Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, USA.
Mammoth Hot Springs is an exceptional geothermal site located in the Yellowstone National Park. It has the largest number of hot terraces in the world.
In the north of Wyoming, at the foot of Mount Everst, this exceptional thermal site is unlike anything we have seen in Norris Geyser Basin for example. No geysers spewing acid waters or no transparent blue pools. Yet, this place is the expression of the volcanic forces that have been working in Yellowstone for hundreds of thousands years.
Here is a guide to visiting the unique and spectacular Mammoth springs in Yellowstone National Park.
Click on the picture to enlarge:
1. Where are the Mammoth springs?
Mammoth Hot Springs is located in the northwest of the Yellowstone Park, near the North Entrance , close to gardiner (Mont.).
The map below shows the different access (time and mileage) to the main sites of the park.
Click on the image to enlarge :
Consult the official map of Yellowstone to better locate Mammoth Hot Springs
2. Mammoth Hot Springs Map
This map shows the services (lodging, restauration, medical, post office…) provided on the site.
Allbright Visitor Center opens on July 1st. Check the opening and closing dates before going.
3. What is Mammoth Hot Springs?
It is one of the most active geological area on Earth. Yellowstone National Park is located above a huge magmatic chamber.
Rain waters seep into the rocks, and once they reach a certain depth, they are heated by the action of boiling magma. Then they rise back to the surface of the earth. Unlike at Norris Geysers Basin, the waters at Mammoth Hot Springs are not expelled into the air. They cross the rocks up and deposit limestone sediments on the surface. The warm waters slowly flow from one basin to another, forming terraces as shown in the picture below.
Over thousands of years they have formed terraces called travertins formations.
4. Best way to visit the Mammoth Springs?
This hydrothermal site is located less than half a mile from Albright Visitors Center, on the Grand Loop Drive that bypasses the site. Several parking areas have been set up along the road for easy access to the major formations.
Mammoth Hot Springs includes 3 large terraces, the Upper and Lower terraces and Main terrace.
The Upper Terraces are accessible by the 1,5 miles long Upper Terrace Drive. It runs among the travertine formations so that you can explore the site with your car.
But the best way to discover this unique geological curiosity is on foot. Boardwalks have been specially arranged so that visitors can move from one terrace to another and discover these surprising limestone formations.
This is the hiking map to discover the Mammoth springs.
5. Explore the travertine terraces
We stop at the first parking area of Grand Loop Drive, just in front of the famous curiosity, Liberty Cap.
It is a conical rock, 45 feet high, formed by the limestone deposits of an old hot spring formerly active.
Just behind, we observe Palette Spring, one of the most striking attraction of Mammoth Hot Springs. It flows over some white limestone and orange travertine deposits.
From here, we stroll on the boardwalks and staircases to move safely from one terrace to another and get to Main Terrace.
We walk in front of absolutely incredible geological formations, looking like stalactites or limestone basins as we see them in underground caves. One day in Mammoth Hot Springs is a “journey to the center of Earth”, but outdoors!
We are impressed by the rock formations but even more by their colors. Yellow, gold, orange! All these dazzling hues are due to the presence of bacterias and algae that flourish in the extremely hot waters of the springs.
We work our way up to the Upper Terraces (also accessible from Upper Terrace Drive). We observe noticeable features such as Orange Spring Mound and Grassy Spring. This elevated situation allows to contemplate the magnificent views of the valley.
The walk ends with Canary Spring, awesome spring whose name is due to its saffron color. Its dazzling white sediments, on which the yellow hot waters flows slowly from the Upper Terraces, offer a unique and magnificent view. The presence of dead skeletal trees emphasized the inhospitable character of the area.
6. Mammoth Hot Springs weather – When to go ?
Generally speaking, Winter weather in Yellowstone is very cold and snowy, with temperatures below zero. Besides, the services provided in this area are closed during this season. The Albright Visitor Center only opens on july 1st.
Summer is warm, even stormy in the late afternoon. However, the nights can be cool.
Temperatures become pleasant and sunny between May-June (average low 34°F-41°F). September- October starts to get cool or even cold (average low 29.4°F, average high 55.7°F). Snowfall is common.
Since the weather in the park is unpredictable, check the current conditions before going.
7. Mammoth Hotels
Hotels in the Yellowstone National Park, near the Mammoth springs:
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is the only accomodation in the Yellowstone Park located near the terraces.
It is accessible via the North Entrance in Gardiner, (see Yellowstone map). This historic hotel offers a charming experience in the heart of the park. It is even possible to observe bisons grazing a few feet from the hotel!
The cabins opens from may 7th to octobre 11th, the hotel lodgings opens from april 30th to novembre 28th
Another hotel is located at Tower Falls, 18 miles from Mammoth Hot Springs: the Roosevelt lodge & cabins offers a rustic woodland atmosphere.
Hotels in Gardiner
Outside the Yellowstone Park, Gardiner has accommodation options. We have listed 4 top ranked hotels for the quality of their accommodation and proximity to the park :
Ridgeline hotel (formely Best Western),
8. Mammoth Campgrounds
The Mammoth area counts 2 campgrounds: Mammoth campground and Indian Creek campground. They both have access to fishing and hiking.
This is the only campground in the park open year-round. It is located 5 miles south of the park’s North Entrance.
Reservation is required at the National Park Service.
To know more about the Mammoth Campground.
Indian Creek Campground
Located about 8 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs on the road to Norris, Indian Creek Campground is open from June to September. No reservation is required, it is a first-come, first-served campground.
For more information on the Indian Creek Campground.
It takes approximately 2 hours to visit the site. It can be longer if you join a park ranger program.
Mammoth Hot Springs is accessible to wheelchair users. Ask the Visitors Center for accessible areas.
To conclude: Don’t leave Yellowstone National Park without visiting Mammoth Hot Springs. This site is so different from the other hydrothermal areas. It teaches us a lot about the forces that are at work in the heart of our planet Earth.
Maps credit : U.S. National Park Service, restoration/cleanup by Matt Holly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
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