Guide de voyages et d'aventure

Mammoth Hot Springs: Terraces of Yellowstone

visiter Mammoth Hot Springs Parc National de Yellowstone

After having observed the hydrothermal features of Norris Geyser Basin, we are heading 20 miles further north to Mammoth Hot Springs. In the north of Wyoming, at the foot of the Mount Everst, this exceptional thermal site is unlike anything we have seen, no geysers spewing acid waters or transparent blue pools. Yet, this place is the expression of the volcanic forces that have been working in Yellowstone for hundreds of thousands years.

1. What is Mammoth Hot Springs?

Mammoth Hot Springs is one of the most active geological area on Earth. It is located in the northwest part of Yellowstone National Park. It has the largest number of hot springs with terraces in the world.

Rain waters seep into the rocks, and once they reach a certain depth, they are heated by the action of boiling magma and 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.

Travertine formation in Mammoth hot springs in yellowstone national park

Mammoth Hot Springs -travertine formation

2. Best way to visit Mammoth Hot Springs?

This hydrothermal site is located less than half a mile from Albright Visitors Center, on the Grand Loop Drive which 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.

3. Explore the travertine terraces of Yellowstone National Park

We stop at the first parking area of Grand Loop Drive, just in front of the famous curiosity of the area, 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.

palette spring in mammoth hot spring

Yellowstone National Park – Mammoth Hot Spring – Palette Spring

From here, we stroll on the boardwalks and staircases to move safely from one terrace to another and get to Main Terrace.

main terrace in mammoth hot springs

Yellowstone- Mammoth Hot Springs – Terraces of Main Spring

We marvel at the incredible formations, resembling to underground decors, such that can be observed in caves. It is like a journey in the center of Earth”, but in the open air!
We are impressed by the rock formations but even more by their colors. Yellow, golden, 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 high position gives the opportunity to contemplate the magnificent views of the valley.

Yellowstone - Mammoth Hot Springs - Grassy spring

Yellowstone – Mammoth Hot Springs – Grassy spring

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.

Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs - Canary Spring

Yellowstone National Park – Mammoth Hot Springs – Canary Spring

4. Conclusion

Do not leave Yellowstone National Park without visiting Mammoth Hot Springs. This site is so different from the other hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone National park. It teaches us a lot about the forces that are at work in the heart of our planet Earth.

Useful Informationto visit Mammoth Hot Springs

Map of yellowstone National Park showing Mammoth Hot Springs

When to go to Mammoth Hot Springs? Check the opening and closing dates on the park’s website. Allbright Visitor Center is opened all year.

Where to sleep in the park?

  • Mammoth Lodge : book several months in advance.
  • Mammoth Campground :no reservations required but application of the principle: “First come, first served”. The campsite is open all year round.

Other hikes in the area? The Bunsen Peak (7.6 km) and Wraith Falls (1.5 km). Ask for maps at Allbright Visitors Center.

Lengh of the visit ? It takes approximately 2 hours to visit the site. It can be longer if you join a park ranger program.
Is it accessible to wheelchair users? Yes, ask the Visitors Center for accessible areas.

Useful links? On the web site Yellowstone National Park.

You may also be interested in:

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone – In the footsteps of Thomas Moran

Old Faithful : Eruption à ne pas rater au cœur de Yellowstone

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Last updated: 15 Décember 2017

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