The world we know has innumerable wonders. From the Taj Mahal to the Stonehenge, the earth has a lot of beautiful sites! But what if I told you there’s more? As a kid were you fascinated by the moon? Did you wonder how big the craters were and how they looked? The good news is that you get to experience moon-like craters on earth itself!
You don’t have to be Neil Armstrong or Harrison Schmitt to set your feet on the moon. You can do that simply by visiting the Craters of The Moon National Monument & Preserve, in central Idaho. Of course, you won’t get the exact low-gravitational experience as Armstrong. But the good thing is, you get a similar one! That too, without leaving earth!
10 Must-Do Things in Craters of The Moon National Monument & Preserve
If you’ve planned a trip to this otherworldly site, you’re in for a treat! This national monument has the reputation of being one of the strangest yet breathtaking sites. Exploring this amazing site will definitely make you feel as though you’re walking on the moon.
If you’re not sure of what to do when you’re there, fear not! In this article, you’ll find a list of things to do while you’re on the Craters of The Moon National Monument & Preserve. We will take you on a guided tour of the best things you can do while you’re visiting this site!
Robert Limbert Visitor Center/ Prepare and Relax
If your goal is to explore and obtain as much information as possible about the site, start by visiting the Robert Limbert Visitor Center. Here, you will get all the information about what to do, where to go, and how to go about it.
Perhaps the Visitor Center is one of the most important sites. This is because you can get permits for the caves and the backcountry from here. If you’re lost or confused, you will find rangers here who are always willing to help you out!
The Visitor Center also acts as a shelter if at all it rains. You can also watch movies and read books in the Visitor Center.
North Crater Flow Trail/ Appreciate the Frozen Lava
One of the first destinations that greet visitors in this volcanic wonderland is the Flow Trail. If you’re looking to snap some great pictures, this site offers great potential! The blackened ground and the tiny green shrubs all over add to the beauty of this location.
Visitors can stop here to admire the majestic scene. You can literally touch the lava that is frozen in time. Another thing you can is to read the boards along the way. If you want to learn more about this spot, stop and go through the informative boards located along the way.
Loop Road/ Drive through Scenic spots:
Stretching for seven miles, the Loop Road will take you to some of the most scenic locations. Not only does the Loop Road lead you to picture-perfect sites, but it also introduces visitors to some short hiking trails. You’re going to need to pay some fees for the passes, but it is worth every penny!
If you’re driving through Loop Road, you would want to do so slowly! There are several amazing sites along the Loop Road. You can stop for pictures anytime you want. Take your time to absorb the scenery. You can also check out for signs of wildlife and stop at the places where you can go for short hikes!
Going on a drive on the Loop Road is a must! It is as though you’re exploring the moon itself. However, for the best experience, it is recommended you go on foot. Stop at all the viewpoints and attraction sites.
Inferno Cone/ Trek to the Top
If you’re visiting the Craters of The Moon National Monument & Preserve, you better be ready to trek every now and then! The site has so many great trails that are perfect for hiking. If the weather is on your side, take the time to trek up to the Inferno Cone.
Inferno Cone is undoubtedly one of the best sites. To get to the top, you have to hike up on a steep trail that is not that long. Once on top, you’ll be met with exceptional beauty all around! The top of the cone is pitch black, and it offers a stunning panoramic view of the National Monument! Taking amazing photos is a must when you’re atop this cone!
If you’re visiting this site during the onset of spring, you’re going to fall in love with it! Starting from May till June is the flowering season. You’ll see brightly colored wildflowers offering a stark contrast to the black and gray lava. You’re going to want to walk through this multicolored meadow of flowers.
Spatter Cones/ Check Out the Mini Volcanos
Here’s another fun thing you can do while you’re visiting the Craters of The Moon National Monument & Preserve. You can go on a short hike to discover molten and frozen lava. Do not worry; it’s completely safe! The last eruption took place more than 2000 years ago.
Shaped like mini volcanos, these were created thousands of years ago when lava got thrown into the air. If you’re following the Loop Road, you will see this stunning place on the way. Make sure that you stop here to take in the amazing sight.
Wilderness Trail/ Trek to the Echo Crater
The Wilderness Trail is nearly seven kilometers long. You can reach this trail by following the Broken Top Loop Trail. Once you’re here, navigate yourself to the Echo Crater. You will get to witness a stunning view of the surroundings.
There are also other fun things you can do once you reach the Echo Crater. The site is a good location for a campsite. However, you will need a backcountry pass if you plan on camping there.
Stargazing and camping under the stars are a must-do when you’re here. Often in the cities, the skies are heavily polluted. However, the skies that look down on the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve do not suffer from light pollution. You can set up camp and cozy up with your friends or loved ones under the starry night!
Broken Top Loop Trail/ Search for the Buffalo Caves
When you’re at the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, you have to trek the Broken Top Loop Trail. This particular trek is filled with scenic views and picture opportunities.
You can also try and locate the Buffalo Caves when you’re on this trail. However, you are going to need a permit to enter the Buffalo Caves. There is also no need to worry about getting lost. When in doubt, always look for signs. The area includes plenty of signboards that will guide you.
Lava Tubes/ Explore the Caves
There are as many as 500 caves on this site. However, only five of the caves are open for exploring. These caves or tunnels were formed by flowing lava that cooled down.
If you’re someone who seeks adventure, climb down these tunnels and explore them. To do this, get a permit from the Visitor Center. These lava tunnels are some of the most spectacular sites. Bear witness to the natural wonders that took centuries to form.
While you’re inside these amazing lava formations, you can start exploring these caves. If you’re also keen on getting some decent pictures, this spot won’t disappoint. Are you worried about getting lost? Don’t be. There are park rangers and guides who accompany you into the caves.
It is also common to encounter bats inside the caves. However, there’s no need to fret! You are not going to catch any virus or infections.
Devils Orchard Nature Trail/ Witness the amazing lava formations
If you’ve reached the Devils Orchard Nature Trail, you’re gonna witness amazing sights. Start by slowly taking in the vast expanse covered with frozen lava. All around you will be stunning lava formations that took years to form.
The trail is not that long, and it is fairly easy to trek. Take out your cameras cause you might be greeted with wildlife as well. Not even measuring a mile, this trail will bless your eyes with its pristine beauty. Make it a point to trek all the way to the end.
Participate and become a Lunar Ranger:
Lunar Ranger, sounds exciting right? Well, you can get the chance to earn a Junior Lunar Ranger Patch. Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve offers kids and youths alike the chance to do tasks and earn a Lunar Ranger Patch!
Here is all you need to do. Just pick up a free copy of the Lunar Ranger Booklet from the Visitor Center. Once you get a hold of it, go through it and do whatever is required. By completing the activities mentioned in the booklet, you move one step closer to getting that Lunar Ranger Patch! Good luck with that, it’s not that difficult.
How to get to the Craters of the Moon
No public transportation available, so providing your own vehicle or a rental car is required
Follow US Highway 20, then US Highway 26 from Idaho Falls. Turn left in Arco and remain on Highway 26, or
Leave the city on US Highway 93 from Twin Falls, and exit the city on US Highway 26 when you arrive at Shoshone.
Arrive at the Robert Limbert Visitor Center (1266 Craters Loop Road)
Ask staff for guidance there for further navigation
How much is the Entry Fee
$20 for a vehicle
Additional $15 for a campsite
When is the Best Time to Visit for Moon-like Experience
Where to Stay Near Craters of the Moon National Monument