Hiking Project Logo

blue West Thumb Overlook Loop Trail

Navigate on-trail with our free app

iOS App Store Android App Store

Trail

1.4 mile 2.3 kilometer point to point
Singletrack
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 198' 60 m
Descent: -178' -54 m
High: 7,987' 2,434 m
Low: 7,790' 2,374 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 13% (7°)

Dogs

No Dogs
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Tom Carter

A great, short route with a spectacular view of the West Thumb section of Yellowstone Lake.

Tom Carter

Features Hot Spring · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Family Friendly This short loop trail has beautiful views of the West Thumb section with ample opportunities to spot wildlife.

This trail is not in a Bear Management Area, but it's close. Be on your guard, especially early in the summer, as bears frequent the many creeks that flow into West Thumb during cutthroat spawning season.

Description

The West Thumb Overlook Loop Trail begins on the southwest side of the West Thumb Geyser Basin parking lot. This short 1.5-mile trail leads 200 feet up to a spectacular view of West Thumb.

The trail leaves the parking lot and travels 0.2 miles through the forest to a crossing of the South Entrance Road. Be careful here, the traffic may be distracted looking for animals or attempting to decide which way to turn at the West Thumb intersection.

At the trail junction turn right, cross a small creek on a log bridge, and continue into the forest. At the 1/2 mile mark the trail starts to open up as it climbs more steeply. Soon you’ll enter the first of several thermal areas of mostly dry springs and mud pots. Notice the large supply of buffalo dung in the area. The ground here is a bit warmer than the surrounding hills, resulting in less snow cover in the winter. Buffalo congregate in spots like this throughout Yellowstone, because it is easer to find forage. Keep a sharp eye out, they like it in the summer too!

The trail continues to climb and at the .8-mile mark reaches the top. Here you’ll find a nice bench on which to rest and enjoy the view. The main attraction is the deep blue waters of West Thumb. This portion of the lake gets its name because Yellowstone Lake resembles the upside-down palm of your right hand. The Southeast Arm of the lake represents the little finger and the South Arm the next. The rather deformed middle finger is made by the Flat Mountain Arm. Delusion Lake was originally believed to be another arm of the lake, forming the index finger of the hand. It was later discovered to be a separate lake. Because of the earlier mistake, it was named "Delusion" Lake. West Thumb, of course, forms the thumb of the hand.

Notice how the West Thumb portion of the lake is oval-shaped. It is a younger (150,000 years old) secondary caldera or crater within the larger Yellowstone Caldera which welled-up and blew-out some 630,000 years ago. At 280 feet deep, it holds some of the deepest parts of Yellowstone Lake.

The rugged Absaroka Mountains (pronounced "AB-sar-O-ka" or "ab-SAR-o-ka") rise above the lake to the east. To your right is Mount Sheridan and the Red Mountains. From the summit, the trail continues southwest down through a nice meadow, bends left into the trees, crosses several log bridges, and ends at the first junction.

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

Rate This Trail

Rate Quality


   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In

Check-Ins

Oct 18, 2018
Kayla Champagne
Aug 28, 2018
Ross Knight
Aug 6, 2018
jonathan winnett
Beautiful thermal pools
Sep 25, 2017
Tracy Dunn
Aug 29, 2017
Martine DeMartino
Jul 22, 2017
Cory Roberts
Fun but a little difficult on the way down for those with bad knees
Jun 28, 2017
Shirley Xie
Aug 29, 2016
April Xie

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 3 votes

#7371

Overall
  4.0 from 3 votes
5 Star
33%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
33%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#164

in Wyoming

#7,371

Overall
22 Views Last Month
373 Since Sep 10, 2015
Intermediate Intermediate

0%
33%
33%
33%
0%
0%

0 Comments

Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking