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    Back Basin Trail

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    4.2 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    37 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Back Basin Trail is a fantastic hike through an active geothermal basin. This trail features the World’s tallest active geyser: The Steamboat Geyser. This trail is family-friendly and appropriate for hikers of all ages and skill levels.

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    Route Description for Back Basin Trail

    The Back Basin Trail is an easy hike past some incredible geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park. There is not a ton of shade along this trail, so wear sunscreen, a sunhat, and bring lots of water for everyone in your hiking party. The Back Basin Trail is not as popular as other basin hikes in the area, but it can still get crowded. If you are hiking this route during tourist season, we suggest heading out early in the day to beat the crowds.

    With a myriad of geothermal features and spectacular views, the Back Basin Trail is a great way to sample Yellowstone National Park. This trail follows a well-maintained boardwalk, but, unfortunately, it is not wheelchair accessible or stroller-friendly. The Back Basin Trail features the World’s largest active geyser: The Steamboat Geyser. This geyser is unpredictable, although small eruptions of 2 m-12 m do happen quite frequently. When this geyser really goes, it goes big, shooting scalding water over 91 m in the air.

    To hike the Back Basin Trail, begin at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum and follow the boardwalk south to hike clockwise around the basin. Going south, you will pass the Emerald Spring and Dr. Allen’s Paintpot on the way to the Steamboat Geyser. Stop at the Steamboat geyser and see if you can catch it erupting, then continue down to a divide at the Cistern Spring. At this divide, take the path on your left to hike past a series of mud vents and geysers, including the Vixen Geyser and the Porkchop Geyser. Just past the Vixen Geyser, the trail will divide once more; stay left at this divide to make your way back around to the Trailhead where you began.

    Before heading home, check out the Norris Geyser Museum or hike around the Porcelain Basin Trail for even more incredible geothermal wonders.

    Trail Highlights

    Steamboat Geyser

    Located in the Back Basin, the Steamboat Geyser is the tallest active geyser globally. This geyser has both minor and major eruptions. Minor eruptions are quite frequent and range from 2 m-12 m in height. Major eruptions are highly unpredictable but can reach more than 91 m in height. The significant eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser shoot silica, water, and debris into the air in a dramatic and volcanic display. Visitors have reported hearing the major eruptions of the Steamboat Geyser from more than a mile away.

    Porkchop Geyser

    The Porkchop Geyser used to be a small porkchop-shaped pool with minor eruptions that delighted the visitors of Yellowstone National Park. In 1985, the activity of the Porkchop geyser increased markedly with a perpetual spout shooting water 6 m-9 m in the air. This was the status quo for the geyser until September 5th, 1989, when the Porkchop geyser exploded, shooting rocks as large as 1 m in size out of the ground. The result of this explosion, a 9 m crater, is now all that is left of this once charming little geyser.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long is the Back Basin Trail in Yellowstone?

    The Back Basin Trail is a 4.2 km long hike in Yellowstone National Park.

    Insider Hints for Back Basin Trail

    • Geothermal features in the Back Basin and elsewhere in Yellowstone National Park are hot and dangerous, so do not leave the designated trail.
    • Parking at this trailhead can be tricky. Go early in the day or after 6pm in the summer to beat the crowds and snag a parking spot.

    Getting to the Back Basin Trail Trailhead

    This hike begins at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum off of Grand Loop Road.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do

      May to October

    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type


    Back Basin Trail Elevation Graph

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    Back Basin Trail Reviews

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