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Craters of the Moon
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Craters of the Moon on 06/18/2009 08:57:40 MDT Print View

I had a spare afternoon on the way down to SLC to catch a plane, so I stopped by Craters of the Moon National Monument for a brief overnight. In short, it's a great out of the way destination for backcountry exploration.

The monument staff said that well under 100 people spend a night out in the backcountry each year. Once off the trail, I saw no evidence of anyone else. I got my permit in about 4 minutes, and paid exactly zero dollars (a refreshing contrast to other parks).

I parked at the southern end of the loop drive (tree molds) and hike south on the "wilderness trail" for a few miles. T-storms were scudding off in the distance, and that, the mild temps, and the wet spring (flowers!) made for sublime hiking. When it looked interesting I zigged west to explore the edge of the a lava flow. Craters isn't the place to make big miles, it's the place to wander and poke around in the wild terrain that's so close to the road's end. I had fun climbing through the lava, checking out the craters, sinkholes, and faulting. Not fast walking, but more enjoyable than the sage walking the predominates off the rock.

Craters lava flow

I started hiking a bit before six in the evening, and around nine started to think about a camping spot. Finding a flat spot without talus isn't the easiest thing to do around there, but I found a nice spot in a small crater near The Sentinel. While I was cooking I had an amusing reminder of unique nature of the topography. I had anchored the corners of my E-Wing with rocks, as usual. Problem is, lava rocks are way light for their size. A strong gust sent the tarp folding and me hunting for more rocks.

I slept well, considering I only brought my 60 quilt , a wool hat, and a primaloft vest. I woke up cold around 2 am and had to do a few situps so I could fall back asleep. I was up a little before six, on the trail within 30 minutes, and back to the truck by 830. A great trip, and a great way to sneak one in, too.

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
The Moon on 06/18/2009 10:01:48 MDT Print View

I live close to this place, and have only done a short little walk from my car. It's a cool place and a bizare bunch of terrain.

I need to get back there.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
future trips on 06/18/2009 14:41:58 MDT Print View

The wilderness area that makes up most of the northern end of the monument is quite small (I almost hiked it end to end and back on my short trip), but the monument itself is big. A potential project would be a S-N traverse, which would entail problematic water and lots of lava walking. It occurred to me that if you hit it in early spring, when the snow had melted off enough to ease hiking but was still present in pockets, one might have a chance.