West Thumb Basin

West Thumb signThe sign here is entitled “An Exploded Bay” – West Thumb’s shoreline has suspiciously crater-like contours. Its underwater profile is dramatically deeper than the rest of Yellowstone Lake. Only a massive explosion could have formed West Thumb. Though the blowout occurred 125,000 years ago, West Thumb is still thermally active. Hot springs, mudpots and geysers steam and percolate along the shore.

There are two loops – the Inner Loop is 1/4 mile and fully accessible. The Outer Loop is 1/2 mile and has steep grades on both sides.

West Thumb - Black Pool

Black Pool

This was my favorite area – I loved the contrast of the colorful steaming pools with sparkling cool Yellowstone Lake and the mountains as a backdrop.

West Thumb Paint Pots

West Thumb Paint Pots

Sometimes it was simply hard to believe the varied colors in one scene.

West Thumb - Mimulus Pool

Mimulus Pool

The smooth texture and cool blue/green of this pool was fascinating to me.

West Thumb - Bluebell Pool

Bluebell Pool

And yet it’s impossible to pick a favorite pool. The shades of blue hinting at the differing depths is a wonder to behold.

West Thumb - Abyss Pool

Abyss Pool

I can see why it was named this because it did seem like a bottomless chasm, and powerfully beauty.

West Thumb - Bacteria Mat

Bacteria Mat

It still seems hard to believe these vibrant orange colors are created by bacteria!

West Thumb - bacterial pools

The land looks pockmarked from the ancient eruptions here.

West Thumb - small pools

It’s just so great that you can easily walk among these scenes that look like they could be on another planet.

West Thumb aqua pool

Another favorite view contrasting thermal pools with Yellowstone Lake.

West Thumb - Elk 1

It was really special to see an elk on the boardwalk between Black Pool and Yellowstone Lake.

West Thumb - Elk 2

She didn’t seem to be concerned with nearby people at all, but I still think these folks got a bit close for comfort. (I was a ways back on the boardwalk and zoomed in.)

West Thumb - Elk 3

In a different area, another elk looked up as we passed by.

West Thumb - Elk on Lake

I caught this one from the road as I was leaving.

<1 minute YouTube video because still pictures are just not enough!

Since this was the farthest area from me when I was staying in West Yellowstone, I only made it out there once.  At the time, the road was under construction in places and a rock thrown up by a speeding truck coming toward me cracked my car windshield which put another dent in my time here, but this is one area I wish I could have explored more.  No way you should miss this!

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