Artists Paintpots – Yellowstone National Park


If you’re in the mood for a short, easy hike, and you’re not tired of geothermal activity, watch for the Artists Paintpots turnoff near Norris.  This was one attraction that didn’t quite live up to my expectations, perhaps because I wasn’t really in the mood for a short hike, and I was starting to get tired of geothermal activity.


The Artists Paintpots trail is about 1/3 mile long, one way.  By the time you walk around the loop at the end of the trail, then make the return trip, you’ll probably walk 1 mile.

My Visit

Let’s start with something that I did thoroughly enjoy:

Yes, I had read plenty of warnings about not straying from the safety of the boardwalks and trails in Yellowstone, but this sign really brought it home for me.  There are so many things I like about this sign.  I like how the only adult in the picture (a man carrying a purse, no less) clearly doesn’t care about the tragedy unfolding right behind him.  I like how the little brat who probably spent all day trampling over nature, finally got what was coming to him.  How does his hat stay suspended in mid-air?  And isn’t it time his parents bought him a digital camera?  Scorching hot water seems to be just a mild annoyance to him.  Then, there’s his friend, whose unenthusiastic pointing will certainly save the day.  Maybe instead of calling for help, he’s laughing.  I certainly was.

Okay, enough about the warning sign.  Let’s head on down the path.

The walk from the trailhead to the Artists Paintpots is flat and easy.  The scenery leaves a bit to be desired, since you’re passing through an area scorched by wildfires.

The trail moves onto a boardwalk as you reach the bubbling cauldrons and steamy vents at the end of the path.

This is what gives the area its name: the milky “paint” in the holes, surrounded by brightly colored ground.  But something just wasn’t right.  Maybe it was the time of day, but I couldn’t line up a single picture without a boardwalk or annoying shadow in the way.

It is strange to see a creek that’s steaming hot.  The geysers and springs that bubble up here flow into a stream that passes under the boardwalk.  When I was there, a NPS ranger was taking the temperature of the water.

I didn’t follow the loop trail all the way around.  I’ve read that if you climb the hill, there are a few paint pots that allow closer access.  Maybe they’re a bit more exciting than what I saw.  My recommendation is, if your time in Yellowstone is precious, you might want to skip the paint pots and move on to some other attraction.  But that’s just me.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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