West Thumb Geyser Basin is located at the southern entrance of the lower loop. Located on the western banks of the enormous Lake Yellowstone, you can enjoy all of its geothermal features as you walk along the boardwalk loop and take in the backdrop of the lake and the Absaroka Mountains.
The basin gets its name as the smallest and western-most finger of the hand-shaped Lake Yellowstone (OK…some park ranger had a vivid imagination). The West Thumb basin is actually a caldera within the larger caldera that makes Yellowstone. It’s estimated that this was formed some 150,000 years ago and archaeological finds indicate that humans have been frequenting this basin for thousand of years.
This was our first stop after driving up north from the Grand Tetons. The boardwalk path around the sites makes the walk an easy one and the surrounding scenery is unbelievable. As you walk along Lake Yellowstone, you can see the Lakeshore Geyser, the Fishing Cone, and the Big Cone. These features were submerged in late June when we saw them, but no less impressive.
We were very fortunate when we started walking the boardwalk, to “tailgate” a Ranger tour that had just started. If you have the opportunity to go into the ranger station or take a ranger-led tour – do it. The more National Parks that our family has had the opportunity to see, the more impressed that I’ve become with National Park Rangers.
You’ll notice signs along the way that warn of “thin crust” areas…not something you see every day?! And then next to these signs, you’ll see piles of buffalo dung and their footprints, so perhaps those giant beasts are lighter than they appear or the thin crust is stronger than the signs give it credit for. Either way, we weren’t going to test fate – stay on the boardwalk :-).
Other sites worth seeing along the loop include the Thumb Geyser, Abyss Pool, the Black Pool, the paint pots, and multiple springs (Blue Funnel, Ephedra, Lakeside, Percolating, Ledge, Surging).
The uniqueness of the lake views, geysers, and steaming pools all in one spot, make the West Thumb Geyser Basin a great stop as you enter or depart the southern entrance of Yellowstone.