I’ve been so very excited to write this post. Once while on a whirlwind tour of Yellowstone, I heard some statistic about the number of people who visit Yellowstone and only have time to see Old Faithful.
That’s what makes this guide my most special one!
If you’ve got limited time in the fabulous Yellowstone, here’s a complete guide on everything to see, what to eat, and where to stay in Old Faithful Village, and how to make the most of your time here!
Now, we’ll start with everything to see in Old Faithful village:
A majority of people who visit the park are here solely to watch the legendary Old Faithful erupt. If this is you, or if you want to plan the perfect Old Faithful viewing experience, here are some tips from a pro!
I’ve had some terrible experiences trying to see Old Faithful (imagine a bitter old guy full on yelling at you because you sat “too close” to him on “his” bench), but also some delightfully serene ones. Your main goal will be to avoid the pushy crowds, so here are some ways to go about doing that:
- Get Up Early or Stay Late
And I mean, early-early, around 6 or 7am is ideal. If you can attend an eruption before all of the tour buses arrive, you can basically sit wherever you want! Plus, the sunrise shining off the geyser’s spray is breathtaking, and it’s so quiet, you can actually hear the boiling water hissing and roaring out of the ground!
Most tours leave before sunset, so if you’re staying in Old Faithful village, this is also a great way to see the eruption with fewer crowds.
2. Stake Out Your Spots Long Before an Eruption
If being at Old Faithful early or late just isn’t an option for you, that’s okay!
Your next strategy will be to find seats as soon after the last eruption as possible. Old Faithful goes off about every 90 minutes, so while waiting over an hour may not be appealing, I can assure you that most of the bench seats will be taken 45 minutes before an eruption during peak season. I guess everyone wants that perfect shot?
3. Find another Viewing Point
So maybe you’ve just arrived, and Old Faithful is going to erupt in 10 minutes. But all the benches in the main viewing area are taken! What do you do?
Your first option is to continue walking along the gravel trail that starts at the Visitor’s Center, and winds around the seating area. This trail will go behind the treeline for a little bit, but just a few meters in, there will be a clearing where you can see Old Faithful from the trail! There are usually only a few other people here, so your view of the geyser should still be good.
Another option is to hike the Observation Point Trail, which is less than 1 mile’s walk uphill from the Visitor’s Center. From here, you can see Old Faithful from above, completely unobstructed!
Upper Geyser Basin
Before coming to Yellowstone for the summer, I was under the impression that Old Faithful was the only geyser in the park. But boy was I wrong! In fact, there are geysers that are far bigger and stranger than Old Faithful, they’re just not as predictable. After watching Old Faithful, take the boardwalks along the Upper Basin Loop to see dozens of different geysers and bright pools. Some of the geyser’s eruption times can be predicted, just check in the Visitor’s Center!
My personal favorite is Castle geyser, which sprayed about 100 feet high when I was there!
I also like the weirdly shaped ones, like Grotto, Grand, and Beehive Geysers. Another must see here is the Morning Glory Pool, which had little yellow flowers growing all around it!
Black Sand Basin
Located just north of Old Faithful Village is the Black Sand Basin. This basin has a number of geysers and springs all situated along the Firehole River.
It’s a beautiful spot, and usually provides a less crowded view of Yellowstone’s geothermal features than the Upper Geyser Basin boardwalks.
Old Faithful Inn
If you’re a history buff, head on into the Old Faithful in for a free history tour! The guide gives a brief history on how the inn was built when Yellowstone was first founded, and then takes you through the whole building, and even to one of the original bedrooms. This is especially cool if you aren’t staying at the inn, but want to have a look around.
Old Faithful Visitor’s Center
Besides finding the eruption times for predictable geysers, the visitors center is full of cool exhibits about the geology of Yellowstone, and my sister and I got some cool bookmarks too!
There are also park rangers there who can help you with any questions about Yellowstone.
Mallard Lake is a 7 mile hike that gives a great view of this area’s natural features. You get to see the off-the-beaten-path Pipeline Springs, cross the Firehole river, and take in the burned Lodgepole pines reminiscent of Yellowstone’s last great fire.
This trail starts 0.25 miles from the rangers station, and then takes you through the forest to Lone Star geyser. The there-and-back distance is 6.3 miles, and a more ambitious way to see the Lone Star geyser.
the Lone Star trail is mostly paved and leads you to the Lone Star Geyser. It erupts every 3 hours, so if you check into the ranger’s station to find the eruption time, you may see an eruption that few do! It’s 4.8 miles total and the terrain is easier than the Howard Eaton trail.
Where to Stay in Old Faithful
Old Faithful Inn
The Old Faithful Inn is without a doubt the most iconic hotel in the park, and is chock full of history! That makes it both a cool place to stay and a great place to look around.
The Old Faithful Inn is actually the first example of log-cabin interior design! Also known as “parkitecture”, the builder, Robert Reamer, created this style in 1903 with the intent to make its guests feel as though they’re in the middle of the woods while staying cozy indoors.
