Hot take: West Thumb is the best kept secret in Yellowstone.
I know, that is some high praise.
But why? Because it’s got some of the brightest, clearest hot springs in the park, and they’re all nestled on the beautiful West Thumb lake shore.
For the most part, time constraints lead people to skip West Thumb village, so it stays uncrowded even at the peak hours. If you have time, I think you should stop to see all there is to see at West Thumb, and here’s why:
West Thumb Geyser Basin
Being a (self-proclaimed) expert when it comes to geothermal hot springs, I’ve noticed that no two pools are the same, and that they vary in each area of the park. For example, Norris geyser basin has cloudy pastel hot springs, the Old Faithful area has the most colorful ones, and West Thumb’s pools are the clearest by far.
According to the ranger, that also means they’re the hottest.
It’s crazy, when you look into black pool, you can see over 100 feet down, with no bottom in sight!
As the walkway winds down to the water’s edge, you can see the three underwater geysers I’d mentioned earlier. You’ve got Big Cone, Fishing Cone, and Lakeshore Geyser just poking out of the water, but we didn’t see any of them erupt. I can only imagine what it would be like to see and explosion bursting through the calm lake!
Around this area is another hot spring that teaches us an important lesson. A small spring across the path from fishing cone was once used as a wishing well for early visitors of the park, and you can see the damage the coins have caused. Unlike the other bright, shining springs in West Thumb, this one is tacky and brown.
The spring was appropriately named Vandalized Pool.
West Thumb Information Center
If you’ve got the time, stop by the West Thumb Information Center to learn a little about winter in Yellowstone, or to join in on a Ranger talk to learn more about the geothermal features of West Thumb.
It only took about 20 minutes for us to walk around the whole loop of boardwalks, but when we got towards the end of the path, just near Abyss Pool, we found that we were just in time for a ranger talk!
She was very friendly, and told us all about how hot spring, like Abyss Pool, form. First it was a geyser, so big that it actually became a safety hazard when it’s eruptions threw huge rocks into the air. Then it was a murky pool of water, and now, it’s my favorite hot spring in the whole park! I mean, just look at this:
West Thumb Overlook
From the parking lot, you can access the West Thumb Overlook trailhead. This hike is relatively short at 1.5 miles, but does have a 200ft incline to reach the grand viewpoint over Lake Yellowstone.
If you’re looking for a hike of another kind, Duck Lake trail also starts in the parking lot, and takes you 0.8 miles to the shores of Duck Lake. Hopefully- there are ducks there when you visit!
Potts Hot Spring Basin
Located just north of the main West Thumb group, this spring basin is sadly not open to the public, however, keep an eye open for these bright blue pools and sparkling white mineral deposits from your car window as you drive north.
Where to Eat and Stay in West Thumb
I lumped both of these together because the short answer is ‘outside of West Thumb’. There are no restaurants, hotels, or campgrounds in West Thumb, but thankfully, these are not too far away. There is a picnic spot by the parking lot if you have your own food.
Grant Village is only a 2.5 miles south down the South Entrance Road, and has a small grocery, and both casual and fine dining options. Alternatively, Lake Village has several dining options about 21 miles north of West Thumb from the Grand Loop Road.
As far as lodging, the closest to West Thumb is the Grant Village Campground. If you’re looking for hotels, Lake Village has a few, and so that will be your best bet.
And yep, that is pretty much everything you need to know about visiting West Thumb Village in Yellowstone! Of course, please let me know if I forgot anything.
Next up, we’ll make a short detour down the South Entrance Road to talk about the sights of Grant Village before heading back up and around the shores of Lake Yellowstone to Lake Village.
To see where we just came from, check out everything to see between Old Faithful and West Thumb villages.
Thanks for coming along!
2 thoughts on “Everything you need to know about West Thumb Village in Yellowstone”
Excellent blog post. I definitely love this website. Keep writing!
Saying “thank you so much” feels like an understatement but it rings true! Your kind words inspire me to keep writing. Have a great week and happy travels!