Lava & Ice at Craters of the Moon

I’ve decided one of the reasons I’m drawn to western states is because of the incredible geologic diversity you can see simply by driving a few hours. I suppose part of it has to do with the large size of the states, but there’s more to it than size. I mean, you could spend a few hours driving around a small state like Connecticut and see pretty much the same forests and quaint towns the entire way. Or you could spend a few hours driving around states like Colorado or Montana and discover a completely new geologic environment every few hundred miles.

It’s one of the reasons why we love taking a few months to explore these western states. With diversity around every corner, it would be a shame to only experience a small portion of it. Idaho has proved to be another western state where all it takes to discover a whole new world is a short drive.

Idaho
We left our boondocking spot on the edge of the towering Teton mountains and headed west through rolling hills covered with neat rows of potato plants. As we turned south and followed the wide valleys flanked by steep ridges, the landscape became increasingly arid and soon we could see fields of crumpled, dark colored earth. We had reached the Great Rift of Idaho where lava fields, cinder cones, and ice filled caves dominate the land.

Craters of the Moon, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument has long been on our “must visit” list. Ever since we spent a few days at Valley of Fires in New Mexico, I’ve been fascinated by giant fields of shiny cooled lava with names like pahoehoe and áa. Craters of the Moon is an easy park to visit because it’s not very large and can be explored in just a few days. We arrived on a Friday evening, left on Sunday morning and still managed to hike nearly every trail in the park, explore the lava tubes, and go to the visitor center.

Craters of the Moon National Monument
Whoa…that’s a lot of lava

Despite its small size and location in approximately the middle of nowhere Idaho, this is a popular tourist destination. We pushed our luck a bit by arriving late on a Friday evening. The campground in the park is small with only a few sites suitable for our size RV. Somehow we got lucky and snagged a massive pull-thru with a small tree that gave us a few hours of afternoon shade. Less than an hour later the campground was full.

Craters of the Moon National Monument
Site 2 just might be the best in the park

With temperatures predicted to be in the ridiculously hot range, we made a plan to hike on Friday evening and Saturday morning and then go underground to see the lava tubes during the hottest part of the day. It was a good plan, except the walk to the lava tubes was longer than we realized and very hot in the mid-afternoon sun. By the time we finished, our energy was drained and we had nothing left for tackling the final planned evening hike on the Broken Top Trail. Oh well, so we missed out on one trail. It was still an amazing experience and I’m glad we finally made it to Craters of the Moon.

Craters of the Moon National Monument
On the North Crater Trail
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Pahohoe lava on the North Crater Flow trail
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Craters of the earth
Craters of the Moon National Monument
The lovely Blazing Star flower adds a burst of bright color to the dark landscape
Craters of the Moon National Monument
On our way to explore the lava tubes
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Inside Indian Tunnel
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Lava tube skylight
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Ice inside the Boy Scout lava tube
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Tim demonstrating how cold it was inside the Boy Scout lava tube. That “smoke” is nothing more than his warm breath in the cold air
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Lava pile up

 

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6 Responses to “Lava & Ice at Craters of the Moon”

Comments

  1. Jeff

    Awesome timing on your post! We hope to be there later this month, temperatures permitting :) We have never been, but have reservations in Idaho Falls for the eclipse. Thanks for the tips

    Reply
    • Amanda

      It is hot there this time of year, but the park is definitely worth a visit!. Enjoy your time in Idaho Falls!

      Reply
  2. Pamelab

    That path to the lava tubes looks like a very long walk in a hot field of black. I didn’t realize how volcanic some areas are. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      It really does! We noticed that they used very dark asphalt on all the roads and pathways to make it blend in better,

      Reply
  3. Jodee Gravel

    We love the diversity too! Sometimes the environment changes many times just driving up a mountain. Your pics of the harsh and beautiful lava beds are wonderful. Love the Blazing Star – it’s a real stand-out! Great idea to see Tim’s breath in the cold cave. It had to feel awesome after the heat of all that black lava.

    Reply
    • Amanda

      So true. I’ll never forget when we drove up to the top of Mt. Lemmon in Tucson. It was 75 at the bottom and snowing at the top!

      Reply

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