Watch the Inside Yellowstone episodes about visiting the Old Faithful Area (approx. 2 min. each)
Explore the Old Faithful Area
Marvel at the Old Faithful Inn
The Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert C. Reamer, who wanted the asymmetry of the building to reflect the chaos of nature. It was built during the winter of 1903-1904. The Old Faithful Inn is one of the few remaining log hotels in the United States. It is a masterpiece of rustic architecture in its stylized design and fine craftsmanship. Its influence on American architecture, particularly park architecture, was immeasurable. The building is a rustic log and wood-frame structure with gigantic proportions: nearly 700 feet in length and seven stories high. The lobby of the hotel features a 65-foot ceiling, a massive rhyolite fireplace, and railings made of contorted lodgepole pine. Stand in the lobby and look up at the exposed structure, or walk up a gnarled log staircase to one of the balconies. Wings were added to the hotel in 1915 and 1927, and today there are 327 rooms available to guests in this National Historic Landmark. The inn is currently operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Watch the Inside Yellowstone episode about the Inn (1 min. 52 sec.)
Learn about Old Faithful's Geologic Story
Evidence of the geological forces that have shaped Yellowstone are found in abundance in this district. The hills surrounding Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin are reminders of Quaternary rhyolitic lava flows. These flows, occurring long after the catastrophic eruption of 600,000 years ago, flowed across the landscape like stiff mounds of bread dough due to their high silica content.
Evidence of glacial activity is common, and it is one of the keys that allows geysers to exist. Glacier till deposits underlie the geyser basins providing storage areas for the water used in eruptions. Many landforms, such as Porcupine Hills north of Fountain Flats, are comprised of glacial gravel and are reminders that as recently as 13,000 years ago, this area was buried under ice.
Signs of the forces of erosion can be seen everywhere, from runoff channels carved across the sinter in the geyser basins to the drainage created by the Firehole River. Mountain building is evident as you drive south of Old Faithful, toward Craig Pass. Here the Rocky Mountains reach a height of 8,262 feet, dividing the country into two distinct watersheds. Get answers to frequently asked questions about the Old Faithful Geyser.
Tour the Upper Geyser Basin
Yellowstone, as a whole, possesses close to 60 percent of the world's geysers. The Upper Geyser Basin is home to the largest numbers of this fragile feature found in the park. Within one square mile there are at least 150 of these hydrothermal wonders. Of this remarkable number, only five major geysers are predicted regularly by the naturalist staff. They are Castle, Grand, Daisy, Riverside, and Old Faithful. There are many frequent, smaller geysers to be seen and marveled at in this basin as well as numerous hot springs and one recently developed mudpot (if it lasts). Take our online tour of the basin.
Discover Midway Geyser Basin
This geyser basin, though small in size compared to its companions along the Firehole River, holds large wonders for the visitor. Excelsior Geyser reveals a gaping crater 200 x 300 feet with a constant discharge of more than 4,000 gallons of water per minute into the Firehole River. Also in this surprising basin is Yellowstone's largest hot springs, Grand Prismatic Spring. This feature is 370 feet in diameter and more than 121 feet in depth. Watch the Inside Yellowstone episode about Midway Geyser Basin (1 min. 44 sec.)
Explore the Lower Geyser Basin
This large area of hydrothermal activity can be viewed by foot along the boardwalk trail at Fountain Paint Pots and by car along the three mile Firehole Lake Drive. The latter is a one-way drive where you will find the sixth geyser predicted by the Old Faithful staff: Great Fountain. Its splashy eruptions send jets of diamond droplets bursting 100-200 feet in the air, while waves of water cascade down the raised terraces. Patience is a virtue with this twice-a-day geyser, as the predictions allow a 2 hour +/- window of opportunity.
Fountain Flats Drive departs the Grand Loop Road just south of the Nez Perce picnic area and follows along the Firehole River to a trailhead 1.5 miles distant. From there, the Fountain Freight Road hiking/biking trail continues along the old roadbed giving hikers access to the Sentinel Meadows Trail and the Fairy Falls Trail. Also along this path is the only handicapped-accessible backcountry site in the Old Faithful district at Goose Lake.
Day Hike to Lone Star Geyser
Lone Star Geyser erupts about every three hours. There is a logbook, located in a cache near the geyser, for observations of geyser times and types of eruptions. Round trip 4.8 miles (7.7 km), easy. The trailhead is east of Kepler Cascades pullout, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southeast of Old Faithful overpass on Grand Loop Road. This level trail and bicycle path follows the Firehole River to the geyser. Lone Star erupts 30–45 feet (9–14 m) about every three hours. If you witness an eruption, please note the time and report it at the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. Biking is not permitted beyond a barrier near the geyser.
Watch Old Faithful Erupt!
Watching Old Faithful erupt is a Yellowstone National Park tradition. People from all over the world have journeyed here to watch this famous geyser. The park’s wildlife and scenery might be as well-known today, but it was the unique thermal features that inspired the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first national park in 1872.
Old Faithful is one of nearly 500 geysers in Yellowstone and one of six that park rangers can currently predict. It is uncommon to be able to predict geyser eruptions with regularity and Old Faithful has lived up to its name, only lengthening the time between eruptions by about 30 minutes in the last 30 years. The reliability of Old Faithful inspired early developers to build special viewing areas, lodging, and concessions for visitors to watch eruptions.
Thermal features change constantly and it is possible Old Faithful may stop erupting someday. Geysers and other thermal features are evidence of ongoing volcanic activity beneath the surface and change is part of this natural system. Yellowstone preserves the natural geologic processes so that visitors may continue to enjoy this natural system.
Watch eruptions from the Old Faithful viewing area, walk the boardwalks that weave around the geyser and through the Norris Geyser Basin, take a guided tour, or watch Old Faithful erupt live on Yellowstone’s webcams. You never know what you will see: each eruption is different and wildlife often visit.
Last updated: September 28, 2016