After spending the previous day wandering around Little City of Rocks, Craters of The Moon seemed like a good way to finish off the weekend. I arrived about 15 minutes before the ranger station opened, so I cleaned out my car and waited. The ranger staff was very friendly while I bought my pass and even asked to see a s few of my photos. The previous day I had seen some flowers and they were excited to see the first few blossoms of the year. After my fun chat with them and purchasing my pass I headed for the driving loop.
The first place I decided to stop was the small area known as the spatter cones. It is a couple of very easy, very short hikes up to the top of a couple extinct volcanoes. As small as they were the ability to look into the inside of an extinct volcano was enjoyable. The one thing that bothered me was how easy all the rock looked to climb. There are signs everywhere asking you not to. But those handholds felt mighty tempting to grab onto. To be clear, I did not climb anything...
The spatter cones were a quick stop and will be for most people. Take in the view and continue along the loop road.
The next area I chose to visit is the Tree Molds Trail. It is a couple of miles long and is portrayed as being an interesting historical sight.
The trail itself is flat as it winds through the desert plateau area. The surrounding area is entrancing especially as you think about how this entire area was once volcanically active. Coming from the PNW where I see the greats like Rainier and Baker daily, it feels strange to view the remnants of old volcanoes.
As the trail winds along it passes many collapsed calderas. The trail winds through grassland and provides a grand theatre to view the nearby peaks. For a seasoned hiker it was a yawn, but, if you are traveling with a family than you should be able to enjoy every moment. Kids, adults and grandparents alike will be abel to walk it.
I was a little disappointed by the ending. It was a couple of holes in the ground with sticks poking out. It did not feel as grand as what I had hoped to encounter from the descriptions. Still I enjoyed the view as I returned to the parking area.
My favorite section of the Craters of the Moon came a the next hike. From the same parking lot as the Tree Molds, a trail leads around nearby Broken Top. From the start this was the most interesting of all the trails. It winds along the side of the crumbling peak through pumice fields. The geologic history of the Craters of The Moon area is very apparent here.
One of the cooloest features of this trail is Buffalo cave it is a massive open bat cave you will encounter along the trail. During non-covid times you can actually purchase a ticket to enter the cave. I felt unfortunate that I could not, but I got as close as a I could.
As the trail continues along it heads up hill towards the top of Broken Top. It never actually summits (to my dismay), but it does reach a beautiful view point. The view point looks out over and area called the big sink. For a description you can view the photo below. Area's like this one inside the monument show that you come here for a history lesson, a very fun one.
From the big sink viewpoint, it is a short walk back to the car. Thank goodness because along the way the wind kicked up and it started to rain. Of course, as the day was going, in the 0.5 mile walk back to the car, the weather was back to clouds again.
I planned to leave following my trip around Broken top. But, on my way out the small walk at Devil's orchard intrigued me. I stopped for it and it was a nice simple 15 minute walk around a cement path. The history relayed in the area was interesting and worth the quick stop.
In all, If you want to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument, do so with an eye toward education. You won't find high adventure here. But learning about the geologic activity of the area is an interesting experience