When most people think of National Parks, they think of Yellowstone. And when most people think of Yellowstone, they think of Old Faithful. It is the perfect icon of the wild American west. If you are visiting Yellowstone for the first time, this should be your number one stop! The fabulous lodge, the stores, and the visitor center has all been built around this one famous geyser. You may be surprised how much there is to do in this area. This post will highlight all of the things to do near Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
Our recommendation when visiting the Old Faithful area is to stop at the Visitor Center first. Check out when the eruptions are happening for the world’s most famous geysers and plan your time in this area. If Old Faithful is going to erupt soon, then go grab a spot to watch, and then walk the rest of the geyser basin. If the time for eruption isn’t for an hour or so, then walking part of the geyser basin might be a better decision.
Make sure to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor Center. Yellowstone charges $3 for this program, but it is worth it to learn more about the park and earn the cool patch at the end. We also recommend doing the Junior Scientist program when you are at Old Faithful. This program is a little more intense, so it might be better for school-aged children than toddlers. It focuses on the geysers, and we learn so much about how they work when we do this program. It costs $5 and children earn a Junior Scientist patch. You can read more about these programs on the Yellowstone website.
Old Faithful Geyser
Old Faithful is so iconic because it is fairly predictable. Based on the amount of water that spews out during the previous eruption, rangers can predict when Old Faithful will spout within a few minutes. It has two “sizes” of eruptions, and based on the first, you can predict the second. This means that Old Faithful doesn’t erupt on an exact schedule, every 53 minutes or whatever like the old myth claims. There is a large boardwalk that extends around the geyser so that plenty of people can watch, but you may want to arrive early so you can find a place to sit or at least stand.
Upper Geyser Basin
The rest of the basin is every bit as exciting as Old Faithful. Walk around the Old Faithful to the right and cross the river. Maps are pretty easy to come by, and they name each geyser, large and small, so be sure to collect one. After Old Faithful erupts, we walk this entire basin all the way out to Morning Glory Pool. We are usually lucky enough to spot several eruptions along the way. We always stop at Anemone Geyser because it is so close to the trail that you might get a little wet, and it erupts every 7 minutes. If you see the water start to drain into Anemone, stick around for a few seconds and you’ll see a minor show.
It’s impossible to time out all these geysers, but if you’re lucky you might see Grand Geyser or Riverside, both of which are impressive. Castle Geyser is almost always venting loudly, and there are plenty of bubbling pots of water along the way. Whatever you do, don’t leave the boardwalk and don’t touch the water. One year we took a laser thermometer with the Junior Scientist program and found temperatures up to 200 degrees! People have literally died in these pools, so watch toddlers closely as there is no rail on the boardwalk. Luckily, it’s stroller friendly, so that may be the best way to wrangle little ones anyway.
Black Sand Basin is basically across the street from Old Faithful. There is a trail that connects the Upper Geyser Basin to the Black Sand Basin. We don’t often make it to Black Sand Basin because we run out of time and get a little “geysered out.” Black Sand Basin is small, but it does have the rather active Cliff Geyser and the chromatic Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake.
A little north of Old Faithful is another small geyser basin called Biscuit Basin. We enjoy crossing the river to look at the hot pots because the hot water pours into the cold river and it is very steamy The beginning of the Mystic Falls trailhead is at the back of this basin, and it is a great waterfall hike. We have more details about this area on our Geothermal Areas of Yellowstone post, which includes a map.
Midway Geyser Basin
Midway Geyser Basin is quite small, but it does host the most famous spring in Yellowstone: Grand Prismatic Spring. There are a few other large springs here, and it’s a short walk around the basin. It’s hard to get a good look at Grand Prismatic from the side, so we much prefer the overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring that starts just a little further down the road.
The trail to the Grand Prismatic Spring Overlook is short and has only 1 steep section, but it looks down on the most beautiful pool in the park. We’ve been frustrated for years trying to get a good look at this feature, and it is finally possible. If you’d like a waterfall hike, Fairy Falls is perfect, though the distance is a little long for young families. The hike is entirely flat and the waterfall is spectacular. You can hike right to the base, and it is one of the tallest falls in Yellowstone at 200 feet. The trail to Fairy Falls is the same trail that goes to Grand Prismatic Spring, just keep hiking (5.0 miles roundtrip).
Like every area of Yellowstone, there are spectacular waterfalls in this corner of Yellowstone. The only one that can be easily visited is Kepler Cascades. It is a roadside stop that leads to a large beautiful cascade just south of the village. The water drops a whopping 150 feet, which make it one of the large falls you’ll see. This is an easy stop just down the road from Old Faithful.
Must-do Activities Near Old Faithful
Here is our list of 5 things to do near Old Faithful. These are the stops that we make every time we visit this national park.
- Watch Old Faithful
- Walk the Upper Geyser Basin out to Morning Glory Pool
- Hike Biscuit Basin and Mystic Falls
- Grand Prismatic Spring overlook (Fairy Falls if you can make the 5.0 mile hike)
- Kepler Cascades
We have stayed in the historic Old Faithful Inn as well as the cabins at the Snow Lodge. Both were amazing stays. The cabins are newly renovated and very nice. The rooms in the inn were smaller, but well taken care of. We enjoy staying in this area of the park because you can walk early in the morning or later in the evening and there are no crowds.
- Campgrounds: No campgrounds at Old Faithful
- Old Faithful Inn
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge
- Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
- Old Faithful Inn Bear Paw Deli
- Old Faithful Inn Dining Room
- Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria & Bake Shop
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge Obsidian Dining Room
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill: This is our favorite place to grab ice cream!
- Old Faithful General Store
- Two Old Faithful Gas Stations
- Old Faithful Visitor Education Center
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: