Old Faithful Area, Yellowstone
Lion's Roar (Old Faithful Area) - I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, how old you are, or how many times you have seen it—Old Faithful is magical! The area around Old Faithful is a living volcano and the geysers are something to see. However, from a landscape photographer’s standpoint, it is almost impossible to capture a unique image from this area. I said almost impossible, not impossible.
I got lucky on my first visit to Old Faithful and stumbled on this great location. I call it Lion’s Roar, as the powerful eruption comes from a small series of geysers around Old Faithful called the Lion Geyser Group. What makes the shot unique is the wonderful hot water pool (Heart Spring) that sits in front of the Lion Geyser.
What makes the shot difficult is that Lion Geyser is not very predictable, and it may only erupt 2-4 times each day - and you don’t know when.
I would ask that when you visit Yellowstone and especially the Old Faithful area, please do your best to preserve all aspects of this location for future visitors and always try to leave it in better shape than when you found it.
Trail Difficulty (2 out of 5)
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as 2 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). It’s an easy ½ mile walk from Old Faithful Geyser along a paved trail that turns into a boardwalk over the geyser field north of Old Faithful.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
7,368ft – Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click on image to enlarge
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to the Old Faithful Lodge parking lot.
Directions from the Old Faithful Lodge
From the north side of the Old Faithful Lodge, walk toward the Old Faithful viewing area. At the viewing area boardwalk, turn right and walk for about 100yds to a sign that says “Upper Geyer Basin,” then take the path to the right, which leads to the geyser basin.
Stay on the path and walk over the bridge crossing the Firehole River. Once you cross the bridge, continue for about another 100yds and the boardwalk will split. At the split, stay left and walk along the geyser basin for about 300yds until you see a small bluish pool of water right next to the boardwalk, which has a small sign that reads “Heart Spring”. The shot is taken on the boardwalk right where the “Heart Spring” is. If you have walked to the set of geysers that says “Lion Geyser Group,” you have gone too far.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
This shot is 100% dependent on when the Lion Geyser erupts. Some geysers in Yellowstone are predictable, but Lion Geyser is not one of them.
The Lion Geyser does have some predictability, as it normally erupts at least once a day. When it erupts, it seems to erupt 2 or 3 times from the initial eruption within the next few hours. That being said, it is just a matter of luck.
Best Time of Year to Shoot
The best time would be spring, summer, or fall. In the spring and fall, the sun sets to the left. In the summer, the sun sets directly in front of the Lion Geyser.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
The above shot was taken with a 24mm lens.
There are no permits required.
Direction of the Shot
The direction of the shot is northwest @ 310°.
Special Nuances of Shot
As mentioned, this shot is all about when the Lion Geyser erupts. I have been to this spot 3 times. When I took the picture above, I was just plain lucky and had to wait only 5 minutes or so. I have also been at this location for 6 hours before it erupted. The third time, it did not erupt until after sunset. When it does erupt, it lasts about 90 seconds or so.
This website tracks the intervals of the eruptions for the Lion Geyer - Geyser Times - Lion Geyser - (it will be your best guide to understanding when the next eruption might happen).
Special Equipment Needed
Other than a tripod and a polarizer filter, there is no need for any special photography equipment. However, you may also want to use a tilt/shift lens to compensate for the slight keystone effect of the heart spring.
Unless you get really lucky, you will have to wait in this spot for hours. Make sure you bring the appropriate weather gear, food/water, music, headphones, and/or a good book.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Hundreds of tourists walk by this location every day. However, it would be rare if any other photographers would be waiting at this same spot.
Weather in Yellowstone is mild in the late spring, summer, and early fall and bitter in the winter. The weather in Yellowstone is very unpredictable and changes quickly.I usually get the weather from the visitor’s center or at the front desk of the Old Faithful Lodge.
I use Verizon, and there is very limited cell service in the Old Faithful area. It is sometimes better in the morning and late evening.
Camping and lodging at the Old Faithful area is sparse. The closest campground is Madison Junction Campground (17 miles north). It is a nice campground, but it fills up quickly. There are only 3 hotels in Old Faithful and they can be pricey.
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Madison Junction Campground (17 miles north)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Old Faithful Inn – the grand inn build back in the 1904
1 Grand Loop Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY
Old Faithful Lodge Cabins – just a few hundred yards from Old Faithful
Old Faithful Village
Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins – newest and nicest
1000 Old Faithful Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY
The Old Faithful area is geared toward tourists and all but one restaurant is tourist food. The only restaurant I will eat at in Old Faithful is the Obsidian Dining Room in the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. When you order, stick with the basics: the buffalo burger is usually outstanding and the filet can also be very good.
The adjacent bar is nice and usually has a warm fire going. The also make a great martini.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
Obsidian Dining Room
1000 Old Faithful Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY
I do not know of any laundry services in the Old Faithful village.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
Jackson Hole (JAC) is the nearest airport for this area. It is a very nice, small, clean airport just 11 miles north of the city of Jackson.
Other major airports in the vicinity of Yellowstone Park are Denver, Salt Lake City, and Billings. Of those three, Billings would be the closest. Billings to the northeast entrance is 120 miles (over Beartooth Pass).
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.
Website to track the geyser eruptions - Geyser Times - Lion Geyser