Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

4.5 out of 5 stars 69 Reviews

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  • People come and go, but the elk are unaffected
    People come and go, but the elk are...
    by mtncorg
  • Jupiter Terraces popping out of the Main Terrace
    Jupiter Terraces popping out of the Main...
    by mtncorg
  • Active springs build up the limestone terraces
    Active springs build up the limestone...
    by mtncorg
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – THE ELK

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    There is a resident herd of elk that hang out around Mammoth. Remember not to get to close. They are fairly oblivious to the ever-changing crowds of people walking by, content to sit in the shade of a tree while contentedly posing for pictures.

    Some of the elk at Mammoth Elk hanging out in the shade at Mammoth People come and go, but the elk are unaffected A midmorning snack
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – CANARY SPRING

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    Back up on top, take the trail on the south edge of the Main Terrace over to Canary Spring. Here, you descend along the side of Main Terrace that is most active. Boardwalks take you up close into the hot spring activity. Take your time and let others drift by you as the waters do while you observe. The final overlook shows the waters cascading down the cliffs of colorful terraces – the yellow gives the terraces the name canary. This overlook is too small as you will want to spend more time down here taking it all in.

    Steam rises off the waters of Canary Spring Magnificence of the build up from Canary Spring Looking at the Canary build up over quieter parts Waters build the terraces quickly Splashing waters and steam from Canary waters
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – CLEOPATRA TERRACES

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    Cleopatra is a name bestowed on other springs over the years. Minerva used be named Cleopatra. The terraces up here are relatively quiet – as is Minerva – but some water still flows building as it does.

    Closer look at Cleopatra Terrace Cleopatra Terrace from the trail
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – PALETTE SPRING

    by mtncorg Updated Dec 3, 2014

    Palette Spring is best seen from below to see where it got its name from. The hot waters fan out over a steep limestone slope with the algae and bacteria adding color similar to what might be seen in an artist’s palette. This is the first major active feature that you note as you climb up through the terraces from the Mammoth Hot Springs conurbation below.

    Palette Springs and Mammoth Hot Springs Colors of the Palette Waters rushing down the sides Trees become part of the Palette Colors of the Palette
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – MINERVA TERRACE

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    Minerva Terrace is presently fairly quiet – 2014 – but its periods of activity have gone back and forth over the years. The boardwalk here is movable because when the spring is active, it can be very active. Deposition can make the path into just another feature.

    Boardwalk outlooks over the former active terrace Closer view of the limestone terraces post water Erosion knocks over the terraces fairly quickly Terraces transitioning
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – JUPITER TERRACE

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    Jupiter Terrace is quiet compared to the later years of the 20th century when its activity made boardwalk construction a bit tenuous. These terraces pop out of the north side of the Main Terrace. A small section of it continues to give you an idea of what once was. The colors and the smell are best experienced early in the morning when steam rising adds to the mystical picture. Stop and watch the waters quietly do their thing.

    The terraces if Jupiter slowly building Active springs build up the limestone terraces The terraces and thermophilic growth in the runoff Steam rising from the terrace waters Jupiter Terraces popping out of the Main Terrace
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    MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS – MAIN TERRACE OVERLOOK

    by mtncorg Written Dec 3, 2014

    The area making up the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs lies north of the main Yellowstone caldera, but an earth fault extends hot water here from the Norris Basin some twenty miles to the south. Some twenty hot springs are created by fissures from underneath connecting with the fault waters. Here, the hot waters laden with carbon dioxide filter through sedimentary limestone. The hot acids dissolve much of the limestone. Once on the surface, much of the carbon dioxide is released and the liquid limestone solidifies into the travertine terraces. The result is much like what you would find in a limestone cave such as Carlsbad Caverns, with the formations outside in open air rather than hidden away deep in the darkened earth. A big note is that the features here are not ever present, but constantly changing. The hot water turns on in one area and shuts off in another. Terraces left without water to bring more liquid limestone and heat to keep the colorful algae and bacteria alive fade into white-grayish powder that erodes away quickly into something else.

    Most people will approach the terraces from the bottom. This was pretty impressive when I first visited Mammoth – a long time ago now. The geothermal activity was much more ongoing at that time and then terraces much more active and colorful. Today, many of those terraces have shut down leaving behind large sandstone banks which break down further every year. I like coming at Mammoth from the top now. You drive on the highway – if you are in Mammoth – towards Norris and turn off onto the one-way Upper Terrace Drive. A quarter mile on you will find a large parking area from which you can wander out and explore. The large overlook sits atop the Main Terrace. This is a constantly changing scene, as hot springs pop up here and there and then closes off. Dead trees demonstrate how quickly the landscape can change. There is a boardwalk trail off to the right leading to Canary Springs which we will get back to. First, we will descend and make a loop around the main active terraces. New Blue Spring is the active hot spring on our right as we descend multiple flights of stairs.

    New hot springs bubble onto the Main Terrace Hot waters percolate minerals onto Main Terrace Looking out over the Main Terrace New active and older quiet patches Close up of the active processes at work
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    Mammoth in the Morning....

    by kazander Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Lower Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs was our first stop of the day. We arrived early morning, just as the big tour groups were hurrying people back into the buses. It was a nice time to explore, it is a fairly large area with lots of boardwalks and stairs, it wasn't too hot out that it would slow us down.
    The Springs themselves are travertine terraces made up of mineral deposits. Some of them are active, with water flowing down the terraces. Some of them are dormant, making them look like snow covered steps. The different types of bacteria and organisms in the hot water account for the different colors in the springs.

