Exploring Craters of the Moon in Idaho

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.

Traveling to the Moon… in Idaho

IDAHO

IDAHO

What did we know about Idaho before arrival?

  1. Potatoes.
  2. Napoleon Dynamite.

Errrr, that was about it. Embarrassingly limited information for a so-called travel expert, right?

Almost there!

Almost there!

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.

Craters of the Moon 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.

Cowboys & lava - what could be more natural?

Cowboys & lava – what could be more natural?

Inside a lava cave

Inside a lava cave

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.

Atop a spatter cone inside the monument.

Atop a spatter cone inside the monument.

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.

Craters of the Moon Idaho

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.

Rae & Alex at the scenic overlook. Nothing but spatter cones and lava flows as far as the eye can see.

Rae & Alex at the scenic overlook. Nothing but spatter cones and lava flows as far as the eye can see.

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.

Jumping shots on the moon

Jumping shots on the moon

It helps to bring your own costumes and props to jazz up the bleak terrain.

Craters of the Moon Idaho

Astronaut in training? No, it's just RaeRae

Astronaut in training? No, it’s just RaeRae

They've really got to do something about the T-Rex infestation!

They’ve really got to do something about the T-Rex infestation!

Surprisingly, there are 43 different species of mammals found in the desolate landscape - though we didn't see a one.

Surprisingly, there are 43 different species of mammals found in the desolate landscape – though we didn’t see a one.

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.

Craters of the Moon Angie Away Idaho Unminivan Orthamerica

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.

Have you been to Craters of the Moon? 

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • February 19, 2015

    Wow who knew Idaho was so diverse!

  • February 20, 2015

    I had NO idea Idaho had stuff like this. I’m a sucker for plate tectonics and lava, too. Would love to check this out!

  • February 20, 2015

    I spent a summer in Boise once and really came to like Idaho. It’s a lot of California transplants and pretty nature. Definitely unexpected!

  • February 25, 2015

    Embarrassingly, I know next to nothing about the place. Hopefully that will change!

  • February 26, 2015

    I have been meaning to make it back to Idaho, and specifically Craters of the Moon for decades. My last visit was on a drive through in the early 90’s and we were running out of time to see “everything”

  • February 26, 2015

    Great post. The T-rex pic is really funny. Really cool monument and a place that I would really like to visit !

  • March 07, 2015

    Ahhhh I went to Idaho and totally missed this, too!

  • March 07, 2015

    I went to Idaho and knew nothing about this either! I feel gypped.

  • May 03, 2015
    Jeremy

    In the picture where it says atop a spatter cone inside the monument, that’s actually a cinder cone. It looks like Inferno Cone. That looks like a black sand dune. I want to go to Craters of the Moon.

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