Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve
Kicking off our Fall 2017 vacation, Zosia Zgolak and I visited Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve on 7 October 2017.  Much like my first visit here in 2009, we stuck mainly to the attractions near the main loop road.  For starters, we easily hiked over the top of a low cinder cone known as Broken Top before dropping down its southern slopes and exploring some lava tubes known as the Buffalo Caves.  From there, we headed southeast and climbed up the northeast ridge of Big Cinder Butte.  This ridge is bushy and a bit unpleasant to hike, but we managed to make it up anyway without serious grief.  A brisk wind prompted us to keep moving, and we easily descended the loose but open northwest ridge before hiking across a lava field to return to our car.
Looks like she's giving me the finger... Zosia holds up some pine cones as she hikes up the loose slopes of Broken Top.
If we walk in a spiral long enough, we're bound to hit the true summit! The summit of Broken Top (1859 metres) is flat and not well-defined.
I may come back and explore this wilderness more in the future...
To the southeast is the Craters Of The Moon Wilderness Area.  At centre are Half Cone and Crescent Butte.  Visible on the horizon at left is Big Southern Butte.
Don't even need help from the trekking poles! The loose terrain on the south slopes of Broken Top is very easy to descend.
That is pahoehoe or ropy lava in the foreground. Sonny inspects the interesting floor of one of the Buffalo Caves.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Wait, that's the Cave of Caerbannog!!! Zosia enters another of the Buffalo Caves.
Hmmm...maybe we shouldn't be hanging around here... This part of the Buffalo Caves has been cordoned off due to a collapse of the cave roof.
That was fun! Sonny squeezes out of one of the narrower entrances to the Buffalo Caves.  In the background is Broken Top.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

The ascent is not as easy as it looks... Zosia pauses to examine the ground on her way to Big Cinder Butte.  Big Cinder Butte is the highest volcanic feature (but not the highest point) in the park.  She and Sonny would climb up the slope to the left of the yellow vegetation and later descend the barren slopes on the right.
Don't wear shorts if you come this way! The slope that Zosia is ascending on Big Cinder Butte is quite bushy.
I'm actually still kinda bushwhacking here! The extensive lava fields stretch away into the distance as Sonny approaches the top of Big Cinder Butte.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Guess which way the prevailing winds usually blow up here! Sonny stands on a rock outcrop near the high point of Big Cinder Butte (1994 metres).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

I would like to climb Crescent Butte the next time I come here... Crescent Butte lies to the east.  Note the trail running through the intervening area known as Trench Mortar Flat.  Also, Big Southern Butte is barely visible through the haze on the left horizon.
The white spots are some sort of vegetation, but they remind me of snow. And this would be an awesome slope to ski down! This is looking north toward Broken Top (right) and some of the foothills on the northern edge of Snake River Plain.
We probably should have climbed up this way as it is a lot less bushy on this side of the butte. Zosia finds a beaten path on the way down from Big Cinder Butte.  More lava fields can be seen to the northwest.
Not the easiest terrain to walk through... Zosia picks her way through a lava field to return to the trailhead.
Interestingly enough, the caves were more fun than the two summits! Total Distance:  4.8 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  2 hours 37 minutes
Net Elevation Gain to Broken Top:  70 metres
Net Elevation Gain to Big Cinder Butte:  205 metres

GPX Data

Continuing with our tour of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Zosia and I next drove to another trailhead to visit more lava tubes--Indian Tunnel, Boy Scout Cave and Beauty Cave.  Despite having visited all three back in 2009, I still had a lot of fun exploring them again.  Indeed, crawling around in the dark in the tight quarters of Boy Scout Cave was definitely one of the highlights of the day.

Daylight was quickly fading as we wrapped up our visit to the lava tube caves.  We did not have time to hike Devils Orchard Nature Trail, but we stopped at the trailhead anyway to enjoy a nice dinner before leaving the park.
This tunnel is ideal for claustrophobic types! Parts of the roof have collapsed which allows ambient light to illuminate most of Indian Tunnel.

Watch out for overhead bombs!

Lots of birds nest in this part of Indian Tunnel.


This looks rather familiar... Zosia crawls out of a small hole at the end of Indian Tunnel.
A very cute spelunker! Zosia has to remove her pack to enter Boy Scout Cave.
Are we at the Center of the Earth yet?? Sonny is having a lot of fun crawling through the tight confines of Boy Scout Cave.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Beauty Cave is easy enough to enter, but it's the least interesting of all the lava tubes. Zosia pauses just outside Beauty Cave, the last notable attraction she and Sonny would visit in the park.