Yellowstone – Day 2 – Circle of Fire Tour

Big yellow Yellowstone tour bus pulling up.

9:30 sharp.

That’s what time the bus was supposed to pick us up at the Fishing Bridge Registration Desk. Our pickup location was very convenient as the Registration Desk was close to our campsite.

We were on time, but the bus was late. About 15 minutes. The driver said it was because of a “bison jam.” That probably was true because I am sure that happens all the time, and there’s not much one can do except wait.

But somehow I think “a bison jam” is a handy excuse to have on hand and one that the other folks just can’t argue with.

It reminded me of when I worked at the community college. If a person was late for a meeting, all he or she had to say was, “I was with a student.” Students were the lifeblood of our institution, so what could anyone say if you were late because you were with a student? Nothing. Just like saying you were stuck in a bison jam in Yellowstone.

In any case, the bus came before too long, and we all got in for our day long tour of Yellowstone’s lower loop.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Our first stop was the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Here was a bathroom break (after 10 minutes on the bus!) and the world’s slowest coffee shop as per our driver, Tony. In front of the hotel was Yellowstone Lake, and we had enough time to walk down and take a few photos. The hotel is designated as a National Historic Site, but the real reason we stopped here was to pick up more passengers. All aboard!

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

As we drove to our next stop, we passed an area that had had a forest fire years ago. The forest was in the process of rejuvenating. As we drove in from the south the day before, we passed many areas that looked like this.

Yellowstone National Park
Forest in Progress

Our guide, Tony, talked a lot about forests and fires and how a fire helps keep a forest healthy. He also talked about how the park’s philosophy on handling fires has changed through the years. All through our tour, Tony was kind of like a geyser of knowledge. Just like Old Faithful, he would erupt with a fountain of facts, right on schedule.

West Thumb

Our next step was the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Here there are mudpots, boiling springs, and geysers. There is a raised, wooden boardwalk over the basin area, where these features can be observed. The boardwalk is about 0.6 mile long. We spent quite a bit of time at West Thumb with Tony, our guide, explaining the thermal features.

West Thumb Geyser Basin
Boiling Mudpot
Betty and Dan standing at West Thumb Geyser Basin.
I am holding onto Dan to be sure he stays on the boardwalk!
West Thumb Geyser Basin – Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Our next stop was to Old Faithful. This was our combination lunch/watch Old Faithful erupt stop. We had brought our lunch and sat outside the Old Faithful Inn to eat. That way, we didn’t have to wait in line, and we enjoyed conversation with others. There were lots of places to sit in front of the inn.

Betty and Dan standing at the entrance of Old Faithful Inn
Sign advertising tours of Old Faithful Inn.
These tours are free.

After eating our lunch, we walked over to watch the famous show put on by the Old Faithful geyser. The estimated show time was posted in the Inn’s lobby.

Site of Old Faithful not erupting.
Old Faithful erupting.

Right next to Old Faithful is the Upper Geyser Basin. There are 150 thermal features in the Upper Geyser Basin. There is an extensive, boardwalk trail system to explore these features. The trail system also leads to two other basins to explore – Biscuit and Black Sand. Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore this area.

Fountain Paint Pot

We left the Upper Geyser Basin, and headed to our next stop, which was the Fountain Paint Pot located in the Lower Geyser Basin.

The tour skipped the Midway Geyser Basin. Our tour guide recommended we return on our own to see Grand Prismatic Spring which is part of the Midway Geyser Basin. He told us to park at the sign for Fairy Falls. This is a very crowded area, but he encouraged us to just get in the line of cars. He assured us the line would move quickly. Even though the sign says Fairy Falls, this is where the hike begins for the overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring.

We arrived at the Lower Geyser Basin. There we found the Fountain Paint Pot trail which is a board walk, just like the West Thumb trail. It is about 0.6 mile long, just like the West Thumb trail, too. The Fountain Paint Pot area contains all four types of the thermal features found in Yellowstone. Hot Springs and geysers are two thermal features with a lot of water. Mudpots and fumaroles are thermal features with limited water.

Silex Spring
Boiling Mud Pots

As we left the Lower Geyser Basin area, our guide recommended driving along Firehole Canyon Drive.

