Parking on the side of the road close to the spring, we walked along the Firehole river, observing the torrents of steaming hot water pouring into it from the Grand Prismatic Spring - which from this vantage point, we couldn't see. Getting on to the main busy boardwalk, we climbed up past another large and interesting spring known as Excelsior Crater, then followed the boardwalk over a large area of steaming, slightly terraced terrain.
The Grand Prismatic Spring was ahead of us off to our left, but it was so big and there was so much steam that we really couldn't get a good sense of it. I looked up and saw a cluster of people high up on a nearby hillside, looking back down on us. Clearly that spot would offer a much better vantage point. How, though, to get there? It wasn't obvious how.
Large expense of geothermalness
After some searching around, we realized that the only way to get to the high-up overlook was to drive back along the park road and start at a different trailhead. Laborious and time-consuming, but I really wanted to see this amazing thing in one glance.
We could see an approaching rainstorm as we headed out on the 1 kilometer walk to the overlook. We booted it big time, though, half-running, up to the lookout. And although the mostly-overcast skies robbed the scene of some of its vibrance, the Grand Prismatic Spring was still grand - a huge multi-colored eye peering skywards out of the earth. Quite unreal!
Wtinessing the steaming earth
It was now too late to consider doing more exploration of Yellowstone - a huge park with significant drive times just between points within it, let alone the drive back down to the Jackson area. So, we called our already-satisfying day quits, and headed back south.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Grand Prismatic Spring - click map to view
As we drove back past the Teton Range (which looked super cool and foreboding in silhouette and below some dark clouds), we thought back to our comfortable hostel the night before, and thought... hey, let's give it a shot for another night. Jenn called once again, and - in a good turn of luck - they had once again an opening for a 4-bunk room. And once again, Sold!. At only roughly $30 per person, it really was a pretty good deal.
As we made our dinner in the hostel's group area, we discussed what we'd like to do with the last two days of our trip. We had done several day outings now, and the general feeling was that maybe some kind of multi-day outing might be nice. I pulled out my guidebooks and maps for the area, and soon had a proposal: a two-day backpack in the southern wilderness of Grand Teton National Park, and... we could start at the top of our ski resort's chairlift, reducing the effort. That got a nearly immediate thumbs-up from everyone. Settled. In the morning, I'd head to a park ranger station and attempt to secure a backcountry camping permit.