The terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs is a must stop location for photographers visiting Yellowstone National Park. The terraces are a fast changing hydrothermal area that is still growing. Mammoth Hot Springs has some of the few active travertine terraces in the world. Travertine is a sedimentary rock that is formed by the hot springs.
For photographers, the terraces provide a unique landscape photography opportunity. The travertine terraces are predominately a whitish color with orange, yellow, and brown colors mixed in due to the cyanobacteria living in the hot springs. The landscape is also dotted with dead trees that are terrific to use in your compositions.
The Upper Terrace drive is a 1.5 mile long scenic one-way road that passes a number of travertine terraces and hot springs. The entrance to Upper Terrace Drive is on the Grand Loop Road, 2 miles south of the visitor center at Mammoth Hot Springs. The road is narrow and winding so motorhomes, trailers, and busses are not permitted on the road.
There are several other stops and pullouts along Upper Terrace Drive including the Main Terrace, Orange Spring Mound, Elephant Back, Prospect Spring, and New Highland Spring Terrace. Be sure to stay on the boardwalk and walkways as the water can reach boiling temperatures and the ground may not be stable off the path.
Stop at the Main Terrace and walk the boardwalk. There are a number of great compositions with the white and rust colored terrace, dead trees, and blue skies. While the compositions in the Main Terrace look great with a blue sky background, also try photographing the terrace with cloudy, stormy skies to give your photos an eerie look.
The boardwalk is not really wide enough for a tripod which if used would block the path of other visitors.
New Highland Spring Terrace
New Highland Spring Terrace is a large white mound with several dead trees. Try photographing New Highland Spring in portrait vs. landscape composition. A photo of the mound works great with a blue sky in the background.
Orange Spring Mound
Orange Spring Mound is a large orange and white mound that is 48 x 20 feet in dimension. The mound also has several dead trees on its base that can be used in compositions. The patterns left by the still flowing water are great to photograph in themselves. The color of the orange mound changes from season to season based on the temperature and flow of the water.
There are also several other springs and terraces to visit along the Upper Terrace Drive to visit and photograph.
Written by Martin Belan