Old Faithful is one of the largest and most popular areas in Yellowstone Park. It is located in the Upper Geyser Basin, in the southwest sector of the park. The area extends from the Visitor Center where the famous Old Faithful Geyser is located, to the Biscuit Basin and Black Sand Basin.
If you want to stretch your legs and leave the busy pontoons of Upper Geyser Basin, a short walk up to Observation Point will be very pleasant. From there you will have an overview of the Old Faithful Geyser, whose eruption you can see from another angle, as well as the Geyser Hill activity area. In addition, the small loop combines the discovery of the pleasant Solitary Geyser.
The walk is not very long: allow 45 minutes to complete the 2.3 km loop. The total elevation is only 72 meters from the Firehole River.
Firehole River to Observation Point
The trailhead begins just after crossing the Firehole River on your way to Geyser Hill. A fork clearly indicates the junction a little after the bridge. From here, the wide path gives way to a small path that leads northeast to the foothills of the nearby hill.
The first 300 meters are very easy. The path is rather flat and crosses a grassy area dotted with pines. You can meet some bison that like this part of the park because the ground is warmer.
Slowly, the path rises and enters a coniferous forest, making a few bends. After about 500 metres, a first junction signals Observation Point on the right (the path on the left leads to Solitary Geyser, which we will follow on the way back). A few tens of meters further, we arrive at a second junction, this time not indicated. It is in fact a small loop whose two paths lead to the summit. However, we advise you to continue straight ahead, the ascent being softer in this direction. From here, there will be another 250 meters before reaching Observation Point.
Soon the pine trees spread out to offer us the panorama we were waiting for on Old Faithful Geyser and Geyser Hill.
We have a clear view on the surroundings whose smoking ground reminds us that we are in the caldera of a volcano. It is impossible not to contemplate this panorama. By the way, do not hesitate to wait a few minutes for the next eruption of Old Faithful Geyser if this one is close! Unfortunately, we were unable to attend because we did not want to wait for 45 minutes, but we admit that it was a small regret.
Note that in low-season, the trail is not very crowded. However, during the months of July and August, expect people at the lookout.
Then, you can choose to go down by the same path, or to continue the loop by going up to Solitary Geyser (this second option is still very nice).
From Observation Point to Solitary Geyser
Let us continue the path which descends slowly from the belvedere. It quickly joins the main path and the fork that we had spotted on the way. This time we follow the direction of Solitary Geyser. The trail then continues down slightly through a denser pine forest for 600 metres. At the end of the path, Solitary Geyser appears.
Solitary Geyser - Eruptions every 4 to 8 minutes
It is a pretty little isolated geyser, hence its name, whose base is tinted with a beautiful orange color. Solitary Geyser is very active because it erupts every 4 to 8 minutes producing a small jet of 2 meters high. The explosion is very brief but the frequency will allow you to easily observe several eruptions.
This geyser is rather nice and well worth the effort to reach it, especially since you won't be disturbed by the crowd here (except maybe in high-season, but there will always be less crowds than on the pontoons).
The story of Solitary Geyser is also interesting (and sad). A small panel at the foot of the geyser tells how Solitary Geyser was originally just a small, quiet hot spring. But that was without relying on the human intervention who diverted the water from Solitary Geyser to supply a swimming pool in the Old Faithful hotel complex. The diversion caused a decrease in the water level of Solitary Geyser which then turned into a regular geyser. The diversion was stopped in the 1940s and the water level returned, but despite this, the geyser did not stop.
From Solitary Geyser, the trail descends gently and almost straight down to Geyser Hill, which is reached after 400 metres. For some of you, the little loop will stop here if you decide to continue the tour through Geyser Hill. For those who want to complete the complete loop, it will be necessary to return at the beginning of the walk by using the pontoons of Geyser Hill on 500 meters.