Why Old Faithful Is Not the Best Geyser in Yellowstone?

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If you follow stereotypes, many will believe that Old Faithful is the most iconic and impressive geyser in Yellowstone. It may well be the most iconic for good reason but after experiencing Old Faithful and a myriad of other geysers, I would argue that it is NOT the most impressive though of course this is all down to personal interpretation. So which are the best geysers in Yellowstone?

One thing is for sure, Yellowstone National Park is spoiled for choice with hydrothermal activity taking place everywhere you look, so I am sure after you visit this breathtaking natural attraction, you too will have your opinions on which is the best geyser in Yellowstone.

History of Old Faithful

Let’s take a step back in time for a while as we consider the history of Old Faithful. In 1870, the first official expedition to Yellowstone named the Washburn Expedition, gave this geyser its name primarily due to its size and frequency.

old faithful geyser

It is a cone-typed geyser and because of its regularity of erupting, along with its size, it has become the most studied geyser in Yellowstone National Park (and possibly the world).

Park rangers use data compiled from each eruption, including length, height and overall distribution, to calculate a fairy accurate prediction on upcoming eruptions. They are 90% certain that their predictions are within a +/- 10 minute period of the advertised eruption.

old faithful yellowstone

You can follow along with the Old Faithful schedule either on their Twitter page GeyserNPS or if you are visiting the park, the Visitor Center lists the next scheduled eruption. Alternatively, you can simply peer around the benches that surround Old Faithful and the number of people there will likely give you a good indication as to when the next eruption will be!

Is Old Faithful Overrated?

Taking a trip to Yellowstone National Park would not be the same without experiencing Old Faithful geyser erupting. But how impressive is it and is it overrated? Well I want to start by saying that we experienced Old Faithful erupting on two separate occasions, once at dusk and once in the afternoon. On both occasions we were left slightly disappointed with what we saw. That’s pretty much the simple summary but why you may be wondering…

old faithful best geyser in yellowstone

Old Faithful gets its name from the organized schedule which immediately is a turn-off in my opinion. Ok, it’s great for the visitors because you can plan your itinerary around the approximate 90 minute cycle of eruptions, but how many natural attractions around the world have such an organized schedule?

best geyser in yellowstone

I’m being a little pessimistic here because the reality is Old Faithful is a ‘must-see’ when visiting Yellowstone, but I just want you to be aware that there are other options out there and don’t want you to be overly disappointed after seeing the short eruption.

old faithful geyser

When Old Faithful actually erupts, I am not going to lie, it is still a pretty impressive sight. Water and steam erupt anywhere between 90 to 180 feet into the sky and from the panoramic viewpoint around the geyser, it is a great experience.

old faithful eruption

But again, there are better options out there in my opinion and I will share a couple of alternatives that I believe are far superior.

Beehive Geyser

One of the major attractions at Old Faithful is the hydrothermal park that this iconic geyser is part of. Our timing to see Old Faithful erupt couldn’t have been much worse given that the previous eruption had just occurred about 4 minutes before we arrived. This gave us about 90 minutes to explore the rest of the park, and honestly this was the best thing that could have happened in hindsight.

beehive best geyser in yellowstone

Walking around the Upper Geyser Basin we were able to catch a number of cool hydrothermal activities but the highlight had to be the spontaneous eruption of the Beehive Geyser as we were walking back towards Old Faithful.

beehive best geyser in yellowstone

Given that the Beehive Geyser only erupts usually once a day, we felt incredibly fortunate and honored to be present during this eruption at around 7:30PM (the previous eruption was around 2:00AM that day).

beehive geyser

At 200 feet high and with a duration of several minutes that sees this geyser maintain its height throughout, it is an awesome natural phenomenon that I strongly encourage you to try and see.

beehive geyser yellowstone national park

Of course the regularity of Beehive’s schedule may not allow this but if you are lucky like us, you may capture a memorable experience!

Steamboat Geyser

Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park appreciate the beauty offered in the Upper Geyser Basin, but fail to experience the Norris Geyser Basin which offers an equal amount of natural beauty, if not more. As we headed on our scenic road trip around the infamous Yellowstone loop (more on this route to come), we stumbled across the sign for Norris Geyser Basin and decided to take a look at this area.

steamboat geyser yellowstone

A winding path takes you through a plethora of hydrothermal attractions and depending on how much time you have, you can really experience some gorgeous sights. About 1/4 mile into the trail we arrived at Steamboat Geyser which can lay claim to being the world’s tallest active geyser.

best geyser in yellowstone

During major eruptions, Steamboat shoots up to 300 feet into the air which I can imagine is a spectacular experience. There is a slight problem…this geyser rarely erupts and when it does there can be a gap of anywhere between a couple of days to fifty years before the next eruption! The last eruption took place on 3rd September, 2014 so who knows when the next one will occur.

steamboat geyser yellowstone

Even when Steamboat is not erupting, the activity of the steam and water gurgling around the edge of the geyser makes this an incredible attraction to view.

best geyser in yellowstone

There are several vantage points that provide different angles but everyone standing around are just hoping for the miracle to take place and be the fortunate few to experience Steamboat erupting! We were not so fortunate but maybe next time…

steamboat geyser

Summary

Before concluding that Old Faithful is overrated and a complete waste of your time, I want to suggest visiting all three of the above geysers. The beauty of Yellowstone National Park is that there are many, many more than the three aforementioned geysers so I am convinced you will stumble across one that is equally if not more impressive than those I recommended.

old faithful geyser yellowstone

But I am now going to take a 360-degree turn and recommend that you DO in fact visit Old Faithful because despite it’s obvious ‘tourist attraction’ tag, it is still a worthwhile experience and will at least give you something to compare other geysers.

We have been fortunate enough to experience Geysir Geyser in Iceland which was incredible and after seeing the Beehive Geyser at Yellowstone erupt in front of our very eyes, you may well now understand why we have taken this stance regarding Old Faithful. It’s impressive, it’s cool but unfortunately it’s predictable so I will turn this over to you to share what your thoughts are on Yellowstone’s hydrothermal landscape!

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