In this post, we're going to talk about the Norris Geyser Basin, some interesting things to do near there, some campgrounds to explore, and how to really enjoy the whole area.
Norris sits at a junction between Madison, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Canyon Village. We passed it yesterday on our way to Mammoth but we’re not just passing it by today!
To get there from Mammoth, head directly south. From Madison, head north, and from Canyon Village, head west.
Sitting at the crossroads of three fault lines, Norris Geyser Basin is Yellowstone’s oldest, hottest, and most ever-changing thermal area.
Here’s a great video from the NPS which shows how quickly the features in Norris can change:
There are two main boardwalks in Norris Geyser Basin, the Porcelain and Back Basins.
Porcelain Basin is named due to the milky color of the mineral deposited here. That whitish-colored mineral is siliceous sinter, also known as geyserite.
The mineral is brought to the surface by hot water and then collects on the ground as the water spreads over the fat basin. The settled geyserite resembles a big white “porcelain” sheet covering the ground.
When you’re walking around the boardwalk, make sure to check out the Ledge Geyser (which erupts at an angle) and the ever steaming fumarole Black Growler Vent.
The trail is about three-quarters of a mile round-trip.
The trail through Back Basin takes you through a heavily wooded area on a 1.5 mile trail past a seemingly endless number of geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs.
Aside from its multitude of thermal features, Back Basin is known for Steamboat Geyser, the world's tallest active geyser.
Its eruptions can reach heights of 300 feet but they’re rare and unpredictable. Steamboat has been known to lay dormant for years before suddenly springing back to life again.
The last major eruption of this magnificent geyser took place on July 31, 2013.
Green Dragon Spring, Cistern Spring, and Emerald Spring were the highlights of the Back Basin for us.
Norris Geyser Basin Museum
Before you leave, tour the Norris Geyser Basin Museum which is one of the park’s original trailside museums, built in 1930.
There are exhibits on geothermal geology, Norris Geyser Basin features, and life in thermal areas.
Interesting Sites Nearby
Outside of Norris but close by, there are a few other interesting sites, including another museum and beautiful waterfalls.
Museum of the National Park Ranger
Just north of Norris is another museum of note, the Museum of the National Park Ranger, housed in the Norris Soldier Station.
This building was one of the original soldier stations, built in 1908, as an outlying station for soldiers on patrol.
The exhibits show the development of the park ranger profession from its roots in the military traditions through early rangers and to the present array of National Park Service staff specialized duties.
South of Norris Geyser Basin, halfway between Madison Junction and the Norris Geyser Basin, you’ll find the 80-foot tall Gibbon Falls.
You can pull off to get a quick view of the falls or follow the paved trail along the river for another viewpoint. There are a handful of picnic areas near the falls.
You can also visit the Artist Paint Pots, a 1-mile trail that winds through brightly colored mud pots, geysers, and steam about 5 miles south of Norris.
Although the bubbling mud pots are not as picturesque as other hot springs and pools, these turbulent pools of hot, muddy water, and bizarre landscapes are another feature that makes Yellowstone so unique.
If you’re interested in getting some hiking in, the area surrounding Norris Geyser Basin has several easy-to-moderate trails.
Grizzly Lake Trail
The first of these is Grizzly Lake. Located a few miles north of Norris, the Grizzly Lake Trail is a 4 mile round-trip hike back to the long, narrow lake and is surrounded by thick forest.
The trail itself cuts through a lodgepole pine forest that has burned twice (in 1976 and 1988).
GPS Coordinates to the trailhead: 44.798896, -110.745232
Ice Lake Trail
For a shorter hike, try the Ice Lake Trail. The trailhead is about 3.5 miles east of Norris (on the way to Canyon Village).
It’s an easy hike, only about 0.6 miles round-trip, but a great place to escape the crowds.
GPS Coordinates to the trail head: 44.716678, -110.633891
Norris Geyser Basin Campground
Norris is central enough in Yellowstone that it’s easily accessible from the Canyon, Madison, Indian Creek, and Mammoth Campgrounds, as well as West Yellowstone. However, if you can get a site there is a campground right here.
There are 111 sites here, all rustic so you’re boondocking. Spots are limited to 30 foot max RV length.
Amenities include flush toilets and potable water. Generators are allowed from 8am-8pm.
Season: May 17 – Sept 29
Booking: First-come, first-served
It's about a mile north of Norris Junction, so you can't miss it!
Norris Geyser Basin is just one of the greatest destinations in Yellowstone National Park. If you've been dreaming of visiting Yellowstone but don't know where to start, we have a travel guide for you!
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The guide provides:
- suggested route and itinerary
- links & helpful info to campgrounds and boondocking spots
- best things to do along the way
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