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The Weird & Wonderful Rock Formations of Craters of the Moon National Monument

Posted on 15-Aug-2016

When American President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation protecting Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho in 1924, he called it "a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself". In all of my travels to our national parks and monuments, I have never seen the word “weird” used to describe any of them other than Craters of the Moon. It truly is weird, but also fascinating.

Formed by lava flows from the Great Rift, it is easy to see why early explorers compared it to the surface of the moon, something only seen through telescopes at that point. We had a wonderful afternoon exploring this beautiful but unusual landscape.




We started our day with a ranger guided tour of Indian Tunnel, one of the lava tube caves along the Blue Dragon Flow. Our ranger guide told us all about the history and prehistory of the area and also about the geology, flora and fauna to be found there.

Hiking through the dark cave was certainly a great experience, and provided a cool break from the heat of the day. We chose the longer route, exiting through a small hole in the rock and making our way back to the entrance along a beautiful primitive trail.





After emerging from Indian Tunnel, we headed around to the other side of the park and climbed the 1884 meter Inferno Cone. While it seemed like a place where nothing could possibly live, we found quite a bit of plant life at the top, and one lone tree hanging onto the edge.

It also provided an awesome vantage point from which to view the vast expanse of the lava flows of the park. Our final stop during our exploration was the Spatter Cone area where we could view these wonderful formations. One of the cones even had a trail that took us up and allowed us to peer right down into the cone. Much smaller than the Inferno Cone, these were no less interesting to explore.





As we got back in the van after our afternoon exploring Craters of the Moon National Monument, there was only one word which we could come up with which truly described our day there: weird. It certainly was, but fascinating too.

The 14 day Northwestern Park Trails tour gives a day to explore the moonlike formations of Craters of the Moon National Monument.


View full trip itinerary here


Author: MichaelHi there! My name is Mike Harding and I am originally from Washington DC. I attribute much of my love for travel to entirely too many trips to the Smithsonian as a child. For a kid who grew up in the big city though, I spent a lot of weekends out in the woods camping and hiking. It was out in the wild that I realized that I wanted to spend my life outside. I went to University and studied Wildlife Management and American History, and I guess when you put those two passions together you end up with a Tour Leader. I have spent 9 wonderful seasons working for Grand American Adventures all over the USA and Canada. I consider it a real privilege to show people around my home continent.


Topics: National Parks, Tour Leaders, USA Northwest