    Mammoth Hot Springs
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    Upper Mammoth Drive

    by kazander Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    After hiking around the boardwalks of the Lower Terraces of Mammoth, we took the one way road around upper Mammoth Drive. It's just a little ways down the road from where you park for the lower terraces. This little loop of a road takes you past a few diffrent features such as Orange Mound, Elephants Back and White Angel Terrace. There are pulloffs so that you can stop and take a longer look. The Lower Terrace trail meets up with this road, so you can start down at the bottom and check out both sections of Mammoth on foot if you so choose.

    Orange Mound Mammoth Hot Springs
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    Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces

    by melissa_bel Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The Hot springs terraces are one of the most accesible and incredible feature of natural wonder in the park. Just close to the Park's headquarter, Mammoth Hot Springs, you can see them from afar as they a patch of white on a dark hill.
    A boardwalk trail will take you up, down and close to the springs.

    How were they born?
    Well... as I said earlier, Yellowstone is in fact living under a magma chamber. When ground water seeps down, it comes in contact with carbon dioxide rising from the chamber. Some of the carbon will dissolve in the hot water and form an mild acidic solution. This mix will dissolves the limestone as it slowly makes its way up through the rock layers as a hot spring. When the steams comes up, the water is released but the limestone becomes solid and makes a deposit forming the terrace travertines we can see today.

    A close-up of the spring

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    Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces 2

    by melissa_bel Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Seeing the springs from the first time is quite amazing! Especially when one is active (they are not active all the time, when we were there, the activity was quite low and it can remain like that for years). One of the first thing you will notice is the smell of "rotten eggs" so characteristic for hot springs.
    The colours, diversity of formations and eerieness is something to behold. With names such as "Palette, New Blue, Minerva, Jupiter...", this is a place out this world.
    We only visited the Lower Terraces as we had to be back home before dark but the higher terraces can be accessed by road.
    When visiting, please be careful. Do not get off the boardwalk as you may be scalded by hot water and steam. This is not a joke, some death have been reported.

    More details of the travertines

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    Move over rover, let the Bull Elk take over!!!

    by BLewJay Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    After doing the one-way loop of the Upper Terrace, we headed into Mammoth Hot Springs Village for a short break. When we got the edge of the village, cars were parked in the middle of the street and people were walking around gawking and taking pictures. We didn't know what the commotion was all about until we rounded the corner and ran head first into a herd of elk.

    There were approximately 20 - 30 elk wondering the streets, lounging on the lawn or otherwise just taking in the spectacle of humans with cameras...what a sight to see!!! Of course, people forget the rules of interacting with wild animals and ended up getting to close to the bull elk, so he started to bellow...in the meantime, the park ranger came to the rescue and motioned for people to move away from the animals. No problem, people obeyed and no one was hurt.

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    Mammoth Hot Springs Lower Terrace

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Oct 29, 2010

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    In Mammoth the primary rock is limestone. You will see both active and inactive travertine terraces. These terraces are in continual change, old ones become inactive, and inactive ones may once again become active. Changes can even happen over night. Thermophiles, which are heat loving microorganisms live in the hot water that flows down the active terraces, giving them beautiful colors of orange, brown, green, and yellow. Because it is these living organisms that create the beautiful colors, when a terrace become inactive, the organisms die, and only gray, crumbling terraces remain. If they once again become active, the organisms return, and the color once again returns. The Lower Terrace is seen on foot, by walking paths and boardwalks. You will see Liberty Cap, a 37 foot (11 m) formation that was created by a hot spring that is estimated to be 2500 years old, but is now dormant. You will see terraces, and overlooks. Look at the dormant, gray terraces and examine their shapes. Sometimes you may even be surprised to see elk lying on these dry terraces. Admire the beautiful active terraces, and have fun photographing them.

    Mammoth Hot Springs
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    Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth Hot Springs

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Oct 29, 2010

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    Upper Terrace Drive is a one way scenic drive that winds for one and a half miles past a number of hot springs and terraces. This is a narrow, winding road, so trailers, buses, and motor homes are not allowed to drive this Upper Terrace route. There are a number of small turn offs along the way for you to park and take short walks to various formations on the upper level. Some of these springs can also be walked to from the Lower Terrace, but other terraces and spring mounds can only be seen along the drive. For this reason I recommend doing both. I especially love the Orange Spring Mound, which is only seen from the drive.

    Orange Spring Mound
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    Mammoth Hot Springs

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Oct 23, 2010

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    After backtracking to the highway across the top of Yellowstone that leads to Mammoth Hot Springs, we were cruising along when I saw this strange sight ahead of us. It took me a few minutes to realize that this is what hydro-thermal pools and the minerals they deposit at the surface look like – we had arrived! Reaching the community itself only a few minutes later, a female Elk (2nd photo) quickly showed us who has the right-of-way in Yellowstone. There were quite a number of Elk either lying on the grass or munching away at various downtown locations and none of them seemed the least bit concerned. After our long day of driving, we decided to just make a quick tour of colourful Palette Hot Springs, the thermal vent closest to town. While standing beside the Spring, we had a good view of the community of Mammoth Hots Springs and the surrounding countryside (3rd photo). It was already 5 PM and we still had to make a short drive to exit Yellowstone by the North Entrance so we could get ourselves booked into our accommodations there in the little town of Gardiner, Montana (nothing available inside the NP when we tried to book a month earlier). We had really enjoyed both getting to Yellowstone and what we had seen so far!

    Huge hot springs area really stands out! Elk takes its time crossing the street Mammoth Hot Springs view from the terraces
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