by Joseph A. Sprince – Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Travel Guides are a resource for those planning to tour Yellowstone National Park and/or Grand Teton National Park. The adjacent national parks are typically visited at the same time and offer very different experiences. Yellowstone offers the world's largest concentration of thermal features such as geysers and hot pools. Grand Teton features one of the world's most spectacular mountain ranges. Both parks offer outstanding opportunities to view wildlife.
The Norris Area of Yellowstone is noted for the Norris Geyser Basin, the hottest, oldest, and most dynamic of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. Few thermal features here are below the boiling point, and they are believed to have existed for over 100,000 years. The highest temperature yet recorded in any geothermal area in Yellowstone was measured at Norris: 459° F (237° C) just 1,087 feet (326 meters) below the surface! Features in the basin change daily, with frequent disturbances from seismic activity and water fluctuations. The water is highly acidic at Norris, and there are very rare acid geysers here. One highlight is Steamboat Geyser, the tallest geyser in the world (300 to 400 feet).
There are 2 1/4 miles of boardwalk and dirt trails which access Norris Geyser Basin’s Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. One Hundred Springs Plain is an off-trail section of the basin that is very acidic, hollow, and dangerous. Travel is discouraged without the guidance of rangers. The area is connected by a short trail to the Norris Campground so you can get set up in camp and then walk over.
The road from Norris to Madison generally follows the Gibbon River. Brook trout, brown trout, grayling, and rainbow trout are found in the river. The Gibbon River is fly-fishing only below Gibbon Falls, an 84 foot waterfall alongside the road. You need a Yellowstone National Park permit for fishing. See Fishing in Yellowstone (NPS) for more information. Look for the turnoff to 60 foot high Virginia Cascades just east of Norris on the road to Canyon Village.
Besides the trails at Norris Geyser Basin, there are other trails ranging from one to 13 miles. A good one is the one mile round trip trail (has one steep hill) to Artist Paint Pots, just south of Norris Junction. The thermal area contains some of the most colorful hot springs, two large mud pots, and small geysers found in the area. Adjacent to this area are three other off-trail, backcountry thermal areas: Sylvan Springs, Gibbon Hill Geyser Basin, and Geyser Creek Thermal area. These areas are fragile, dangerous, and difficult to get to.
Norris Geyser Basin Area
- Interactive Tour & Map of Norris Geyser Basin. Shows trails and all the features. Hot links to descriptions.
- Yellowstone Interactive Map of Norris area.
- Natural features in Norris area. Includes Norris Geyser Basin, and more.
- Things to Do in the Norris Area. Official NPS guide.
Norris Geyser Basin Overview
The Norris Geyser Basin is more prone to change than any of the other basins. Duration: 2 minutes 7 seconds
Services in area
Nearest Food and Lodging to Norris Geyser Basin
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins. Early June to mid-September. Located at Canyon Village, 16 miles north of Yellowstone Lake. Two model lodge buildings with motel style (modern western-themed lodge furniture), with private bath and either one or two double beds. Western cabins with private bath with modern furnishings and two queen beds. No telephones. Televisions, radios, and air conditioning are not available. Full-service restaurant, as well as a cafeteria, deli shop and gift store.
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins. Summer: Early May to early October, Winter: December to March. A variety of accommodations includes hotel-style rooms with telephone/bath (some with shared bath), rustic cabins (no phones, some with private bathrooms), hot tub cabins, and suites. Televisions, radios, and A/C are not available. Full services are available within village. Winter season, open from December to March, with special packages.
Camping at Norris
- Norris Campground. Open: Mid-May to late September. Located 21 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs and 12 miles west of Canyon, adjacent to Norris Geyser Basin. Campground with 100 sites. There are a few walk-in campsites, many nice tent sites, and limited RV sites for vehicles over 30 feet. Flush toilets, potable water. Campground away from developed areas. Short walking trail to geyser basin. Good opportunity to tour Norris Geyser Basin while in camp. Generators are allowed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Services are available at either Canyon or Mammoth Hot Springs.
- Indian Creek Campground. Open: Early June to mid-September. Located about 8 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Smaller and primitive campground with 70 sites (10 sites at 35 feet, 35 sites at 30 feet). Vault toilets. Campground away from developed areas. Many hiking trails, good mountain views. Elk and bison grazing area. Occasional restrictions due to bear activity. Generators not allowed. General store, restaurant, and showers are located eight miles north in Mammoth Hot Springs.
Nearest Visitor Center
The Norris Geyser Basin Museum is located 1/4 mile east of Norris Junction just off the Grand Loop Road. and is open late May to late September. Exhibits on geothermal geology, Norris Geyser Basin features, and life in thermal areas. Also, an information center and Yellowstone Association bookstore. The Museum of the National Park Ranger is located at the entrance to the Norris Campground. Other services in area: Bookstore and picnic area.