Distance: 1.3 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2015 September
The Monument Geyser Basin was previously one of the must-see sights of Yellowstone. Due to fading thermal activity, however, it often goes completely overlooked. The fumaroles aren’t quite as loud and the geysers don’t shoot out as high as they used to. What is still there though are some really unique formations and the opportunity to witness geysers in the process of sealing themselves up. And then there’s also the view.
The trail begins along the Gibbon River and follows it for nearly .5 miles through a young forest burned in the 1988 Fires. It’s an easy jaunt along the calm waters with the highway on the other side, which begs the question: Why did I mark this as strenuous?
The trail makes a sharp turn at roughly the .5 mile mark and answers that question. It steeply ascends up the side of a ridge and doesn’t let up. You’ll gain over 600 feet in the next half-mile as you’re gradually treated to better and better views of the Gibbon Meadows below. Soon Dome Mountain in the north begins to dominate the horizon.
After the ascent, the trail begins to level out and you soon see a great view of the Gibbon River as it winds through the canyon below with the highway running alongside it, most drivers completely oblivious that there’s an overlook there. A short distance farther up the trail is the Monument Geyser Basin. There’s plenty of sinter coating the small saddle on the ridge with the highlight being Monument Geyser itself. Where eruptions used to shoot out up to 10 feet, it now simply spurts water out continuously as it slowly begins to clog itself up with the minerals in the water.
Poke around and enjoy the views, then head back the same way you came in.
From the Madison Junction, follow the highway northbound toward Norris. After 8.5 miles, you’ll pass Beryl Spring on the left, and the trailhead parking will be small pullouts on either side of the road. Northbound traffic should park on the other side of the bridge which is right next to the southbound traffic pullout.