Dipping your hands in a hot spring is a terrible idea – here's why

Rainbow in steam over geyser at Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, UISA
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite plentiful warnings of the dangers, several tourists have been filmed dipping their hands in thermal pools at Yellowstone National Park over recent months, often burning themselves in the process.  A video compilation of such incidents is currently circulating on social media due to now infamous Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone, which calls out visitors who flout the rules at the National Park and put themselves in danger.

There are many natural hazards at Yellowstone, including wildlife, fast-flowing rivers, and steep cliffs, but hot springs are the leading cause of serious injuries at the park. The NPS warns visitors that Park Rangers cannot guarantee their safety, and it is their own responsibility to follow the rules and use common sense.

"Boardwalks and trails protect you and delicate thermal formations," say the park's visitor safety guidelines. "Water in hot springs can cause severe or fatal burns, and scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust around hot springs."

None of the visitors in the compilation appear to have been seriously injured, but not everyone who gets too close to thermal pools is so lucky. Many people have been badly burned by hot springs at Yellowstone after entering the water deliberately, or accidentally.

In 2016, a man named Colin Scott died after falling into the Norris Geyser Basin while looking for a warm pool to soak in. The basin is the oldest and hottest water feature at Yellowstone, and Scott passed away almost instantly.

In 2021 a woman named Laiha Slayton suffered severe burns after jumping into Maiden's Grave Spring trying to save her dog. Slayton underwent 18 surgeries at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, and was eventually released from the hospital four months later to continue her recovery at home.

Accidents like these mean Park Rangers take trespassing near thermal features extremely seriously. In August this year, a man was charged with two misdemeanors after wandering off the boardwalk while drunk and burning himself in a hot spring. According to a spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office, he suffered "a non-life-threatening injury to his lower extremity".

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.