Staying at the Old Faithful inn is really something. There are basically two types of rooms. The first type is the original style of the Old-faithful inn, with scarce, wooden furniture. And also communal bathrooms. Staying in one of these rooms made me feel all cozy and old-timey. The other style is more modern, and these rooms are located in the newer wings of the inn. They’ve got their own bathrooms and are quiet and comfy.
The best part of staying at the Old Faithful Inn is its proximity to Old Faithful. There’s even an outdoor viewing deck with benches ingeniously placed next to a bar and coffee shop, so you can get the perfect view of the eruption with a cappuccino in the morning, or a Moscow mule at sunset.
Old Faithful in is quite expensive, and it also takes a bit of planning to get a room there. Rooms are usually booked a year and a half in advance, but if you haven’t booked in that time frame, never fear! If you call the front desk periodically and ask if anyone has cancelled, you can sometimes get a room last minute. That’s how we were able to stay at one of the original style rooms. (I’ll have a post reviewing our say soon!)
Another thing to keep in mind is that no hotels inside the park have Wifi, this goes for Snow Lodge and the cabins as well.
If the Old Faithful inn isn’t available, Snow Lodge is also there! Located a short walk away from the Old Faithful inn, Snow Lodge is a smaller, more quiet alternative to the hustle and bustle of the Inn. The prices are pretty much the same, but the atmosphere is more relaxing if that’s what you’re looking for.
Snow Lodge is the only Old Faithful Village accommodation available in the winter season.
The Old Faithful cabins are comparable to hotel rooms but with a little more privacy. Each houses 2-4 people, and you can either get one with an en suite bathroom, or one that shares a communal bathroom with other cabins. They are comfy but have no AC, TV, or Wifi.
There are no campsites at Old Faithful Village, so if you’ve got an RV or a tent, your closest options will be either the Madison campground or the Grant Village campground.
Where to Eat in Old Faithful
Old Faithful Inn
The Old Faithful Inn has two options for food, and they are both surprisingly good for in-park fare.
The Dining Room is a gloriously fancy affair. It offers both a menu and a buffet, and I need to insist you visit the buffet. Literally some of the most amazing food I have ever eaten, everything from the red pepper soup to the huckleberry cheesecake was divine, and I also got to try prime rib for the first time. It was wild! They had a whole slab of the meat and you got to pick which part of it you wanted them to saw off for you! Mmmmm. Hmm… sounds gruesome when I type it out, but literally so delicious it’s clouded my judgement.
The other option is the Bear Claw Deli. This is a great stop because they’ve got all sorts of grab and go items like sandwiches, plus coffee, ice cream, and more. They are fast too which is nice.
Geyser Grill at the Snow Lodge
This was one of the only places in Old Faithful that was open during the pandemic.
I’ve had the wild game bolongnese here, and it was tasty. Very flavorful and a nice twist on the classic spaghetti. My only qualm is that it was a small portion for a very high price. Though that may have been my increased appetite from all the hiking that’s talking.
Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria
I learned my lesson when I ordered something called a “huckleberry baked chicken sandwich” with the warning being placed on the “baked” description of the chicken. See, they cleverly call it baked chicken to avoid telling you that it’s an unbreaded ground chicken patty with some jelly on it. I really, REALLY tried to give it a chance, but was so very disappointed with how unappetizing it both looked and tasted for the price I paid.
All that is to say, it’s low quality food for a high price, but you’re not gonna die by eating there.
If all else fails, the Sinclare gas station is loaded up with drinks and snacks. They’ve even got a few groceries you can get here if I remember correctly.
Strangely enough, this gas station is also a historic building that offers tours.
Something cool about Yellowstone is that if you’ve got a picnic lunch, there’s no shortage of picnic areas with tables and restrooms. Plus, most of these areas are lovely spots, whether they’re right next to a creek or overlooking a monument. Here are a couple of picnic areas near Old Faithful Village:
4 miles north of Old Faithful village, this picnic area is situated at the Midway Geyser Basin. The site has 17 picnic tables, one handicap accessible table, and two fire pits. Surrounding trees provide some shade, and views of the Whisky Flat offer great potential wildlife viewing.
In the Old Faithful village itself, this picinc area has 13 tables and one accessible table. Located on the Firehole river, this is a great and convenient spot.
3 miles east of Old Faithful village, this quiet picnic area has 9 tables, 2 fire grates, a toilet, and is situated on the quiet Spring creek.
Halfway between Old Faithful and West Thumb, this spot has 9 tables and a toilet. It’s a cool place to stop while on the loop, and lets you hang out on the creek.
And, that’s all I’ve got for everything you need to know about navigating around Old Faithful village in Yellowstone!
I included all of the info that I thought would be useful, but if you have any questions about planning your Yellowstone trip, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below this post!
And as a bonus, behold the guy who yelled at my friends and I for daring to sit on “his” bench to watch Old Faithful erupt (it’s just the back of his head don’t worry):
Our next stop on the Virtual Yellowstone Road Trip is the stretch of the Grand Loop Road between Old Faithful and West Thumb, so keep a look out for that!
If you want to rebel and go backwards, check out everything there is to see on the Grand Loop Road between Madison Junction and Old Faithful!