Mammoth Hot Springs Lower Terraces


A view of Palette Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

Address: 44°58'16.3"N 110°42'21.2"W


Located in Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces are one of the can’t miss places in Northern Yellowstone, and besides the park fee to get in, the views are free. The Lower Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs boast 1.75 miles of boardwalk to explore. The Mammoth Hot Springs Upper Terraces have a shorter walk with many geothermal landmarks just beside the road. There are three parking lots all with access points to the Lower Terraces boardwalk, which is easy to moderate difficulty depending on whether you trek to the top of this section of boardwalk. A great self-guided tour is if you start at the Northwest boardwalk you’ll first come across Liberty Cap, a 37-foot tall hot springs cone that is now dormant. Across the street is another geothermal attraction, Opal Spring, which grows a new terrace annually. Further along the boardwalk past Liberty Cap is a short walk to the right leading to Palette Spring. This spring boasts thermophiles that leave brilliant shades of orange and brown. Continuing on the main boardwalk leads you to your next landmark: Minerva Terrace, known for travertine terraces holding aquamarine pools of water. Along the 300 foot ascent to the upper terraces are the Cleopatra Terrace, Mound Terrace, and Jupiter Terrace, which are now quiet relics. At Jupiter Terrace a spur to the left leads to Canary Spring, known for its steaming waterfall which cascades onto pale white stone.

The terraces are a unique find, even among Yellowstone’s many geothermal wonders, because they are formed out of soft limestone. This allows the travertine formations to grow rapidly. This happens because cold water enters the geyser from a glacial source, it then combines with carbon dioxide from the not-so-distant supervolcano below Yellowstone. This creates a carbonic acid solution which is spurted from the geyser. Once it reaches the surface the carbon dioxide separates and enters the air which causes the limestone to reform as travertine creating the unique terraces.

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