The autumn season at Yellowstone National Park is short lived, because the harsh Wyoming winter usually begins early each year. Even so, the fall temperatures are comfortably cool when taking on one of the many hiking trails in this scenic wonderland. The cool air also condenses moisture, so the steam from the volcanic pools and geysers looks even more dramatic. Autumn also brings misty rain, which brightens the green landscape and adds vivid color to the rock strata. Seasonal weather conditions like this can definitely enhance the visual experience when hiking the Artist's Paintpots Trail!
A high percentage of Yellowstone National Park visitors only drive from one parking lot to the next to view interesting roadside sites. As can be imagined, negotiating the roadside attraction parking zones can take plenty of patience. Because there are so many roadside attractions at Yellowstone, relatively few on their first visit are willing to take on the many hiking trails that they come across in this park. What this means is that the scenic spots at the end of each trail are far less crowded and this is like a sigh of relief for those who want to enjoy the serene wilderness.
The Artist's Paintpots Trail is fairly easy to negotiate and the distance is not intimidating. A wide dirt trail winds through woods and meadows for about a third of a mile to the Artist's Paintpots Basin. If the ground is dry, wheelchair accessibility will not be an issue on this pathway. Like many of the thermal basin areas at Yellowstone, the earth crust can be treacherously thin, so a boardwalk is constructed to keep visitors safe. The Arist's Paintpots Basin Boardwalk is a semi circle shape that offers great views of the paintpots, hot blue water pools and geyser steam vents at ground level.
The best way to view the Artist's Paintpots Basin is to look down from the hillside above and this is where the second half of the trail goes. The distance of the second semi circle trail is about one third of a mile long and it goes uphill at a fairly steep grade, so for some visitors the accessibility can an issue. There are a few rustic staircases on this trail to make the uphill hike a little easier. At the crest of the trail, the view looking down at the Artist's Paintpots Basin is nothing less than spectacular!
Hikers that do the climb on the second half of the trail loop will be rewarded with interesting natural oddities that cannot be seen from the basin. There are a few bubbling white mud pits and gurgling steam vents that are painted with bright mineral colors. The steam from the Blood Geyser and the surrounding hydrothermal vents creates a surreal effect. The panoramic views of the surrounding forests stretch out to the horizon too.
The Artist's Paintpots Trail is only a little bit more than one mile long, but it can take a half day to do this hike because there are so many unique geological features to view. Be sure to pack some water and trail snacks because the paces is unhurried, just like spending an afternoon at an extensive art gallery. The Artist's Paintpots at Yellowstone truly is Mother Nature's grand studio!
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