We find Norris to be the one of the most overlooked areas in Yellowstone National Park. This area features some amazing thermal features, but because many of the geysers are not very predictable, people tend to spend more time in the Old Faithful area. If you haven’t been to Norris, make it a priority on your next trip to Yellowstone. There are also some of our favorite hikes near Norris. We are sharing our favorite things to do near Norris in Yellowstone in this post.
The Norris Geyser Basin is located on the west side of Yellowstone’s figure-8. It is a major junction, but has a relative small Visitor Center and far fewer amenities than the larger cities at Mammoth, Canyon, and Old Faithful. It’s geysers are among the best in the park, but you probably won’t be lucky enough to catch one erupting.
The tricky part about visiting this geyser basin is the limited parking. The lot fills up quickly, so we highly recommend arriving early in the morning before 9 am and visiting on a weekday. Evenings after 6:00 pm are also less busy if a morning visit doesn’t work. There is some extra street parking, but that adds distance to the hike.
Norris Geyser Basin Loop
There are two loops to walk at the Norris Geyser Basin: Back Basin and Porcelain Basin. We find Porcelain Basin to have the prettiest colors and pools, and Back Basin to have the better geysers, but that is our opinion. The Porcelain Basin walk is 1.0 mile roundtrip. The Back Basin loop is 1.75 miles roundtrip, but there is a shortcut if you don’t want to walk the full loop. We like to walk the entire look and it’s about 2.25 miles total.
Steamboat Geyser is the largest in the world, spurting a whopping 300 feet into the air when it erupts. Unfortunately, the eruptions are irregular and rare. There were only a few dozen eruptions before 2017, but there have been nearly 50 each in each of the years since, so chances are increasing!
There is a small open air historic museum at Norris. The Norris Museum is a historic landmark because it was originally built in 1930, and has exhibits about geysers and other hydrothermal features. The museum is located right along the trail for the Norris Geyser Basin Loop. There are always rangers around to answer questions, too. A small bookstore is located at Norris and sits slightly closer to the parking lot.
Waterfalls near Norris
Like all of Yellowstone, Norris has a few amazing waterfalls. Gibbon Falls is located just south of Norris toward Madison Junction. It is a roadside waterfall that is easy to visit. To the east of Norris is another beautiful waterfall called Virginia Cascade. To visit Virginia Cascade, you have to take a short 3.0 mile one-way scenic drive, which doesn’t accommodate some larger vehicles. It is definitely worth the sidetrip to see the falls, if your vehicle can make it.
One of our favorite, lesser known hikes is also in this area. Little Gibbon Falls is unmarked and leads to a nice secluded waterfall that doesn’t see a lot of visitors. This is a great family-friendly trail.
Another favorite hike in this area is Ice Lake. We love the Ice Lake Hike because it is short and flat. We take Grandma and the babies on this hike, and it is easy for everyone.
The Artists Paintpot area is unique in Yellowstone. It is a geothermal area that features a short hike. The hike leads past several boiling areas. These features are unique, though, because they are boiling mud. The paint pots get their name because each muddy pool is a different color. The thick, orange, white, or gray mud bubbles up looking very much like acrylic paint. It is worth the hour it takes to do this short hike.
Just north of Norris on your way to or from Mammoth, sits Roaring Mountain. This mountainside is covered with fumaroles and so the mountain is covered with steam. If it’s quiet enough you can hear them hissing, which is where the mountain got its name. The number of thermal vents has decreased a ton since it was first named, but we still like to stop and see Roaring Mountain. It is a quick roadside stop.
Must-Do Activities Near Norris, Yellowstone
- Norris Geyser Basin Loop (choose however long you’d like to walk)
- Norris Museum
- Artists Paintpots
- Ice Lake
- Virginia Cascades Scenic Drive
- Gibbon Falls
- Little Gibbon Falls
- Roaring Mountain
- Campgrounds: Norris Campground: first come, first served campground. There are 111 sites here, but this campground is closed in 2021.
- No food services
- Closest gas is located at Canyon
- Located at Norris Geyser Basin, and Gibbon Falls
Visit our Yellowstone page to find information about seven other areas in the park and to find helpful tips for visiting. Some posts you might be interested in: