The Best Time to Visit Old Faithful

An Iconic Geyser: The Best Time to Visit Old Faithful

Old Faithful Geyser Sign
Old Faithful Geyser Sign

When you hear about Yellowstone, most people instantly think “I have to visit Old Faithful.” You would be right. It is the most visited site in Yellowstone National Park and the most famous geyser in the world. It truly is iconic and below you will find all the information you need so you can plan the best time to visit Old Faithful.

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History of Old Faithful

Old Faithful Geyser Sign

In 1870, the Washburn Expedition discovered Old Faithful as they explored the area that would later be known to all as Yellowstone. Due to the regularity of the eruptions, they decided to call it Old Faithful. When Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park in 1872, part of it was to protect and preserve the park’s unique geothermal features, including Old Faithful.

The Upper Geyser Basin, where Old Faithful is located, has the highest concentration of geothermal features in the park. About half of all the geysers on Earth are in Yellowstone National Park. There are many other geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features to explore in the vicinity.

Yes, Old Faithful is the most well known geyser, but it is not the highest active geyser in the world. That would be Steamboat Geyser, also located in Yellowstone. It expels water 300 feet (91 metres) high but is not predictable. It used to erupt every 7-9 days, but in recent years that can range from 10-77 days.

I was lucky enough to see the Strokkur Geyser in Iceland, which is the most active geyser in Iceland, usually erupting every 10-15 minutes, reaching a height of 15-25 metres. That was an experience, but so was seeing Old Faithful.

How was Old Faithful formed?

Cone Geyser

Geysers like Old Faithful are actually relatively rare. Old Faithful is a hydrothermal geyser, which means it erupts with a column of hot water and steam. They occur where there are volcanic heat sources. Magma, located under the Earth’s surface, heats groupings of water underground.

When it does this, it builds pressure that pushes the water upwards and eventually starts to boil. This also creates the steam that causes the eruptions. The magma located under the site of Old Faithful is giant and contains enough magma to fill the Grand Canyon ten times.  

Old Faithful has been a subject of scientific study for many years. Its eruptions are relatively regular compared to other geysers, making it a convenient subject for research on geyser behavior and geothermal activity.

When is the best time to visit Old Faithful?

November to March: Due to the snow and conditions of the roads,  no vehicles are allowed in Yellowstone National Park until mid-December. The only road is a small stretch from the North Entrance to Mammoth Springs.

December to March: The fun starts, when visitors can only enter the park via oversnow travel including snowmobile or snowcoach, with a permitted guide.

Visiting during these months definitely provides a different view of the hot springs, surrounded by frost formations and against undisturbed snow. The busiest times are between 10am to 2pm.

April to October: The roads into the park are open. Visiting during April, September, October will yield less crowds.

June to August (peak season): You will definitely experience large crowds of people as you make your way to Old Faithful.

There always seems to be road work going on in Yellowstone, so plan your drive accordingly and pack your patience. We waited over an hour because of the construction, and that was just to turn onto the road leading to Old Faithful.  

The best time to visit Old Faithful during the peak months is early in the morning, before 10am or in the evenings after 6pm to avoid the crowds.

There are fanastic tours available that are either self guided audio tours or private tours. This way you can ensure that you learn everything you need to know and have guidance to see the sites.

Hours of Operation

Yellowstone and Old Faithful are open 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. The only time you cannot access it with your vehicle is in the winter months.


$35 per private vehicle for up to 7 days. There are other fee options available on their website. The America the Beautiful annual and lifetime pass holders receive the cost of entry into the park covered. 

Note: Grand Teton National Park charges separate entrance fees, so if you enter from the South Entrance, you will have to pay the fees again to enter Yellowstone National Park.

Tip: Purchase your ticket in advance to save time and keep traffic flowing when entering the park.

Visitors Center

The Old Faithful Visitor Education Center provides information for visitors to learn about hydrothermal features like geysers, hot springs and mudpots. You can shop for souvenirs in the store or visit the restrooms, while you wait for the next eruption. I may have spent too much money there. They did have the most amazing huckleberry tea which I highly recommend buying.

The Visitors Center is open the following hours:

December 15 to May: 9:00am to 5:00pm

June to July: 8:00am to 8:00pm

September: 8:00am to 6:00pm

October: 9:00am to 5:00pm

November to mid December: Closed

Food Options

There are a few options for eating,  depending on the amount of time you have. 

Old Faithful Inn Bear Paw DeliGrab and Go Options
General Store, Upper and LowerGrab and Go Options
Old Faithful Inn Dining RoomFull Sit Down Service
Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser GrillGrab and Go Options
Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria and Bake ShopCasual, Grab and Go Options
Old Faithful Snow Lodge Obsidian Dining RoomFull Sit Down Service

Recommendation: Old Faithful Inn Dining Room: Visitors that are staying in an accommodation in the park, can make a reservation to see Old Faithful erupt from the restaurant. Visitors not staying in the park can visit the restaurant for availability to eat and have a view of the eruption.

Old Faithful Inn


If you are looking for the best accommodations close to Old Faithful, your best option is the Old Faithful Inn

Here are some other options that are close to Old Faithful if you are looking to spend a few days in the area.

Lodging at Yellowstone


One of the biggest challenges for most is bringing your pet to Yellowstone. Pets are allowed in public areas, parking lots and within 100 feet of any road. They must be on a leash that is not longer than 6 feet in length at all times.

You cannot walk your dog on the boardwalks or trails around Yellowstone. However, you are able to take your dog to the area just before the main board walk that you go to view Old Faithful when it erupted. We were lucky enough to find a spot to sit while we waited.

Best Time to Visit Old Faithful to See the Eruptions


The next eruption of Old Faithful is calculated using mathematical models based on the duration of the previous eruption. The longer an eruption lasts, the longer the interval until the next eruption.

TIP: Download the National Park Services App and add Yellowstone national park as a favorite. You will be able to see the Live Geyser Predictions so you know when to plan to be at the boardwalk to see the next eruption.

How Often? On average, it erupts approximately every 90 minutes, though the interval can vary from about 40 to 110 minutes.

How Long Does It Last? Typically last 1.5 to 5 minutes. 

How Much Water Does It Expel? The average height of an eruption is about 130 feet (40 meters) and can send out between 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of water. 

Just How Hot Is It? Steam that emerges from the geyser has been recorded at a temperature higher than 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius); water as high as 203 degrees Fahrenheit (95 degrees Celsius).

Old Faithful Erupting

Best Places to See It From:

View of Old Faithful from Observation Point
  • Head to the boardwalk for a front row view. Plan to arrive at least 20 minutes before the predicted eruption if you want to get a front row seat; and ensure you don’t miss it!
  • Trek up to the Observation point for a view from the top. The total hike up will be 1.1 miles (1.7 kms). Plan accordingly as it is uphill to get there
  • From the viewing deck of the Old Faithful Inn

If you missed the eruption, caught it just in time and want to explore the area, spend some time walking the trails around the Upper Geyser Basin. 

TIP: Once an eruption is done, most people make a mass exit to get out of the area and the parking lot becomes even more of a challenge. If time allows, stick around for 20 minutes before heading out.

Source: Noahlang Photography

Environmental Concerns

Scientists and climatologists state that Yellowstone is currently the warmest it has been in thousands of years. Earthquakes and climate changes, including shifts in rainfall, snowmelt, and temperature, could impact the necessary conditions for the geyser’s activity, making Old Faithful erupt less frequently; or one day, possibly not at all.

Making the ionic trip to visit Old Faithful, is well worth it, even on a quick day trip to Yellowstone. Witnessing its eruption is a memorable experience and a reminder of the immense beauty and wonder of the world we live in.

The best time to visit Old Faithful is really whenever you can. I promise that no matter what time of the year you go, it will be worth the visit. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep updated on all the things you can do to explore the outdoor world and connect with nature.

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