Yellowstone – Grand Prismatic

There are some pictures that are quintessential and the shot of the Grand Prismatic is definitely that. I can vividly remember seeing this picture on various blogs and thinking I want to go THERE! But like many things in this lifestyle the story behind the shot is way more interesting than the picture and in this case unfortunately the experience did not live up to the beauty of the shot.

So how did we get this picture?? Well first of all you need to get to higher ground because if you look at the grand prismatic from its boardwalk you can’t see much. There are two entrances to a path that goes behind the Grand Prismatic. Neither of the path entrances have signs for Grand Prismatic though so look for signs that say Fairy Falls. You can use a bike on these paths or walk like we did and since we picked the closer of the two entrances our walk ended up being 1.8 miles round trip.

That’s not terribly long for a hike but unfortunately to get the views above you need to wait until late July or early August because that’s when the algae forms and the bright colors appear. You also need to wait until the hottest part of the day. Why? Well the steam obscures the view if you go early in the morning but when we went around 3pm it was 81 degrees and the steam was minimal.

The path itself is OK, but when you get to the side path to go to the overlook that was pretty steep. It’s also extremely crowded most of the time and there were lots of families and small kids on the path. Definitely not a quiet nature hike. Grand Prismatic is actually the second most visited site in Yellowstone and the crowds definitely show it.

As you start to wind through the path you could see the Prismatic through the trees a little. There were no clear shots so we continued to the platform at the top. We heard that the forest service was going to improve on this platform this year, but unfortunately the money was diverted to pay for the road damage done by the floods. It is a shame because the platform is relatively small and the trees obscure a LOT of the view.

There was actually only one small section that was completely tree free and if you are short like I am even that had trees in it. Here’s what the raw pictures looked like.

Don’t get me wrong these aren’t terrible pictures but definitely not on par with the images I have seen. So how did I get those? Well I used Photoshop to erase the trees from the shot and then punched up the colors. Here’s the revised version of the pictures above.

So better but still not the best and unfortunately when we reached the top of the platform Lee was only able to take one picture before the battery on his camera died. Basically it was a long, hot crowded walk to squeeze into a small space and take a mediocre picture. I know that sounds harsh but it was not fun for us and I wanted to share that before you decide to go. By all means take the hike and get your picture, just know what you are getting into.

One last thing I wanted to mention. Lee is working for a professional photographer this summer and he of course has an outstanding shot of the prismatic. In order to get that shot though he made several flights in a powered parachute, and flew directly over it. Before we went he was really honest with us about not the difficulty in getting the shot we wanted and I appreciated his sharing that with us so I was at least somewhat prepared.

All that being said I am glad I got the first picture I showed you. But as is often the case some things do not live up to their press.

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