Observation Point Trail
ElevationAscent: 232' 71 m
Descent: -35' -11 m
High: 7,589' 2,313 m
Low: 7,357' 2,242 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 19% (10°)
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“Get a birds-eye view of Old Faithful and the entire Upper Geyser Basin!”— Tom Carter
Near the top, the trail divides. Turn right and follow the loop trail as it switchbacks up the plateau rhyolite to Observation Point. The view from the point is magnificent! The entire Upper Geyser Basin spreads out before you. The 150 active geysers that lie here comprise more than 25% of the world's total and include some of the largest and most predictable geysers.
Old Faithful Geyser was named by the 1870 Washburn Expedition who wrote: "we emerged from the woods opposite Old Faithful just as it was giving vent to its internal motions. From that time our spirits rose and all our personal woes and sufferings were forgotten." For over 145 years, Old Faithful's regular, predictable eruptions have had a similar effect on millions of Yellowstone visitors. Other geysers with eruptions large enough to identify from the point include Castle, Beehive, and Giantess, all of which were also named by the Washburn Expedition.
Old Faithful erupts to between 106 and 184 feet (average height is 130 feet). Each eruption lasts between 1.5 to 5 minutes. The interval between eruptions is 60 to 110 minutes. Before the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake, the average interval was about one hour. That quake, and the 1983 Mount Borah quake, caused its average interval to slow to 78 minutes. Although not the largest geyser in the park, Old Faithful is the most frequent and predictable large geyser in Yellowstone and richly deserves its fame.
As you wait for the geyser to erupt, contemplate for a moment another of nature's forces. On September 7, 1988, wild fire attacked this area with a vengeance. Fanned by wind gusts of up to 70 mph, a massive wall of fire descended on the Old Faithful Area from Madison Plateau to the southwest. It roared across this large valley, jumped the Firehole and climbed this ridge. There was nothing man could do to stop it. In fact, it took a herculean effort and a lot of luck to save the Old Faithful Inn.
After enjoying the view, continue on the trail as it loops back down.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone.
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Yellowstone National Park