It was somewhere around the 4th day of the epic #OrthAmerica road trip.
Alex, Rachel and I had already passed through the mountains of Colorado, experienced snow, storms and hot springs in Wyoming, and were cruising through our third state – Idaho.
What did we know about Idaho before arrival?
- Napoleon Dynamite.
Errrr, that was about it. Embarrassingly limited information for a so-called travel expert, right?
As I plotted out our tentative schedule on RoadTrippers.com, I saw Craters of the Moon National Monument listed as an attraction on our route. Digging a little deeper, I learned that the COTM lava field covers 618 square miles, 83 of which are preserved within the park.
Did you say lava field, Idaho?! Oh boy. That’s my wheelhouse.
Now, something you might not know (and really, how could anyone know this?) about the Orth siblings – we love plate tectonics and anything volcanic. I don’t know why, it’s just a weird thing we’re all into.
So a visit to COTM, with its 20 volcanic cones, lava tubes and aa (basaltic lava forming very rough jagged masses with a light frothy texture – not an abbreviation for Angie Away) was definitely a slam dunk for our crew.
Lots of folks stumble upon Craters of the Moon on the way to or from Yellowstone, but due to its unwelcoming terrain and the fact that truly there isn’t much to actually do, sometimes people take one look and skip it.
But COTM has such a cool history! In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge designated the area as a national monument, and then in the 60s and 70s, NASA trained astronauts for the Apollo missions here.
Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho is pretty much what you expect it to be – a dark, craggy, desolate, dare-I-say — moonscape, out in the middle of nowhere. But that’s what makes it worth a visit.
It helps to bring your own costumes and props to jazz up the bleak terrain.
To drive around the 7-mile park loop, do a bit of hiking, visit the caves, etc. the price per vehicle is $8. For those with more time, there are campgrounds nearby, so you can hike, explore, do yoga and take all the jumping pictures you can handle.
We only stayed a morning inside the monument, but I think if we’d had more time, we would’ve like to camp there at least for a night.