Lower Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs

We arrived at the northern border of Yellowstone National Park in midday. After soup and salad for lunch at “Outlaw’s Pizza” in the town of Gardiner, we ventured into the park to see Mammoth Hot Springs. The first landmark was Liberty Cap, a tall stone tower with a domed top (cap), formed from a dormant spring.

Liberty Cap

As we continued up the boardwalk, we noticed hot spring water streaming gently down from the strange red and white pigmented stone faces, amidst the dead but still standing trees. Here, steam rose up from the horizon and it began to smell like sulphur. The rock formations became stranger and stranger as we came to Devil’s Thumb, a large rounded rock formation, and the Palette Springs. The rocks here looked like large paint palettes filled with pools of spring water, decorated with strange lines from mineral deposit.

The Devil’s Thumb and the Palette Springs
The Palette Springs

We continued travelling up the boardwalk, eventually reaching a flat rocky surface that reminded me much of something from space, save for the pools of water from even more hot springs.

Looks like the moon! 😮
A dried spring near New Blue Springs

Further along, there were a number of more colourful springs. Trail Spring, was a distinctive red with a bright blue centre. It was also neat to look into the water since there were mineral deposits everywhere making strange patterns in the rocks and water. It was very hot here today, and even hotter with the heat of the springs.

Mineral deposits in the water
The area around Trail Terrace
The red and blue waters of Trail Terrace
Trees on the terrace

Next we saw Canary Spring. This large pool was at the far end of the lower terrace from where we started. Here, the water was also a reddish hue, but was encased in roundish yellow rock. A waterfall also sprouted near Canary Spring, where hot steam rose up.

Canary Spring
A waterfall at the Canary Spring

Upper Terrace and the Petrified Tree

After walking through the Lower Terrace of Mammoth Hot Springs, we continued on a drive around the Upper Terrace section. The short 2 km drive loop contains less sights than the walk around the lower section, however, there are still many interesting landmarks.

We didn’t drive far when we noticed a Yellow-Bellied Marmot perched on top of the white rock formations. We were looking at it and trying to take pictures, while causing a traffic jam on the narrow one-way road!

A furry little yellow-bellied marmot perched on top of the rocks

Next along the road we took a quick stop at the Orange Spring Mound, a large, orange-shaped dome. Orange Spring Mound has orange colouring from the heat-dwelling bacteria living in the warm water, and algae. The smooth white surface of the mound consists of calcium carbonate (travertine) deposited from the water flowing up from deep underground.

Orange Spring Mound

Continuing through the Upper Terrace we passed by Tangerine Spring, White Elephant’s Back Spring, and the eerie Angel Terrace. Dead trees are silouetted against the pale ground at Angel Terrace.

The desolate looking landscape at Angel Terrace
Dark trees against the white of Angel Terrace

After leaving the terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs, we continued on around the northern area of Yellowstone National Park. We took a quick look at Undine Falls (my dad calls this Undie Falls), and then continued on to the petrified tree before heading back to our motel. The petrified tree is special in that it is still standing!

Undine Falls
The petrified tree