This is a very short but interesting trail. It begins near Liberty Cap, a 37-foot tall hot spring cone named in 1871 by the first Hayden Survey because of its resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution. Its unusual shape was created by a hot spring whose plumbing remained active in one location for a long time. Internal pressure was sufficient to raise the water to a great height, allowing mineral deposits to build continuously for perhaps hundreds of years. Eventually, the spring sealed itself off and the water found another route to the surface. An early Yellowstone superintendent fearing the formation would fall over braced it with timbers. Almost 150 years later, we see that his fear was unfounded!
On the left, past Liberty Cap is beautiful Palette Springs. Water flows from springs above down a steep ridge, creating a colorful hillside palette of brown, green, and orange (the colors are due to the presence of different heat-tolerant bacteria). This effect is much the same as an artist would achieve by allowing wet paint to run down a vertical surface.
Continue beyond Palette Springs to the end of the boardwalk. From here you get a nice view of the Devil’s Thumb, a smaller version of Liberty Cap that formed in a similar fashion.
Thanks to guidebook author, Tom Carter, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about visiting Yellowstone, check out his book, Day Hiking Yellowstone