Trailhead: Boardwalk in front of Old Faithful Visitor Center Distances: Several miles of trails, including a loop to the east and one to the west Level of Difficulty: Easy
Although Old Faithful Geyser, the most famous geyser in the park, is located in this area, the trails oriented around Old Faithful Village offer the opportunity to see many other interesting geysers, such as Castle, Beehive, Firehole, and Daisy, as well as Morning Glory Pool. These short easy trails are handicap accessible. Trail guides are available in the Visitors Center. In addition to thermal features, bison and elk frequent the area. Be sure to keep your distance from the wildlife!
Photo: Daisy Geyser from the rarely viewed back side, by Bruce Gourley.
Trailhead: Firehole River footbridge behind Old Faithful Geyser Distance: 1.1 mile (1 km) loop Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This loop trail gains about 200 feet in elevation to a prominent overlook providing a great view of the Upper Geyser Basin. Elk and bison are often in the area, and it is not unusual to have the overlook to yourself during an eruption of Old Faithful.
The falls are located behind Biscuit Basin, near the Old Faithful Area. After about .5 miles, the trail takes a fork. The left-hand fork goes directly to Mystic Falls and is about one mile long. It is an easy hike. The right-hand fork also goes to the Falls, but is nearly two miles long and is uphill the first half-mile. A great view awaits at the top of the ridge. The entire loop is about three miles long.
For those who love waterfalls in particular, one of the best short waterfall hikes is Mystic Falls. The longer route offers a fantastic view of the Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful Area) and the ridgeline which runs to the west. Mystic Falls itself is a spectacular waterfall which cascades about 70 feet down off the Madison Plateau along the Little Firehole River. It is a bit unique among Yellowstone’s waterfalls in that thermal activity is visible from the bottom all the way to the top of the falls, with clouds of steam rising from seemingly dozens of places at the top, sides and bottom of the waterfall. Although one will likely encounter other hikers on the trail, the Mystic Falls trail is one of Yellowstone’s many quick getaway trails.
Trailhead: Old Faithful Lodge cabin area Distance: 6.8 miles (5.3 km) roundtrip Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This trail climbs through lodgepole pine forest, some of which was burned in the 1988 fires, and along meadows and several rocky slopes before reaching the shores of Mallard Lake, a nice little scenic lake. If you are staying in the Old Faithful area, this is an excellent hike to get away from the crowds.
Trailhead: 3.5 miles SE of the Old Faithful area, at Kepler Cascades parking area Distance: 5 miles (8 km) roundtrip Level of Difficulty: Easy
One of the easiest five mile roundtrip hikes in Yellowstone, this mostly level trail follows an old service road along the Firehole River through unburned forests of lodgepole pine. Lone Star geyser erupts approximately every three hours, and is a crowd pleaser. This trail can also be accessed by bicycle with the final approach to the geyser on foot.
Trailhead #1: Steel Bridge parking area 1 mile south of the Midway Geyser Basin Trailhead #2: Fountain Flats parking area Distance: 5 miles (8 km) from trailhead #1; 7 miles (5.5 km) from trailhead #2 Level of Difficulty: Easy
197-foot Fairy Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Yellowstone, dropping into a shallow pool of very cold, clear water, in a beautiful forested setting. There are actually several ways to get to Fairy Falls. The longest and most scenic route starts at the Fountain Flat Drive parking area (Trailhead #1 above). Follow the old road bed south over Firehole River Bridge. One mile past the bridge, the trail turns west and follows Fairy Creek through wet meadows and forest, reaching Fairy Falls at about the four mile point. After visiting the falls, the trail heads east, meeting an abandoned road about 1.5 miles from the falls. Traveling north on the old old roadbed will take you back to the Fountain Flat Drive, about 4.5 miles from the falls. Elk can be found in the meadows throughout the summer, as can buffalo, coyotes and the occasional bald eagle. There are also a variety of backcountry thermal features in the vicinity of Fairy Falls, should you wish to further explore the area.