Can you see what's wrong in this video of a hiker at Yellowstone National Park? Look closely...

Mammoth Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Social media is awash with videos showing tourists engaging in dangerous behavior at US National Parks, whether it's petting bison or chasing bears, but this one requires closer inspection than usual. 

The clip, shared via Instagram account TouronsOfYellowstone this week, shows a man walking by a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park. He's clearly off the boardwalk, which is a concern itself (not to mention illegal), but look closely and you'll see that he's not just showing an unhealthy interest in the steaming water. He actually bends down and washes his hands in the hot water, risking serious burns.

The National Park Service (NPS) warns visitors that "hot springs have injured or killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature" and urges hikers to stick to the network of trails and boardwalks in geothermal areas. Doing so will keep you at a safe distance from the water, and off the thin, fragile crust of dirt covering the area's scalding groundwater.

The 1995 book Death in Yellowstone documents 19 fatalities as a result of people entering geothermal features (deliberately or accidentally), and there have been many more serious accidents since.

In 2022, a woman suffered severe burns after falling into Maiden's Grave Spring while trying to rescue her dog. Laiha Slayton, then 21, suffered second-degree burns over 70% of her body and third-degree burns over 20%, and underwent 18 surgeries to treat her injuries.

"I was in the worst pain I've ever felt in my life and I don't think I can really compare it to anything," said Slayton after her release from hospital four months later.

In the same year, a man's foot was discovered at Yellowstone Lake’s West Thumb Geyser Basin. Il Hun Ro, from California, was identified through documents left in his abandoned vehicle and DNA evidence.

Impulsive mistakes

The NPS takes trespassing in geothermal areas very seriously, and people caught straying into dangerous areas risk serious fines. Last month, actor Pierce Brosnan was ordered to pay $1,500 after being spotted in a prohibited area near Mammoth Terraces. Brosnan initially pleaded not guilty, but later changed his plea, accepted the fine, and apologized. 

"As an environmentalist I have the utmost respect for and love of our natural world," he wrote on Instagram. "However, I made an impulsive mistake - one that I do not take lightly."

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.