickly for ordered, mineral crystals to form; it is a natural form of glass.
Black Sand Basin is part of the Upper Geyser Basin, and is just a mile from Old Faithful. Its size makes this a good stop for families that are looking for a walk that is shorter than the ones they’ll find in many of our other basins.
As you start your walk, watch for Cliff Geyser, just across Iron Spring Creek from the parking lot. Cliff erupts every few minutes to a height of thirty feet or more. It is an example of a fountain geyser. Fountain geysers erupt from a pool of water instead of from a cone like Old Faithful and many other geysers.
Emerald Pool, Rainbow Pool, and Sunset Lake are some of the features you won’t want to miss at Black Sand Basin. Rainbow and Sunset have both been known to have geyser eruptions in the past. Maybe you’ll be lucky and catch one of those rare displays.
Yellowstone’s thermal features are fragile. Rocks, coins, or any item can block the plumbing of geysers and hot springs. Please don’t ever throw anything into Yellowstone’s thermal features.
During the summer months, rangers from the Old Faithful Visitor Center conduct interpretive walks at Black Sand Basin. Check for times on the park website, in your park newspaper, or at any visitor center. Black Sand Basin is one of Yellowstone’s marvelous little secrets.