Exploring Artists Paint Pots

Of all the geyser basins close to the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park, Artists Paint Pots is probably the most obscure.

Nonetheless, it offers a unique and varied palette for visitors, with some things that really can’t be found elsewhere in the park.

Artists Paint Pots is located just south of Norris Geyser Basin. After taking the turnoff from the Grand Loop and parking, you’ll need to walk about half a mile down the trail to the Paint Pots. The name comes from the striking hues of mud and hot spring water hat can be found in this area: red, yellow, emerald, milk-blue.

Artists Paint Pots is more “rugged” than its Lower Geyser Basin counterpart, Fountain Paint Pot, surrounded by pines and grasses. The topography is also more varied at Artists than that Fountain. Indeed, most the features in Artist Paint Pots are located on Paintpot Hill. Although the climb is well worth the trip, exercise caution as some of the steps are uneven.

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Unlike other geyser basins, Aritst Paint Pots is better understood as a whole than as a series of geysers and hot springs. In some ways, the best way to see it is as you approach, as you take in the sprawl and ascent of hot springs from the plains up the hill.

That isn’t to say there aren’t curiosities on display here. There are several vividly named features—including Blood Geyser, which is at the base of Paintpot Hill. This geyser got its name from the red mud that sometimes erupts from its vent. A similar feature, Red Spouter, can be found in Fountain Paint Pot. For our money, Blood Geyser is the more evocative name.

The best way to experience Artists Paint Pots is to take your time. Linger over favorite features and take a picture or two. The place is small enough that you can make several laps without exhausting yourself.

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