Fairy Falls Loop, Yellowstone

Maybe you’re going to be in Yellowstone on a weekend, and you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of people in jeans taking all the parking spots and swarming all over the geysers or getting out of their cars when they see a bison. There are plenty of places where you can put in a little effort and get away from them, but you still want to hit the highlights that are jam-packed with people without having to fight for a parking spot or (in COVID) getting within 6 feet of people. There’s getting up early, staying up late, or finding alternate routes like the Fairy Falls loop.

To see the Grand Prismatic Spring (and Fairy Falls) skip the Fairy Falls Trailhead and the Midway Geyser Basin and head up to Fountain Flat Drive to park at the trailhead at the end of the road. Fountain Flat Drive itself is a great spot to see bison. Hike out on the dirt road (red dashed line on the map) past the three trail junctions to the Grand Prismatic Overlook. You will see a lot of people here since it’s much closer to the road, but it’s the best view of the basin. Once you’ve drunk it all in head back the way you came and turn west onto the first trail junction to Fairy Falls. After enjoying Fairy Falls continue on that trail, turning east at the first trail junction towards Spray Geyser and Fairy Springs. After 2.1 miles you can either rejoin the dirt road to head back to the parking lot or add on another 2 miles by taking the longer loop through Sentinel Meadows.

Fountain Flat Drive

Some bison enjoy casual grazing…
… and some like to flail around in the dust.

Prismatic Overlook

Fairy Falls

Fairy Falls Loop

Great trees for backscratching on these trails

Just as a note, photos of bison on the road were taken from the van. Photos of bison on the trail were from AT LEAST 100 yards away

Shameless self promotion: If you’re interested in some Yellowstone bison inspired art, you can check out this bison block print here.

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