The Best Sunrise Hike in Yellowstone (that I found by accident!)

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Morning photo taken through the screen window of our room at the Old Faithful Inn. You can see the sun’s first rays on the top of the steam.

My eyes open in the dusky darkness of our room in the Old House at the Old Faithful Inn. ‘Gosh darn it!’ I thought, ‘I’m on vacation and want to sleep in….at least past 0430!’ Being night shift nurses, our sleep schedules are pretty erratic; you can’t sleep when you want to and you’re completely zonked when you don’t want to be. But, it can have its benefits! I woke this morning before the crack of dawn and Daniel was still sleepy, so rather than to toss and turn, I decided to set off on a sunrise hike while he caught a few more zzz’s.

Sunrise behind Old Faithful casts a beautiful orange glow on our surroundings.

I set off out the front doors of the Inn and headed towards the boardwalks that surround the hotel, not quite sure where I’d end up. The sun was just rising behind the mountains, casting a warm orange glow on the geyser mist that permeates the basin. We love the orange colors of sunrise and sunset….this morning’s view is just one example of why we named our blog ‘Under an Orange Sky.’ I felt happy to be awake (unlike a few moments prior), and blessed to be experiencing this special moment in Yellowstone with very few others around.

Some of the prettiest things we’ve ever seen happen before the world awakens. Not a soul on the Old Faithful boardwalk at this hour.

I headed out on the boardwalks with no particular destination in mind. Another early riser and I shared our delight at being out in this wondrous place in the lovely morning light. I stopped to read one of the signs: Observation Point 0.7 miles. The geyser clock inside said that I had about 25 minutes until the next Old Faithful eruption, but that was a few minutes ago. Hmmmm…..could I make it up to Observation Point in time? What the heck! Let’s give it a go. So I set off in that direction at my briskest pace.

Mornings are surreal in the Upper Basin.

I hurried past many pools and geysers on my way to Observation Point stopping infrequently to snap a photo. I was on a quest to make it to the top before the eruption.

Me, my shadow, and I
The sun mixes with the geyser mist in such incredible ways,

The Observation Point hike has an elevation gain of only about 200 feet from the Inn but at 7300 feet above sea level, I was feeling it! I huffed and puffed my way up to the lookout and when I arrived, there were only two others waiting for the show. We all sat in quiet awe and after about ten minutes, we were rewarded with a grand show.

Old Faithful erupting with the Old Faithful Inn on the right.

It was awesome to watch this famous geyser erupting, the morning sun casting its glow over the entire Upper Basin. The Old Faithful Inn looked like a doll house in the distance and the few people out were ants in this prehistoric appearing setting.

Old Faithful eruption from Observation Point
Very few people out for these early morning eruptions

Satisfied with my experience, I started back down the trail towards the Inn when I realized….woops! I forgot my bear spray back in the room. Bad, bad, bad! Folks, don’t be like me! Bring your bear spray. I scrambled down the path with more trepidation than my ascent, thinking about the multitude of grizzlies who were probably lying in wait in the shady bushes lining the trail down.

Morning in the great hall of the Old Faithful Inn

Unscathed, I arrived back to the great room of the Old Faithful Inn. A brief glance around at the morning activity, and I spotted Daniel sitting in a chair in front of the fireplace with two paper cups of coffee. Ah! Perfect ending to my sunrise hike. Pro tip: free refills on coffee and soda at the snack bar – save your cup during your visit for refills!

Have you visited Old Faithful? What are your favorite memories?


I'm an only child who grew up on a sailboat, a lover of adventure, a mom, wife, an RN, and a friend of all dogs.


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