Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve
After spending a night in a motel in Arco, Idaho, Kelly Bou and I visited nearby Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve on 29 September 2009.  We spent the bulk of the day hiking most of the short interpretive trails that branch off the main Loop Drive at the developed north end of the park.  Highlights included a short climb to the top of Inferno Cone and exploring several lava tube caves.  Although the weather seemed to threaten rain all day, we only received a brief and very light drizzle, and the overcast sky was somehow appropriate for the bleak but sublime scenery.  At the end of our visit, we knew that the weather was changing for the worse in the area, and consequently, we decided to escape south to Utah.
Doesn't look like much from here... Kelly stops by the side of the highway to take some photos of the stark landscape at Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve.
It's tempting to climb on these formations, but off-trail hiking is forbidden at the north end of the park. On the North Crater Flow Trail, Kelly examines one of the more interesting lava formations.
Light stuff. Here is a chunk of lava rock.
Well, so far this park has been a bit underwhelming... Kelly stands beside another lava formation in Devil's Orchard.
Shiny stuff! Here is a piece of lava rock from the slopes of Inferno Cone.
Now this is more like it! Kelly hikes up Inferno Cone, a hill created from windblown volcanic debris.
From up here, you start to get a sense of how vast the lava beds are. This is looking east from the top of Inferno Cone.  On the horizon at left are East Butte and Middle Butte (slightly overlapping), and at right is Big Southern Butte.
What a butte! Here is a closer look at Big Southern Butte (2296 metres).
So if it's listed on, it should count as a summit right? Sonny and Kelly stand atop Inferno Cone (1884 metres).
This photo looks odd, no?! Here is a ground-level view of the pebbles on Inferno Cone.
Not surprisingly, this area is known as Big Craters. Kelly stands on the rim of one of the bigger volcanic craters in the area.
We hiked partway around the rim of the crater. Here is a more comprehensive view of the crater.  Note the trail (off-limits) descending to the bottom.
It's kinda like an Aero chocolate bar! Here is a close-up of yet another chunk of lava rock.
The Spatter Cones were apparently heavily damaged by visitors before the park was established. Kelly heads toward what is known as the Spatter Cones (center).  At far right is Big Cinder Butte (1986 metres).
Route-finding is pretty easy here! Kelly walks up one of the Spatter Cones.
Ropy what?? Along parts of the Broken Top Loop Trail are examples of ropy pahoehoe.
It was fun trying to figure out where all the tubes went. Kelly stands inside one of the lava tubes at the Buffalo Caves which are also found along the Broken Top Loop trail.
The Buffalo Caves are the highlight of the Broken Top Loop Trail. Kelly scrambles out of the Buffalo Caves.
Headlamps are generally not needed for this tunnel. Kelly prepares to descend into the lava tube known as Indian Tunnel.
I wonder how often they check to see if other parts of the lava tube are about to collapse... Parts of Indian Tunnel have collapsed allowing skylight to enter.
There were lots of pigeons nesting throughout Indian Tunnel.  Watch out for aerial bombs! Kelly hikes past another collapsed part of the lava tube.
Looks kinda like I'm embedded in the lava! Sonny crawls out of a small hole at the end of Indian Tunnel.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Bou
Where's Wile E. Coyote?? Kelly hops up and down to try and collapse the lava tube roof.
This cave is a bit spookier than the rest since it feels much more claustrophobic and is absolutely pitch black dark. Getting into Boy Scout Cave is a bit of a tight squeeze.
Looks sorta like the killer rabbit's lair from Monty Python And The Holy Grail! Kelly descends into Beauty Cave.
Beware of Morlocks! Like Boy Scout Cave, Beauty Cave is also very dark, but it is also much more spacious.
It seems like there's always a slight sense of relief whenever you climb out of a cave... Kelly climbs out of Beauty Cave.
Whew!  All these interpretive hikes are collectively tiring! Sonny emerges from Beauty Cave.
Photo Courtesy of Kelly Bou
This turned out to be a much more interesting visit than I was expecting. Kelly heads back to the parking lot through the vast lava beds.
The buttes of Idaho are fascinating enough to warrant a return visit. Here is a closer look at East Butte (1966 metres) at left and Middle Butte (more than 1905 metres) from the nearby highway.