Yellowstone National Park: Monument Geyser Basin

Yellowstone National Park: Monument Geyser Basin

Any time I watch a program about National Parks I get excited and nostalgic. I want to write and share all the experiences I’ve had and then I remember… I’m still hung up on details from something I began writing over a year ago. So I made a couple modifications… and decided to end this particular story.

Norris Geyser Basin

Yellowstone National Park is fantastically otherworldly. I was in constant awe and mostly happy. August 27th 2013 – Our second day in the park. The plan was to go to the Norris Geyser Basin. We had planned to see all of the “usual” spots but unfortunately, we were not able to park at Norris. So many people visit Yellowstone these days that it’s hard to view the volatile beauty without someone nearby. That particular month Yellowstone had 725,136 recreational visitors. I must admit it was frustrating being around so many people.

I remember Nathan and I stopped to regroup and decide what else we were going to do that day. We really wanted to get away from all the park crowds. We parked on the side of the road, by a meadow next to the Museum of the National Park Ranger, we were fortunate to see two Sandhill Cranes.

After we got our fill of watching the cranes, we decided to go southwest on Grand Loop Road, and explore the land between Norris Geyser Basin and Madison Junction.

I don’t remember how we found it… whether it was on a park map or if we saw it while driving, but there was a trailhead and we were able to get a short hike in near Artist’s Paint Pots.

Monument Geyser Basin

Many times I find people’s idea of “worth the hike” to be mistaken. Sure hiking can be rough physically, but the psychological benefit of nature is always worth it. Even if it makes me cry…

Philetus W. Norris discovered the Monument Geyser Basin in 1878. Located between Norris Geyser Basin and Madison Junction, Monument Geyser Basin is a less popular destination. I did my best to find information, any information, on the geological features at Monument Geyser Basin and was a bit disappointed. Only one feature even has a name… Monument Geyser, which is also referred to as the thermos bottle geyser. At the time of the basin’s discovery Monument Geyser was said to have sprayed water into the air anywhere from 4 to 9 feet high. Hydrothermal features include fumarole vents, sinter cones, and a few tiny pools but ultimately the hydrothermal activity level is not promising enough for most people to go out of their way, uphill to see what I found to be a great treasure. One of its great appeals is its lack of people. I think Nathan and I saw two other couples on the way up and no one on the way back down. It was our own little paradise.

When researching specifics, this is a hike that has differing information about the length and steepness of the trail. Hikers who have recorded their trip with GPS seem to be pretty consistent though. The Monument Geyser Basin Trail is approximately 2.8 miles out and back with a 650 foot elevation change. I have read the length of the trail to be anywhere between 2 and 3 miles and the elevation gain anywhere between 500 and 700 feet.

Monument Trailhead is located south of Artist’s Paint Pots and north of Gibbon Falls on Grand Loop Rd. The hike to Monument Geyser started out deceptively easy, a gentle stroll along the Gibbon River… but before you can get used to the ease, the trail makes a sharp turn left, taking you… uphill.

Looking northwest at the beginning of our ascent. Mount Holmes impressively dominating the view above Gibbon Meadows.


To my knowledge the peaks in this photo are (left to right) South White Peak, Mount Holmes, and Trilobite Point. Mount Holmes is the tallest mountain in the Wyoming portion of the Gallatin Range with an elevation of 10,336 feet.


This is a view from the trail looking south towards Beryl Spring. Just a little farther down Grand Loop Rd in this direction you can view Gibbon Falls.


Monument Geyser, also known as thermos bottle geyser, is a sinter cone approximately 8 feet tall.


Small steam vents behind me in the middle of Monument Geyser Basin. It was so otherworldly. You could feel the warmth of the sun, trying to be friendly… and the unforgiving heat rising from the baked earth. A post-apocalyptic world.


To the best of my knowledge Monument Geyser is on the left.

It was hot when we got to the top. Actually there was very little shade along the trail once you start heading up. I learned that a fire back in 1988 devastated this area, leaving the lodge pole pines bare but plenty of new growth.

Heading back down the trail, a fantastic view of Gibbon River meandering through Gibbon Meadow, looking Northeast towards Norris Geyser Basin. Artist’s Paint Pots is located just a little to the East.

Coming back down the trail there are many amazing views of Gibbon River, winding its way through Gibbon Meadow. Norris Geyser Basin is just a short ways Northeast. Some photos I’ve seen from near this vantage you can see steam rising in the distance on the hillsides.

Beryl Spring

Beryl Spring is right along the roadside so it is very easy to get to. It is located just south of the Monument Trailhead in the Gibbon Geyser Basin. It is known to be one of the hottest springs in Yellowstone Park. The information sign at the spring reads, “BERYL SPRING – Under proper lighting this spring shows a bluishgreen color, hence the name “Beryl.” Its activity, and that of adjacent springs, was greatly altered by the 1959 earthquake. The violent agitation of the water is due to volcanic gases, mostly steam. The temperature of the water is generally a few degrees below boiling.”

Nathan at Beryl Spring.


Beryl Spring.


Me at Beryl Spring.

Of course there is more to tell… this was just the beginning of the day. After our quick stop at Beryl Spring we continued on to visit Firehole Falls, Fountain Paint Pots, Black Sand Basin, and Biscuit Basin. This is why I never finished writing about this one day. There is so much to share!