More Old Faithful Area Highlights

You could spend your lifetime exploring Yellowstone National Park. Here are some more of our favorite places and things to do in the Old Faithful Area. From home, take an online tour of the Old Faithful area, join park rangers as they describe the features and processes of Old Faithful in two-minute Inside Yellowstone videos, or see what's happening now on the Old Faithful webcams.

Fishing on the Firehole River
Enjoy fly fishing on the Firehole River.



Enjoy Fly Fishing the Firehole River

The river derives its name from the steam (which they thought was smoke from fires) witnessed by early trappers to the area. Their term for a mountain valley was "hole," and the designation was born. The Firehole River boasts a world-famous reputation for challenging fly-fishing. Brown, rainbow, and brook trout give the angler a wary target in this stream.

Visitors on the porch of Old Faithful Lodge
The Old Faithful Lodge provides additional places for rest.

NPS/Diane Renkin


Relax on the Porch of the Old Faithful Lodge

Unlike the Inn, the current Old Faithful Lodge is a result of numerous changes dating back to the early days of tent camps provided by companies like Shaw and Powell Camping Company and Wylie Permanent Camping Company. These camps were erected throughout the park and offered shelter before hotels and lodges were built. Both companies had facilities at Old Faithful. By 1917, auto traffic into the park was increasing, and it was decided that some camps could be eliminated. Yellowstone Park Camping Company emerged and operated on the old site of the Shaw and Powell camp, the present day site of the Lodge. In 1918, a laundry was built on the site and construction continued on the facility until 1928 when the Lodge reached its present configuration.

Cabin-style accommodations are available at Old Faithful Lodge. Often confused with the other two hotels in the area, Old Faithful Lodge houses a cafeteria, gift shop, coffee shop, and the front desk where guests check in. The lodge is currently operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

Craggy mountains in the background of snow-dusted forests beneath clouds
The Tetons can be seen from Craig Pass.


View the Tetons from Craig Pass (Isa Lake)

Both names are used to describe the same location seven miles south of Old Faithful on the Grand Loop Road. At 8,262 feet along the Continental Divide, Isa Lake is a uniquely confusing feature (Watch the 1 min. 36 sec. Inside Yellowstone episode). At one time, it was probably the only lake on Earth that drained naturally backwards to two oceans, the east side draining to the Pacific and the west side to the Atlantic. If this still occurs, it is only at the peak of snow melt after winters with deep snowfall. The west side of the lake would flow into the Firehole drainage and, eventually, the Atlantic throughout the year. During the spring, the east side might flow toward the Snake River drainage and the Pacific.

Hiram Chittenden of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers claimed to have discovered this lake on the Continental Divide at Craig Pass in 1891. Chittenden, who built many early roads in Yellowstone, was searching for a practicable route to locate his new road between Old Faithful and West Thumb. It was not until 1893 that Northern Pacific Railroad officials named the lake for Isabel Jelke of Cincinnati. Little is known about Jelke or about her relationship to Chittenden, the Northern Pacific, and Yellowstone.

Chittenden's 1916 poetic tribute to the lake and his discovery includes the puzzling line: "Thou hast no name; pray, wilt thou deign to bear/The name of her who first has sung of thee" (Verse, p. 53). Perhaps Isabel Jelke was already associated with the lake when Chittenden "discovered" it.

Craig Pass, at 8,262 feet on the Continental Divide, is about eight miles east of Old Faithful on the Grand Loop Road. In 1891, road engineer Captain Hiram Chittenden discovered Craig Pass while he was surveying for the first road between Old Faithful and West Thumb. It was probably Chittenden who named the pass for Ida M. Craig (Wilcox), "the first tourist to cross the pass" on Chittenden's new road, on about September 10, 1891. At the time that her name was given to the pass, Ida Wilcox (1847-1930) had been married 24 years. She was the first tourist to cross the pass. Chittenden knew her father (Gen. James Craig) or her brother (Malin Craig, Sr.).

Steam rises from a snow-covered landscape next to a river
Many geological forces are visible in the Old Faithful area, including erosion on the edges of the Firehole River and thermal features.



Hike to a Waterfall

Kepler Cascades is the most easily reached waterfall in the district. A marked pullout just south of Old Faithful and a short walk from the car offers the visitor easy access to view this 125-foot cascade.

See the Day Hiking Trails section for information on hiking to Mystic Falls and Fairy Falls.


Learn about the Flight of the Nez Perce

An exhibit nearby tells the story of the flight of the Nez Perce through Yellowstone in 1877. A band of 700 men, women, and children entered the park on the evening of August 23, fleeing 600 Army regulars commanded by General O.O. Howard. The Nez Perce had been told to leave their homeland and move to a reservation. They fled their ancestral home in the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon on June 17, 1877, and by the time they entered the park, several battles, including a fight at Big Hole (another National Park Service site), had occurred.

During the two weeks they were in the park, the Nez Perce bumped into all 25 known people visiting the new park at that time, some more than once. Camps were plundered, hostages taken, and several people were killed or wounded.

After leaving the park, the Nez Perce tried reaching the Canadian border but were stopped by General Nelson Miles, who had reinforced General Howard's command. Some Nez Perce were able to slip into Canada, but the remaining 350 tribal members led by Chief Joseph surrendered to General Miles. This is where Chief Joseph gave his famous speech, "I will fight no more forever." The 1,700-mile flight that included Yellowstone National Park had come to an end. Today, Nez Perce Creek and the nearby wayside exhibit are reminders of their visit.


Hike the Howard Eaton Trail

Named for an early park outfitter and guide, the Howard Eaton Trail paralleled the Grand Loop Road in many places. Remnants of this old horse trail are maintained and used by hikers today. The trail provides a less traveled route to Lone Star Geyser from the developed area.


Visit the Lower Hamilton Store

Built in 1897, this is the oldest structure in the Old Faithful area still in use. The "knotty pine" porch is a popular resting place for visitors, providing a great view of Geyser Hill. (The oldest building at Old Faithful was built as a photo studio in 1897 for F. Jay Haynes. Originally located 700 feet southwest of Beehive Geyser and about 350 feet northwest of the front of the Old Faithful Inn, it now stands near the intersection of the Grand Loop Road and the fire lane, near the crosswalk.)


Plan a Backcountry Trip to Shoshone Geyser Basin

Shoshone Geyser Basin is reached by a 17-mile roundtrip hike that crosses the Continental Divide at Grant's Pass. This basin has no boardwalks, and extreme caution should be exercised when travelling through it. Trails in the basin must be used. Remote thermal areas, such as this, should be approached with respect, knowledge, and care. Be sure to emphasize personal safety and resource protection when entering a backcountry basin. Know how to travel safely in bear country.

Prepare for Your Trip

Last updated: June 9, 2017

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