Lower and Upper Falls

Our next stop was to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Both the Lower and the Upper Falls are in the canyon. Our tour made two separate stops to see each of the falls. Because the canyon bends, both falls cannot be viewed from one location.

Our first stop was to see the Lower Falls at Artists Point. It is believed that this is the location where Thomas Moran sketched his 1872 drawings of the falls. You may remember Thomas Moran’s namesake mountain which we saw in Grand Teton National Park.

Betty and Dan with the Lower Falls in the background.
Lower Falls – Artists Point
Upper Falls

The Upper Falls are 108 feet tall while the Lower Falls are 308 feet tall. So, how I see this, the Upper Falls are shorter, and the Lower Falls are taller. Clear as a boiling mud pot? Perhaps it will help if I mention the falls were named for their location on the Yellowstone River.

Besides the Upper and Lower Falls, there is a north rim and a south rim of the canyon. There is something called the “Brink to the Upper Falls” and the “Brink to the Lower Falls.” And there are numerous viewing points and 20 miles of hiking trails.

Hayden Valley

Our circle tour was nearly complete, all we had left to complete the loop was to drive through Hayden Valley to our Fishing Bridge campground. We had a full and wonderful day. Not that it mattered, but we did end up being a bit late.

You know why.

Bison jam with lots of cars backed up


    • Thanks! I am just an amateur blogger relaying our trip highlights. There are so many who know so much more. The NPS pages are a great resource, and I would feel remiss if I didn’t include them. Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

      • A good writer (which you are) gives credit where credit is due and enhances the reader’s experience. While everything does not have to be a scholarly research paper, heightening the pleasure and context is a skill you possess–AKA ‘The Betty System.’ It works for you on so many levels, so hat’s off, hip hip hooray and enjoy your day!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yellowstone is one of my favorite places. The thermal features are sooo cool. One time when we were there part of the sidewalk near some thermal springs was closed because it was too hot! In the back of my mind is a worry about what will happen if/when the volcano that it is blows up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is so much monitoring going on in Yellowstone. I like to think there would be signs in advance if that volcano blows up. But who knows! That is just my hope. Of course, we liked it all, too. Those bubbling mud pots were something else!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. I am always happy to answer any questions if I can. Also, when I write about our tour or our day, it helps me to remember it better. I also learn things because I will research something for more info. I enjoy reading about your travels, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful post as always. I love the way you write, you capture my attention and make me feel through your words that I am right there with you and Dan. Now, once I was unsure of whether we would make the trip there, I am resolved some year to give it a try. Thanks again and enjoy the upcoming week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words. I hope you and Barb can visit Yellowstone sometime, and I hope Dan and I can return someday. But there is so much we have not seen, so we want to see some new places first. Hope you have a great week, too!


  3. I really liked the paint pots. Seeing that bubbling mud was such a unique experience. Old Faithful is pretty awesome in real life too!
    I’m so glad you were able to find a tour and enjoy so much of the park in one day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was nice to have a tour near the beginning of our stay. We learned so much from the tour guide – including tips on places to visit on our own. It also helps me get “the lay of the land.” And writing these blog posts about it helps me remember it, too. That bubbling mud was something else! I was impressed by Old Faithful, but, honestly, Dan was a little underwhelmed. I think it had to do with how far back you are from the geyser.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bison jam? Hmm, is that similar to frog jam? Frog jam, you know, is made from fig, raspberry, orange, and ginger. I like it, especially on a warm biscuit. I’m not sure I would like bison jam. Can’t even imagine what that is made from. And I am not sure how bison jam can make you late either, unless, of course, you are waiting for the biscuits to get done.

    Did you see any hats in the mud pots and pools a West Thumb? It was windy when we were there and people were losing their hats. The ranger had a long pole with grabbers and tried to retrieve the hats, but he was not always successful. Sadly, the ranger sad things like hats and other debris can cause irreparable damage.

    Old Faithful is spectacular and so is the Yellowstone Falls. Looks like you had a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha! Bison jam could easily make a person late – if the biscuits were so delicious he or she just kept eating! But… would a vegan really eat frog jam? We did not see any hats in the mud pots and pools. I did notice one piece of trash – or something – that shouldn’t have been there. I would guess someone dropped it by accident. Fortunately, I do think most people try to respect the park. It was a wonderful day, and I am very glad we took the tour and saw so much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.