The Ultimate Guide To Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon, an astounding landscape sculpted by lava flow!
What might look like a barren land from a distance, but a closer look will reveal several extremely fascinating volcanic features, including lava fields, cinder cones, lava tubes, lava caves, and much more!
Craters of the Moon is a National Monument and Preserve in the US that protects an area with a volcanic history and is home to several volcanic features. However, Craters of the Moon is quite different from other volcanos, as here there are no giant, towering volcanic craters. Instead, the eruptions at Craters of the Moon were from the crack within the earth’s crust and vents, from where lava and gas oozed out, forming a dramatic landscape!
Located in southcentral Idaho, about 95 miles from the city of Twin Falls, Craters of the Moon is a popular day-trip destination in Idaho. The area got its name from the natives who referred to the area as “Valley of the Moon.” However, interestingly a team of astronauts from NASA visited Craters of the Moon to learn and experience the harsh volcanic terrain as a preparation for their future trips to the moon.
Craters of the Moon is pretty accessible, with a scenic drive and short hikes leading to remarkable geologic features and truly wondrous landscapes!
The Monument features a visitor center, a scenic drive, a few hiking trails, a couple of campgrounds, and several picnic areas. Craters of the Moon is open year-round, but due to the snowfall and road closures in the winter months, it’s not a popular winter destination. The landscape at Craters of the Moon reminds me of the lava fields in the Big Island of Hawaii and offers a similar experience and a chance to get real up close to several volcanic features.
Here is my ultimate guide to Craters of the Moon, featuring essential trip-planning information, things to do in Craters of the Moon, hiking trails, nearby attractions, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Craters of the Moon!
Planning Your Trip To Craters of the Moon
The Craters of the Moon National Monument is open year-round but may not be accessible during the winter months due to snowfall and road closures!
Best Time To Visit Craters of the Moon: The best time to visit Craters of the Moon is outside the winter months, April through October, as in the winter months, the area is covered in snow, and the roads and hiking trails remain inaccessible. Spring can be a little cold, but it is the time for wildflower bloom in the valley. Summer is the peak season in Craters of the Moon Monument and the best time for hiking and camping. However, temperatures could get harsh in the afternoon in the summer months, so I recommend visiting early in the day if you’re going during the peak summer months. Fall is the shoulder season, with less crowd and moderate temperatures is a great time to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Time Required At Craters of the Moon: You can spend as little as an hour driving the seven-mile scenic drive in Craters of the Moon National Monument or an entire day by driving the scenic loop, hiking, and exploring a lava tube cave in the Park.
Getting To Craters of the Moon: The best way to get to Craters of the Moon is by flying into the Magic Valley Regional Airport or Idaho Falls Regional Airport or, alternatively, taking a train to Salt Lake City in Utah or bus to Twin Falls, Idaho and then renting a car and driving to Craters of the Moon.
- Flight: Magic Valley Regional Airport (TWF), Twin Falls, Idaho, around 100 miles to the Park and Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA), Idaho Falls, Idaho, about 120 miles from Craters of the Moon, are the closest major domestic airports to Craters of the Moon. The Monument is also accessible via two international airports, including Boise Airport (BOI), Boise, Idaho, about 170 miles from the Craters of the Moon and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), Salt Lake City, Utah, around 310 miles, but requires a good amount of driving.
- Train: There’s only one Amtrak station in Idaho, the Sandpoint Amtrak station, located in northern Idaho, way too far from Craters of the Moon National Monument. Instead, you could ride an Amtrak train to Salt Lake City in Utah and then drive 310 miles to Craters of the Moon.
- Bus: Greyhound offers bus services to Idaho, with the closest Greyhound bus stop being Twin Falls, located around 96 miles from Craters of the Moon.
Parking & Transportation In Craters of the Moon: There’s ample parking in Craters of the Moon National Monument, including pullouts along the scenic loop and trailheads. However, there’s no shuttle service, and you need a car to drive to the several vista points and trailheads within the boundary of the National Monument.
Other Attractions Near Craters of the Moon: The other notable attractions near Craters of the Moon lie north of the Monument, most of them close to the city of Twin Falls.
- Shoshone Falls: One of Idaho’s most famous attractions, Shoshone Falls, is a spectacular waterfall of the Snake River, located about 98 miles southwest of Craters of the Moon, is worth visiting.
- Perrine Memorial Bridge: The Perrine Memorial Bridge is a popular roadside attraction in Idaho. Located about 93 miles from Craters of the Moon National Monument, the Perrine Memorial Bridge is an arch bridge spanning the Snake River has pedestrian walkways offering excellent views of the Snake River and Snake River Canyon. Perrine Memorial Bridge Address: Perrine Memorial Bridge, Jerome, ID 83338.
- Centennial Waterfront Park: Located about 94 miles southwest of Craters of the Moon, Centennial Waterfront Park is a public park offering boat and kayak rentals and Snake river & Shoshone Falls tours. Centennial Waterfront Park Address: Centennial Waterfront Park, Canyon Springs Rd, Twin Falls, ID 83301.
- Twin Falls: Twin Falls is a neat little waterfall of the Snake River located about 98 miles southwest of Craters of the Moon. Twin Falls Address: Twin Falls, Idaho 83341.
- Shoshone Ice Caves: This is one of Idaho’s off-the-beaten-path experiences, located about 58 miles west of Craters of the Moon; Shoshone Ice Caves offers guided tours of underground lava tubes where resides naturally formed ice, no matter the outside temperature.
