Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a United States National Monument in Snake River Plain of Idaho in the United States.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. Starting 15,000 years ago, the landscape was created by molten lava flows.
- Visitor Center, ☎ ''+1 208'' 527-3257, . Labor Day-Memorial Day (off-season): Daily 8AM-4:30PM, closed on Federal holidays during off-season; Memorial Day-Labor Day (Summer): Daily - 8AM-6PM.
The area was designated the Craters of the Moon Wilderness in 1970 by Congress. This was the fisrt such type of designation within the National Park Service.
Cinder cones, craters, and myriad volcanic formations line the fissures, or Great Rift, for some sixty miles from north to south, and rise above a surface swirling with frozen eddies and cascading blocks of lava foam.
Flora and fauna
Searing lava flows that initially destroyed everything in their path today protect the last refuges of intact sagebrush steppe communities on the Snake River Plain. These islands of vegetation, known as kipukas, provide important examples of what is "natural".
- From Arco, it about 20 miles (32 km) south on US 20/26/93 to the entrance to the monument, about a 30 minute drive.
- From Carey, it is about 25 miles (40 km) north on US 20/26/93 to the entrance to the monument, about a 35 minute drive.
- The closest commercial airport is Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) is just northwest of Idaho Falls. It has limited service from Salt Lake City on Delta Connections, Minneapolis/St. Paul on Northwest Airlink, Denver on United Express, Las Vegas on Allegiant Air, and Boise and Bozeman on Horizon Air. IDA is located 87 miles (140 km) east of the monument, about a 2 hour drive.
- The nearest major airport is Boise Airport (IATA: BOI) (ICAO: KBOI), 3201 Airport Way,  is serviced by several airlines, including United, Delta, Alaska/Horizon and Southwest. BOI is located 178 miles ( km) west of the monument, about a 3 ½ hour drive.
- $8 per vehicle.
- Entering by bicycle, motorcycle or on foot is $4 per person. 15 and under enter free.
The paved, 7-mile Loop Road connects all of the park's major attractions. Most visitors drive from parking lot to parking lot, but the road is relatively flat and ideal for bicycling. All major sites include short wheelchair-accessible trails.
The 7-mile (11 km) long Loop Road passed many of the key locations in the monument, providing access to trailheads leading to a closer look at the landscape. Listed below are some of the stops along the road.
- North Crater Flow - This lava flow is the youngest in the park. A short ¼ mile (0.4 km) trail leads past lava monliths. A longer 3.5 mile (5.6 km) trail leads to the North Crater, source of this flow. This trail eventually connects to the Spatter cones stop on the driving tour.
- Devils Orchard - Fragments of rock rise out of a field of black cinder like flowers, giving rise to the name of this area. A ½ mile (0.8 km) accessible trail leads through the bizarre landscape.
- Inferno Cone - A steep ½ mile (0.8 km) trail leads to the top of this cinder cone which provides a panoramic view of the lava fields, including one of world's largest cinder cones, Big Cinder Butte.
- Spatter cones - A short accessible trail leads through the spatter cones, miniature vents that create tiny volcanic cones.
- Tree Molds - This stop is a trailhead for mutiple trails. The 2 mile (3 km) Tree Molds Trail leads past imprints of trees in the lava. The 1.8 mile (2.9 km) Broken-Top Trail circles a cinder cone. The longer, 4 mile (6.4 km) Wilderness Trail visits lava trees, upright molds of trees destroyed by lava flow.
- Caves - A ½ mile (0.8 km) trail leads to lava tube caves. The caves are open to explore but you will need to bring a light source.
- Craters of the Moon Natural History Association Bookstore (in the Visitor Center), ☎ ''+1 208'' 527-3257, . Labor Day-Memorial Day (off-season): Daily 8AM-4:30PM, closed on Federal holidays during off-season; Memorial Day-Labor Day (Summer): Daily - 8AM-6PM.
The only food in the Monument is from vending machines at the Visitors Center. The town of Arco, 30 minutes to the east, is the closest settlement with restaurants and a grocery store.
The only drinks in the Monument are from vending machines at the Visitors Center.
There are no lodging in the monument. The nearest lodging is in Arco.
- Lava Flow Campground. May through October. (Closure dates may vary depending upon snow conditions). Fifty-one sites. Facilities: water, restrooms, charcoal grills, picnic tables. No RV hookups or showers. $10.00/night in summer, $6/night off-season.
- Group Camp. May through October. (Closure dates may vary depending upon snow conditions). Facilities: picnic tables, drinking water, fire grate, vault restroom. $30 per group.
Free permits for backcountry camping are available from the visitor center. Although there are no fixed campsites, most of the few backcountry campers at Craters of the Moon hike in to the Echo Crater area on the Wilderness Trail (leaving from the Tree Molds parking lot). The volcanic crater is large enough to accommodate several tents with reasonable privacy, and is close to several cinder cones, volcanic craters, and tree molds.
Be aware: water is not available in the backcountry and, on sunny days, the black cinder ground will heat up quickly. Due to the hot, dry climate, hikers may consume water more quickly than expected--bring at least 1 gallon of water per person per day. Some sources suggest 1.5 gallons. Savvy hikers may wish to do most of their travel before noon, especially if carrying heavy packs.
The lava tube caves of the Monument are fascinating places to explore but can be dangerous. Take the following precautions when exploraing the caves.
- Carry at least three lightsources per person. There is no natural light in these caves and you do not want to have to feel your way out in the dark because your batteries went dead or your bulb broke.
- Wear sturdy shoes with thick soles. Lava does not always form a smooth surface and thin soled shoes can be punctured.
- Wear a hard helmet. As with the floor, the roof may contain sharp and rough surfaces. Protect your head.
- Let someone know what cave you will be exploring and when you plan to be back. If you don't show, the rescue personnel will know where to start looking for you.
The park's black volcanic cinders and rock heat up quickly on sunny days, leading to ground temperatures over 100 degrees. Bring lots of water, and drink it regularly; potable water is not available away from the visitor center and campground.
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