“a surreal, otherworldly landscape”
Several key ingredients combine to make the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces: heat, water, limestone, and a rock fracture system through which hot water can reach the earth's surface. Today's geothermal activity is a link to past volcanism. A partially molten magma chamber, remnant of a cataclysmic volcanic explosion 600,000 years ago in central Yellowstone, supplies one of the ingredients, heat. Hot water is the creative force of the terraces. Without it, terrace growth ceases and color vanishes. The source of the water flowing out of Yellowstone's geothermal features is rain and snow. Falling high on the slopes in and around Yellowstone, water seeps deep into the earth. This cold ground water is warmed by heat radiating from the magma chamber before rising back to the surface. Hot water must be able to reach the earth's surface in relatively large volumes to erupt as a geyser or flow as a hot spring. In Yellowstone, many conduits remain from the collapse of the giant caldera; frequent earthquakes keep this underground "plumbing" system open. Even though Mammoth lies north of the caldera ring-fracture system, a fault trending north from Norris Geyser Basin, 21 miles (34 km) away, may connect Mammoth to the hot water of that system. A system of small fissures carries water upward to create approximately 50 hot springs in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Another necessary ingredient for terrace growth is the mineral calcium carbonate. Thick layers of sedimentary limestone, deposited millions of years ago by vast seas, lie beneath the Mammoth area. As ground water seeps slowly downward and laterally, it comes in contact with hot gases charged with carbon dioxide rising from the magma chamber. Some carbon dioxide is readily dissolved in the hot water to form a weak carbonic acid solution. This hot, acidic solution dissolves great quantities of limestone as it works up through the rock layers to the surface hot springs. Once exposed to the open air, some of the carbon dioxide escapes from solution. As this happens, limestone can no longer remain in solution. A solid mineral reforms and is deposited as the travertine that forms the terraces.
This was one of the first places we stopped and really incredible! They're all these terrace hot springs that are just other-wordly. There are a couple of different boardwalk trails that wind through and around all the pools. You can't swim here as they're crazy hot, once you see the dead trees everywhere you wouldn't want to. Keep in mind that it's hot and the hot springs make it even hotter, so take some water up with you. The whole thing probably won't take you more than an hour and a half but it's really cool!
If you're entering Yellowstone from the northern entrance, this is a great first stopoff, as you can wander through the cool old buildings that surround the visitor centre, check out what areas of the park you want to explore in the interactive displays downstairs in the visitor centre, grab a delicious ice cream from the general store then stroll over to the hot springs and enjoy their awesomness! There's typically elk wandering around, which adds to the splendor of the springs. If you visit in summer, bring a hat or suncreen and water as there's no shade and it gets toasty.
No you can not bathe in these hot springs! Check out the Boiling river for a place you can swim!
Another trail with unique views in Yellowstone. This area is very hot in the summer, so wear a hat and take water. You will definitely feel the elevation if you choose to hike up to the top overlook as the stairs are quite steep. I hiked all the way to the top and unfortunately my main memory is of how hot it was and no significant view at the top. So I recommend walking up to the big "stair stepped" plateau then turning back to go down the other trail that takes you down by Liberty Cap. (That area was my favorite.)
this is a must if you are in Yellowstone!
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Mammoth Hot Springs
- Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
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