Lodging Near Craters of the Moon: The lodging options near Craters of the Moon are limited to a few locally owned bread and breakfasts in the town of Arco. However, I recommend making an effort and driving to the nearby city of Burley, Bellevue, or Pocatello, where you will find better lodging choices.
Dining Options Near Craters of the Moon: The dining options within the Monument are limited to a few vending machines, the closest restaurants being in the town of Arco. Here’re a few local restaurants you could try in Arco – Pickle’s Place, popular for fried pickles, Las Fiesta for Mexican food, and the Deli Sandwich Shop for quick bites.
Things To Do In Craters of the Moon
Craters of the Moon Attractions Map
Drive the scenic loop, hike a couple of trails, and, time permitting, explore a lava tube cave in Craters of the Moon National Monument!
Based on the time you plan to spend in Craters of the Moon National Monument, you can select from the various sightseeing opportunities and activities in the Park. If you’re short on time, you could stop at the visitor center and drive the scenic loop. If you have half a day, you could add a couple of hikes to your literary, and if you have the entire day, you must definitely explore one of the lava caves in the Park along with other activities.
Craters of the Moon Visitor Center: The Robert Limbert Visitor Center at Craters of the Moon is a great place to start your tour of the Monument. The visitor center offers an information desk and rangers to help plan your trip and has several exhibits and plays a short film about the Monument’s history. This is also where you would need to get a permit if you’re planning to explore a lava tube cave or go backcountry hiking in Craters of the Moon.
Craters of the Moon Scenic Loop Drive: The Loop Road, a seven-mile loop in Craters of the Moon National Monument, is a scenic drive and also provides access to the several vista points, trailheads, and caves in Craters of the Moon. I have saved all popular vista points and trailhead along the Loop Drive on Google Maps, which you can use on your smartphone – Craters of the Moon Scenic Loop Drive.
Here’re the popular vista points, trailheads, and caves along the Loop Road, which you could add to your trip based on the time you’re planning to spend in Craters of the Moon.
Hiking Trail in Craters of the Moon: There’re eight hiking trails in Craters of the Moon National Monument, seven being short and easy to moderately strenuous, and one, the Wilderness Trail, is a long 8 miles roundtrip highly strenuous backcountry hiking trail.
- North Crater Flow Trail: The most popular and most visited trail in Craters of the Moon, the North Crater Flow Trail, is a short and easy 0.3 miles loop starting at the Lava Flow Campground, offers sweeping views of black rugged lava floor.
- Spatter Cones Trail: The Spatter Cones Trail, a short 0.08-mile roundtrip trail, starting from the trailhead located 3 miles south of the visitor center along Loop Road, leads to an interesting landscape filled with tiny craters.
- Inferno Cone Trail: The Inferno Cone is a cinder cone and a very popular spot in Craters of the Moon National Monument, offering expansive views of the lava land. The hike to Inferno Cone is a short but steep 0.5-mile roundtrip hike starting from the trailhead located 3 miles from the visitor center across the Spatter Cones trailhead.
- Broken Top Trail: Located on the southern side of the Monument, the Broken Top Trail loops around a cinder cone featuring several volcanic features, including lava flows, lava tubes, and the Buffalo Cave. The Broken Top Trail is a 1.8 miles moderately strenuous loop.
- Caves Trail: The Caves Trail is a 1.5 miles roundtrip moderately strenuous hike leading to several lava tube caves in Craters of the Moon National Monument, including Indian Tunnel, Dewdrop Cave, Beauty Cave, and Boy Scout Cave. Please note that entering a cave requires a permit which can be obtained from the visitor center.
- Devil’s Orchard Trail: The Devil’s Orchard Trail is a paved nature trail and one of the most visited trails in Craters of the Moon. The Devil’s Orchard Trail is a short and flat, 0.5-mile loop from the trailhead located about 2 miles from the visitor center, offering views of a distinct view of lava floors with some vegetation.
- North Crater Trail: One of the longer hiking trails in Craters of the Moon, the North Crater Trail, offering views of lava fields, cones, the Big Cinder Butte. The North Crater Trail is a strenuous 3.5 miles roundtrip hike and can be hiked from two trailheads – Lava Flow Campground and the Spatter Cones Trail.
- Wilderness Trail: The Wilderness Trail is the longest and strenuous of all hiking trails in Craters of the Moon. The Wilderness Trail is an 8 miles roundtrip hike branching off from the Broken Top Trail leading to the deep backcountry area of Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Lava Tube Caves In Craters of the Moon: There’re several caves in Craters of the Moon, but only five are open to the public for cave exploration. However, you must get a permit from the visitor center before entering the caves.
Caves Trail / Several Caves: Most of the accessible lava tube caves in Craters of the Moon National Monument are located in the southeast part of the Park, along the Cave Trail, which can be reached by Loop Road. The Cave Trail, a 1.5 miles roundtrip moderately strenuous hike, offers access to four caves in Craters of the Moon
- Indian Tunnel
- Dewdrop Cave
- Beauty Cave
- Boy Scout Cave
Broken Top Trail / Buffalo Cave: Located on the southern side of the Monument, the Broken Top Trail offers access to the Buffalo Cave. The hike to Buffalo Cave via Broken Top Trail is a 1.8 miles moderately strenuous hike.
Other Idaho Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Craters of the Moon, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to the Craters of the Moon. You can find other Idaho attractions in my Idaho Travel Guide.
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