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Black Sand Basin Trail

Easy
 4.1 (7)

Along Iron Spring Creek, see Cliff Geyser, Emerald Pool, Sunset Lake & remains of Handkerchief Pool.


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Map Key

0.3

Miles

0.4

KM

Point to Point

7,295' 2,224 m

High

7,292' 2,223 m

Low

1' 0 m

Up

3' 1 m

Down

0%

Avg Grade (0°)

1%

Max Grade (1°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Geological Significance · Hot Spring · River/Creek · Views

Family Friendly A short, easy boardwalk with plenty to see. But keep the kids close and on the boardwalks - these hot springs are dangerously HOT.

Description

This excellent hydrothermal area is often overlooked because its close proximity to the Old Faithful Area. It's a shame, because there are some really interesting and beautiful features here.

The Black Sand Basin is found just west of the Old Faithful Interchange (in the direction of Madison Junction). The parking area is just south of the road. The basin is named for Black Sand Pool, which lies on the opposite side of the highway. Before the Interchange was built, visitors following the spur road from Giant Geyser to Black Sand Basin passed Black Sand Pool. A trail still leads to it, but it is infrequently visited.

The basin lies on either side of Iron Spring Creek. Early geologists mistakenly attributed the red color on the banks of the creek to the mineral iron - it's actually red because of cyanobacteria living in the hot spring water. Just across the creek from our first stop is Cliff Geyser. The geyserite buildup next to the creek is the "cliff" that gives the geyser its name. It has changed character over the years, but most often it erupts 10 to 15 feet high in intervals of less than 3 minutes.

The boardwalk passes Green Spring and crosses the creek. Turn left at the junction and follow the boardwalk out to see Emerald Pool. Its beautiful emerald tint is caused by the blue water in the deep pool combining with the yellow bacteria growing on the sides of the bowl.

Return to the boardwalk junction and take a left. Soon you'll pass (on the right) a big, beautiful Rainbow Pool. Its crater is nearly 100 feet across. Sunset Lake is an even larger hot spring. It was named for its intense flame-like colors. Both springs have in the past temporarily erupted as geysers.

The most famous feature of the basin, Handkerchief Pool, no longer exhibits its unique characteristics. From the late 1800s through the 1920s visitors were encouraged to put their handkerchief in the small pool. The water would suck it down and a few minutes later would return it to the top "nice and clean." Today placing objects in any hot spring or geyser is illegal and very damaging to the delicate features. The remnants of Handkerchief Pool are located in the runoff channel of Rainbow Pool.

Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.

Contacts

Shared By:

Tom Carter

Trail Ratings

  4.1 from 7 votes

#13

in Old Faithful

#7479

Overall
  4.1 from 7 votes
5 Star
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Trail Rankings

#13

in Old Faithful

#169

in Wyoming

#7,479

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2,232 Since Sep 8, 2015
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Photos

Emerald Pool
Sep 9, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Iron Spring Creek.
Sep 9, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Taking a break from the hot summer sun.
Sep 9, 2015 near Yellows…, WY
Boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone NP
Oct 28, 2017 near Yellows…, WY
Cliff Geyser, Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone NP
Oct 28, 2017 near Yellows…, WY

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Check-Ins

Jun 14, 2020
Dennis Chan
Jul 26, 2019
Greg Steelhammer
Stopped to take pic 1mi — 9h 33m
Jul 18, 2019
Adam H
Jul 1, 2019
Karl W
Aug 26, 2018
Ross Knight
Aug 7, 2018
Sydney Fritz
Aug 6, 2018
Esoj Laucsap
Aug 1, 2018
Martin P
0h 26m