If you seek an otherworldly experience right here on Earth, look no further than Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in southeastern Idaho. In the 1800s, this massive lava flow proved an obstacle to avoid for immigrants on the Oregon Trail. In 1969 it truly earned its lunar label by serving as a field school on volcanic geology for NASA Apollo astronauts.
Boy Scout Cave, Indian Tunnel, cinder cones, tree molds
The 7-mile loop road is paved and provides parking at several trailheads, including the wheelchair-accessible Devils Orchard Nature Trail. Cinder cones, lava tubes, and tree molds are some of the unique volcanic features seen from the trails. If you come here in the winter the loop road closes due to the amount of snow they receive at 6,000 feet elevation, but you can still explore on snowshoes and cross-country skis.
If you cannot make it to the incomparable Lava Beds National Monument in northern California, you can explore a couple of short lava tube caves here. To explore Indian Tunnel you will need a free permit, but you do not even need a flashlight. That is not the case inside the pitch black Boy Scout Cave.
Unlike the moon, there is life here despite its blackened, rocky appearance. Hearty syringa bushes and limber pine trees sprout from cracks in the lava providing food and cover for sage grouse, pika, and other animals.
Summer, but it can get very hot on the black rocks without any shade.
$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass
The 7-mile loop road is paved, but other all roads into the monument require a heavy-duty 4×4 with excellent tires.
There is a first-come, first-served campground near the visitor center off Highway 93 that provides water, but no RV hookups. Backpacking is allowed in the wilderness area.
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