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Miles before arriving at the visitor center at Craters of the Moon national Monument and Preserve, a field of hardened lava showed up south that the highway. In ~ first, my husband and I disputed whether the was in reality lava or just a shadow of a cloud across the land. Having been come Craters numerous times before, ns knew it to be the start of a volcano wonderland.

The landscape at Craters of the Moon was developed by a grasp of lava flows over time. The lava right here didn’t erupt the end of volcanoes, however rather oozed the end of fissures in the earth and also occasionally spewed out of vents. Occasionally a flow would partly cover a ahead lava bed, other times it would create brand-new ones. The an outcome is 618 square mile (not all in the national Monument) the cinder cones, lava tubes, tree molds, lava rivers, spatter cones, and also lava beds as far as you have the right to see.

I save coming earlier to Craters the the Moon since it feels favor a ar like no other; it’s “out the this world,” as they say. I couldn’t wait to share it v my husband, who had actually never been, and also our 2 boys, that were too young come remember our critical visit.

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Welcome to Craters of the Moon. Photo Credit: Melynda Harrison.

1. Volcanoes and room Research at the visitant Center

Our first stop to be the visitant center. We wandered through the exhibits, obtained our bearings, and picked up Lunar Ranger packets for the boys. While every the parks and monuments in the national Parks System have Junior Ranger programs, Craters the the Moon is the only one with a Lunar Ranger Badge. That’s due to the fact that the effects of volcanism no just exciting to geologists, biologists, and climatologists, this otherworldly landscape transforms out to be perfect because that NASA study and space mission training.

In 1969, Apollo 14 astronauts all set for their pilgrimage to the moon, additionally a volcanic landscape, v a visit to Craters. Castle learned exactly how to pick volcanic samples come bring ago to earth and how come navigate a lava environment. NASA research proceeds at Craters the the Moon today.

The visitor facility is likewise the ar to gain a cave permit and also we knew we wanted to check out a lava tube. To protect bats indigenous a condition that is moving toward the monument, anyone who plans to get in the lava tubes, or caves, requirements a complimentary permit. Park employee will inspect your gear and go end a few safety details.

2. Check out From the Scenic Loop Road

A seven-mile loop road points friend to all the trailheads in Craters of the Moon national Monument & Preserve and you can even cross-country ski over there in winter. While us couldn’t wait to get out of the car, operation around, and immerse oneself in the landscape, the journey itself is precious a visit come the park. Leave the visitor center, we were instantly transported to one more place filled with cinder beds, lava hoodoos, and an all at once surreal landscape.

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Talk about scenic views. Picture Credit: Melynda Harrison.

3. Hiking on the Moon

With map in hand and also permit presented on the dashboard, we determined a couple of hikes. I want the boys and Henry to view as numerous of the different varieties of volcanic attributes as possible.

One the the an excellent things around Craters the the Moon is that you have the right to see so much from simply a few short trails—it’s perfect for families or those who don’t have actually a many time. If girlfriend stay longer or camp overnight you deserve to explore more and hover farther afield. Craters of the Moon is an worldwide Dark skies Park which method there is a total lack of light pollution. The stars irradiate up the skies in an unbelievable way and come right down to her tent.

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Hike a spatter cone. Photo Credit: Melynda Harrison.

We only had actually three or 4 hours to invest at the park therefore we started out with a scramble up Inferno Cone. That a 0.2-mile, steep walk increase a cinder cone the looks favor it need to be in Hawaii. It was hold-onto-your-hat-windy increase there, but we to be enthralled with the panoramic see of the rest of the Monument, the an excellent Rift, the Snake river Plain, and the Pioneer Mountains.

Next up was a quick jaunt around and also up a spatter cone. Spatter cones begin as vents in the ground, spewing lava into the air. The lava comes back down and also lands approximately the vent forming a cone like a drip sandcastle.

The 1.8-mile damaged Top Loop Trail was our following walk. The easy trail circles a hill and along the means we experienced a lot of different volcanic features. The boys especially liked stand on the “lava bombs” – masses that molten rock formed when a vent ejected viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. The lava cooled right into a hard mass before it got to the ground.

4. Caving in Lava Tubes

There are 5 caves or lava pipe that can be explored in Craters, and also four that them can be uncovered on the aptly named Caves Trail. We climbed down the stairs into Indian Tunnel and also scrambled end rocks for around 800 feet come come the end the various other end. Light shines into Indian Tunnel from places where the lava tube has collapsed and also it is high sufficient that mine 6’6” husband could stand most of the way. Various other caves space darker and a tighter fit.

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Explore a lava tube. Photo Credit: Melynda Harrison.

5. Fried Pickles

It’s not actually at Craters that the Moon, but you can’t pass through surrounding Arco there is no trying the fried pickles in ~ Pickle’s Place. I wasn’t sure just how I’d feel around them, however they were actually really an excellent and the restaurant has actually a full menu if you desire something more than pickles. Together we ate our pickles and sipped iced tea, us chatted around what a cool, weird, exciting place Craters the the Moon is and also how us can’t wait to obtain back.

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Fuel up with a fried pickle. Picture Credit: Melynda Harrison.

Feature image credited to Melynda Harrison.

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Melynda Harrison writes about travel and outdoor family members adventure at TravelingMel.com, YellowstoneTrips.com, and for many local and regional publications. As soon as she’s not behind a laptop, friend can find her cross-country skiing, hiking, or floating a river.

Published on may 15, 2018