On our May 2014 trip to Twin Falls, Idaho to see Shoshone Falls, and the Perrine Bridge, we spent the day at Craters Of The Moon National Monument. It was truly amazing and something apparently over 200,000 people do yearly. I am glad we were one of them that year. 🙂
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).
The 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.
It was interesting to learn that President Calvin Coolidge created Craters of the Moon National Monument on May 2, 1924. We also 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. Several spur roads and trailheads 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
This is a volcanic landscape of cinder cones that 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.
On the east side, after the road skirts Paisley Cone, is Devil’s 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
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 long, steep trail to peer into a volcano vent.
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. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the drive if you are in Twin Falls. It is such a cool place with so much to see and do.
Here is a link to their website with more information. However, I have listed a bunch of useful tips you may need before your visit.
Craters of the Moon Visitor Information
1266 Craters Loop Road – (18 miles west of Arco on U.S. Highway 20/26/93)
Visitor Center Hours
- Summer Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (Memorial Day through the fourth week of September)
- Off-Season Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years Day with early closures, at 1:30 p.m., on the day prior to each of these holidays)
- The Monument and Preserve are open every day of the year, 24 hours a day. Winter snows usually prevent automobile access around the Loop Road from mid-November through mid-April.
Prices: (as of November 2019)
- Car: $20
- Motorcycle: $15
- Bicycle or on foot: $10
The following passes are also accepted for entrance:
1) Interagency Annual Pass: $80
This annual pass covers entrance and standard amenity fees for national parks and other federal fee areas; Valid for one year through the month of purchase. You can purchase the pass at the park entrance station or at the visitor center when the entrance station is closed.
2) Interagency Senior Pass: $80
This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass can only be obtained in person at the park entrance station. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on camping.
3) Interagency Senior Annual Pass: $20
This is an annual pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass can only be obtained in person at the park entrance station. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on camping.
4) Interagency Access Pass: Free
This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Documentation is required to obtain the pass. The pass can only be obtained in person at the park entrance station. The Access Pass provides a 50 percent discount on camping.
5) Interagency 4th Grader Pass: Free
This pass is available to U.S. 4th Graders (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age). Valid for the duration of the 4th grade school year through the following summer (September to August). This pass provides free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more!
6) Interagency Volunteer Pass: Free
This is an annual pass for volunteers with 250 cumulative service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program. Contact the park’s VIP coordinator at 208-527-1335 to learn about volunteer opportunities at Craters of the Moon.
7) Interagency Annual Pass for US Military: Free
This is an annual pass covering entrance and standard amenity fees for all national parks and other federal fee areas. Free to active duty US military personnel and their dependents with proper identification (current CAC Card or qualified DD Form 1173 required). Obtain with military ID card at the Monument fee station or at the BLM field office in Shoshone.
Pets are welcome in the campground and in parking lots and paved roads only. They are not welcome in the visitor center or on trails. For the protection of your pet and park wildlife, they state that pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Pets may impact park wildlife and the rough lava may cause damage to your animal’s paws. FYI, there is a pet area on the restroom side of the visitor center.
The visitor center, including restrooms, is fully accessible.
Restrooms in the campgrounds are fully accessible. Lava Flow Campground sites #34, #35, #42 & #3 and are fully accessible. Site #34 includes an electrical outlet for those who need it for medical reasons.
Devil’s Orchard Trail, the “Snow Cone” portion of the Spatter Cones trail and the sidewalk connecting the campground to the visitor center are fully accessible. Complete trail accessibility information
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