Like many other places in Yellowstone, the Firehole River is a scenic spot that lives up to its dramatic name. As it meanders north for 21 miles (34 kilometers) to join with the Madison River, the Firehole acts as a drainage basin for many of the park’s geothermal features and is the ideal spot for a summertime dip.
In collecting all of the mineral rich water, which has been naturally heated by the earth, the Firehole River can run 15 degrees warmer than surrounding rivers and lakes—with the steam that’s often emitted from the surface being one of the reasons for its name. That’s why park visitors come to swim in the Firehole River swimming hole, where water temperatures hover at a moderate 75°F (23.8°C). Tourists can also drive through Firehole Canyon to the 40-foot (12-meter) Firehole Falls, the site of another popular summer swimming hole. Many guided tours of Yellowstone National Park include a visit to the Firehole River area and its colorful Fountain Paint Pot situated nearby.
Things to Know Before You Go
The warm waters of the Firehole River make an ideal spot for a summer splash.
Currents can be strong in the Firehole River, so only experienced swimmers should venture into the deeper parts of the river.
Changing rooms are available at the roadside pull off near Firehole Falls.
There are no lifeguards on duty along the Firehole River.
How to Get There
The Firehole River begins just south of Old Faithful and runs through the park’s thermal areas to join the Gibbon River. A segment of Firehole Canyon is accessible via Firehole Canyon Drive, a side road of the Grand Loop Road.
When to Get There
If you want to swim in the Firehole River, visit on a warm summer day. The rest of the year offers opportunity to observe the steamy waters of the river, but it’s too cold to swim. The Firehole River swimming area sometimes closes due to high water levels from snowmelt or summer rainstorms.
Yellowstone’s Madison Area
The Firehole River is located in the Madison area of Yellowstone National Park. Visitors to this portion of the park can also visit the small and colorful Artists Paintpots, 84-foot (26-meter) Gibbon Falls, Monument Geyser Basin, and Terrace Spring, a hot springs area with a short boardwalk.