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Imperial Geyser

Imperial Geyser erupting in its large pool below forested hills. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The Imperial Geyser Trail is an easy 3.25 mile (one way) hike in Yellowstone National Park that features a stunning waterfall before reaching a backcountry geyser. The hike can also be easily paired with the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail to provide an aerial view of one of Yellowstone’s signature features. Though the trailhead is frequently crowded, the last stretch of the hike is seldom visited.

Imperial Geyser Trail Description

From the parking area, cross the Firehole River along the bridge. This begins the Fairy Falls Trail, initially a wide and easy gravel trail also open to bicycles. The trail bends along the Midway Geyser Basin, as the features become more and more impressive the farther in you go. At 0.6 miles, you’ll reach the junction with the Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail. If this is your first time here, it’s highly recommended you take the short detour. That trail will reconnect 0.25 miles up the trail.

Continuing up the trail either way provides stunning views of Grand Prismatic Spring. One view from an aerial perspective, the other from ground level. At 1 mile in, you’ll reach a junction with the Fairy Falls Trail also forking left. Head left to break off of the bike-friendly part of the trail and onto a more standard single-track hiking trail.

Old logs resting below Fairy Falls as it pours over a large cliff. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

From this point until Fairy Falls, the trail is consistently quiet and beautiful. Winding through a young forest recovering from the 1988 fires, the easy trail guides you through the peaceful woods. A footbridge will help you cross over a small creek part of the way through.

At 2.5 miles in, you’ll reach the wonderfully picturesque, Fairy Falls. This makes for a great place for a rest thanks to the soothing white noise and large number of downed trees that make for great benches. When ready, continue up the trail.

You’ll wander through a damp meadow and into the succeeding forest. Through the forest you’ll cross another small stream into a larger and more open meadow, where the Fairy Falls Trail will also end. A discrete sign indicates that you’re now on the Fairy Creek Trail. Continue straight through the junction where you’ll notice Fairy Falls pouring over the cliff off to the left.

Imperial Creek Flowing Along Forest
Imperial Creek flowing through a meadow along a forest. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

On the opposite end of the meadow you’ll reenter another forest. At an unsigned fork in the trail, take the immediate right, which brings you up into another meadow. You’ll quickly begin hiking along Imperial Creek, lined with bright orange thermophiles. These are living organisms and bacteria that thrive in extreme temperatures, so it’s best not to test their limits; it’s higher than yours. Follow the trail as it winds up along the creek, finally reaching Imperial Geyser.

The trail wraps around the large blue pool as the geyser routinely erupts, sometimes shooting upwards of 15 feet! A small mud pot can also be found within the immediate vicinity.

Getting There

From Old Faithful, drive north on the Lower Loop Road for 4.4 miles. Upon reaching the Fairy Falls Parking Lot, turn left.

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Mike@FreeRoamingPhotography.com