Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho

cotm2On a recent trip to Twin Falls, Idaho to see Shoshone Falls, we spent the day at Craters Of The Moon National Monument. It is such a cool place with so much to see and do. I think we walked a 5k that day just in the park, lol. We seriously walked a lot. According to their brochure, Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. The area formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles (84 km.) to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles (1600 square km.).The smaller Wapi and Kings Bowl lava fields also formed along the Great Rift during the most recent eruptive period (approximately 2000 years ago).

usatcotmThe first place we stopped at was the visitor center, as we wanted to get some information about the park. Exhibits and a short video describe the park’s lava phenomena and the Earth processes that created them. The rangers were nice and were happy to answer questions about the park and helped us plan our day. We learned about the seven-mile loop road which takes you deeper into the park’s scenic attractions. Side trips lead to points two through seven. Most of the drive is one way. Several spur roads and trail heads help you explore Craters of the Moon even further. The trails invite foot travel. You can make the drive, including several short walks, in about two hours. We decided to do several, but these were our favorites:

Inferno Cone Viewpoint

Inferno ConeThis is a volcanic landscape of cinder cones spreads before you to the distant mountain ranges. Cool moist north slopes of the cones have noticeably more vegetation than the drier south slopes. From the summit of Inferno Cone—a short, steep walk—you can recognize the chain of cinder cones along the Great Rift. Big Cinder Butte towers above the lava plain in the distance. This is one of the largest purely basaltic cinder cones in the world. I think this is what Gene liked the most in the park.

Devils Orchard

Devils Orchard

On the east side, after the road skirts Paisley Cone, is Devils Orchard .This group of lava fragments stands like islands in a sea of cinders. A short spur road leads to a self-guiding trail through these weird features. As you walk this 1/2-mile trail, you will see how people have had an impact on this lava landscape and what is being done to protect it today. This barrier-free trail is designed to be accessible to all people.

North Crater Flow

North Crater

At this stop a short trail crosses the flow to a group of monoliths or crater wall fragments transported by lava flows. This flow is one of the youngest and here the Triple Twist Tree suggests, because of its 1,350 growth rings, that these eruptions ceased only 2,000 years ago. You see fine examples of both ropy pahoehoe lava and a‘a lava flows on North Crater Flow. Up the road is the North Crater Trail. Take this longer, steep trail to peer into a volcano vent.

Craters of the Moon Cave This is an amazing place and I didn’t want to leave, but we had to. The rain started coming and it didn’t look like it was going to stop. It was crazy because we had just had a great lunch sitting out at a picnic table and it was beautiful. Went on another trail an hour or so later and barely made it back to the car before it really started coming down. All of us were wet, including the dogs. it was a fun two hour drive back to Twin Falls. lol Even with a little rain, we had a great time and I LOVED the park. One day want to go to the Big Island and see their lava flows. I bet it’s amazing. Until then, I have very pleasant memories of Craters of the Moon. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the drive if you are in Twin Falls.


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