Craters of the Moon NM

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a lava field in central Idaho. I spent a few hours there after I had gone ziplining. When I first got there I went to the visitors center to learn a little more about what the park was and how was there all this lava when there wasn’t a volcano nearby.

At the patio ranger talk, Ranger Hester explained in a hands-on way how eruptions in Idaho are very different than what most people think of, like a Hawaiian volcano.

Craters of the Moon are basalt “eruptions.” When it erupts, it is fluid that flows up through long fissures or cracks. They have measures this fissure to be around 52 miles long. During the early stages of the eruptions lava can shoot into the air, cool and fall as cinders which can result in cinder cones.



The United States Geological Survey (USGS) first started surveying the area in the early 1900’s. A geologist named it Craters of the Moon while trying to convince the National Park Service to recommend it as a national monument. Calvin Coolidge protected Craters of the Moon National Monument in 1924 to “preserve the unusual and weird volcanic formations.” Over the years it has expanded. Most recently, 2000-2, they added the area that is now referred to as the preserve part. Idaho Senate is currently petitioning Congress to make it a National Park.


  • There are two types of lava
    • pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy) – smooth, “ropy” lava flow created from a flowing liquid lava
    • a’a (ah-ah) – lava flow with rough jagged surfaces created when the lava is starting to cool and thicken
  • Craters of the Moon has erupted around every 2,000 years…the last one was about 2,000 years ago
  • 1,1117 square miles (over 700 are 3 major lava fields)
  • Four explore-able lava tube caves
  • Apollo astronauts performed part of their training here


Abigail and her Parents

They are from Minnesota. I met them while they were attending the ranger talk. Abigail was also working on her Junior Ranger Badge.


From the visitors center there is a one way loop to get through the monument. Along the loop there are many stops. Some with short hikes and some with longer ones. I was a bit tired because of the ziplining and the driving (I still had to drive back to my campsite). But I was still able to stop at 4 of the 7.

The First stop was at North Crater Flow Trail where I got to see the differences between the pahoehoe (top photo) and the a’a lava (second photo).

One of my other stops was at Inferno Cone. It stands at 6,181 feet. The panoramic views from the top are well worth the hike and the amount of wind at the top!

Last but NEVER least, the picture of my Jr. Ranger badge and souvenirs!

NEXT TIME at Craters of the Moon: I would go through the cave tubes next time!

One Reply to “Craters of the Moon NM”

  1. Dorothy Heide says:

    A truly amazing place…

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