|"Ground control to Major Tom" (Photo courtesy, NPS)|
Over 15,000 years ago, lava spewed across southern Idaho and melted the bedrock into a landscape of cinder and spatter cones, craters, and caves. Astronauts traveled to this otherworldly, sagebrush-scattered realm to practice for the first lunar landing, and today, people flock from afar for the spring wildflower displays and to hike, cycle, spelunk, and explore this fascinating national monument.
To see major sites like the North Crater Flows, Devil's Orchard, Big Craters, and distant views of the Great Rift that caused the flows, follow the monument's seven-mile loop road. Along with an 1862 pioneer wagon road, the roads that thread surreally sculpted Craters of the Moon are also open to bikers and winter cross-country skiers.
To see more of the 714,727-acre monument off the main byways, pack off into the wilderness area. A four-mile trail meanders alongside a scarred landscape of lava flows, tree moulds, craters, and cinder buttes, and you can spend the night in backcountry camps at Echo Crater or the Sentinel. You can also stay at a 52-site campground in the lava flows near the Visitor Center.
But don't let this surreal landscape lull you out of taking the necessary precautions: Bring a flashlight to explore several caves and at least a gallon of water per person per day before heading out.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication