Although West Thumb is not one of Yellowstone’s prime thermal sites, its 0.5-mile shoreline boardwalk loop (with a shorter inner loop to finish with) passes more than a dozen hot springs. At famous Fishing Cone, anglers once used the infamous ‘hook ‘n’ cook’ method to prepare their catch, casting fish into the boiling water – a practice now prohibited.
Fluctuating lake levels in spring and early summer sometimes submerge Fishing Cone and Lakeshore Geyser, but you can still see Big Cone. You can spot the underwater features by looking for slick spots or a slight bulge in the water.
Abyss Pool is one of the park’s deepest springs. Rangers give a short talk here four times a day. Nearby Black Pool is one of the prettiest, with stunning amber-colored runoff, though it’s now sapphire blue after years of lower temperatures supported mats of black thermophiles. Thumb Paint Pots are struggling to regain the energy that once catapulted boiling mud 25ft into the air.
Smaller thermal areas surrounding West Thumb include the roadside Pumice Point and Potts Hot Spring Basin.