Jam-packed with the world’s largest collection of geysers, Yellowstone National Park literally explodes with awesomeness. No visit to the park is complete without a visit to Old Faithful, the world-famous thermal pressure cooker that spews a roaring column of boiling hot water over 100 feet in the air every 91 minutes or so.
As the countdown ticks closer to the next show time, tourists cram into the viewing area behind a fence keeping them a safe distance away. But if you’re looking for another awesome—and less cramped—way to see Old Faithful, consider making the climb to the observation point 200 feet above the crowds.
Getting there is half the fun, as you take the winding trail past other geysers and through picturesque forests on your way to the top. The half-mile hike one way isn’t for everybody—which of course is one of the reasons to make the trek, giving you the opportunity to escape the throngs.
A little ways up, you’ll come across the aptly named Solitary Geyser. The sign in front of the small pond tells you that the fountain geyser lurks below the surface of the water—a very active geyser that blows every four to eight minutes. Alone with my girlfriend Ashley and one other person, I excitedly got my camera out, thrilled at the impending private show.
We waited… My index finger trembled over the record button like a cowboy waiting to draw at high noon. The waters in front of us started to bubble. I giddily popped into action, starting the video and taking a step back, just to be safe. We were dealing with the unfettered might of Mother Nature after all.
Faster and faster the waters roiled as pressure from deep below the planet surface built. Climax was imminent! Faster and faster! Heeheeheeehee, my inner child squealed.
A bubble no more impressive than a fart in a bathtub lifted off the surface of the water. Still recording and grinning like a buffoon, I turned to the other man who had stuck around for the show. “Yup,” he said. “That’s it.”
Fair enough. We did a time check and realized we had haul ass if we wanted to make it to the top in time for Old Faithful to show us how things were really done. We got our butts in gear and continued up the path, my edge-o-phobic girlfriend cringing whenever the trail ran too close to the side of a cliff.
Before long, we crested the top of the hill and joined a smattering of other keen observers at the lookout point. Far below, the crowds and steam built up around Old Faithful. After our most recent experience with the bathtub fart, I didn’t want to set my expectations too high. Fortunately, the legendary attraction lived up to its reputation, erupting in a mighty display of Nature’s force that lasted a few minutes. Spectacular.
Our vantage point also gave us a good sightline of the entire upper geyser basin full of other awesome, but lesser-known, geysers. Shortly after Old Faithful’s show, we were treated to another one a little ways off, thanks to our bird’s-eye view. This guy's video gives a good sense of what you'll see from Observation Point:
There’s certainly value to being closer to the geysers when they blow—just like there’s value in being front row at a rock concert. But don’t underestimate the awesome factor of balcony seats, which give you a unique and broader perspective. If you’re looking for a different take on one of Mother Nature’s coolest performances, you may want to make the trek up to Observation Point.
Care for a sneak peek from the comfort of your home? They've got a live streaming webcam of Old Faithful for you armchair adventurers. And don’t forget: With over two million acres of parkland to explore, Old Faithful is just one of the many attractions in Yellowstone National Park.