North Crater Flow Trail - Hiking Idaho

 

The beginning of a hiking mission to Yosemite National Park.  First a tour of Craters of the Moon.

 

 

My hiking partner leaves Edmonton, Alberta at 3:00 AM to pick me up in Calgary at 6:30 AM.  Following a quick gear transfer, the familiar drive south begins through Alberta, past foothills of rolling grassland to the Canada/USA border at Coutts

The early morning sun paints Montana grain fields orange and a light breeze animates the surface with waves until formidable buttes appear as a precursor to the incredible ride into the Big Belt Mountains

Past the Teton River, Great Falls, Montana leads to the roller coaster ride into the capital city of Helena via impressive Wolf Creek canyons.  Old mining days are visually represented roadside by crumbling structures at Basin.  

The objective on this long driving day is either Butte, Montana or Idaho FallsWe are on the way to Yosemite National Park.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA First night accommodation at Guesthouse Inn, Dillon, Montana, USA

 

The compromise is Dillon, Montana for the overnight stay at the Guesthouse Inn which offers an indoor hot tub, a pool and a free 6:00 AM hot breakfast.  Following a light supper and an interesting walkabout through Dillon, the setting sun is rendered crimson by forest fires near Dillon.

A great breakfast, including self-made waffles, precedes the drive south on I-15 over the Continental Divide at 6,879 ft (2,094 m) Monida Pass where Montana joins IdahoOn this day, the long drive to California with an excursion into Idaho's fascinating Craters of the Moon National Monument.  

From I-15 the turn west at Dubois begins the beautiful high-desert drive south on Hwy 22 past Arco, Idaho into the lava fields of the Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Past Arco, Idaho there is a regret about missing a picture of an old, derelict building but the oversight will be fixed later by another adventuresome colleague.  

The day's schedule is aggressive.  There is no extra time to capture multiple photo opportunities but that old building at Arco remains indelibly engraved in my mind.  Almost a year, later, a colleague from Calgary happens to be touring Craters of the Moon, Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park.  She kindly takes the time to capture the images near Arco on my behalf.  The early morning light is identical to the recollection.  Please check her blog, 'Making Waves on Top of the World'.  Thank you, Andra.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA An ancient, derelict dwelling near Arco in Idaho, USA.  Photo credit to Andra @ Making Waves on Top of the World.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA An ancient, derelict dwelling near Arco in Idaho, USA  Photo credit to Andra @ Making Waves on Top of the World.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA One of many historical markers between Dillon, Montana and Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA At the entrance to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, USA

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA The nature of the terrain on the approach the entrance to Craters of the Moon National Monument

 

A viewpoint near the entrance illustrates the enormity of the 750,000 acre volcanic field.

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA A viewpoint near the official entrance shows recent lava flow as far as the eye can see.

 

After checking into the Visitor Center, and picking up our caving permit, hiking begins on short, easy trails off the 7 mile (11¼ KM) one-way loop road.  The first hike is the ¹⁄₃ mile (0.5 KM) North Crater Flow Trail.  Elevation differential is negligible.  Paths are easily navigable.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA The trail-head sign for North Crater Flow near the Craters of the Moon NM Visitor Center

 

The loop offers interesting and informative interpretive information to identify the nature of different types of lava flow.  This new lava eruption occurred within the Great Rift about 2,000 years ago.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA The dimples behind the smooth flow foreground are squeeze ups created by large bubbles of gas.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA The new 2,000 year old lava can be compared to more mature 7,500-year-old lava in the background.

 

Over thousands of years, the rugged new lava is changed into smooth land covered by vegetation.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA These large chunks of lava floated here on molten rock when the side of an active volcano collapsed.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA The surface of faster-moving smooth or ropy lava may harden with lava flowing underneath creating caves, tubes and tunnels.

 

A vacant space underneath the hard surface may lead to a collapse as shown above.

 

North Crater Flow Trail - Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, USA Near the end of the short North Crater Trail, remnants of the 2,000-year-old volcano stand prominently.

 

The Visitor Center and North Crater Flow Trail are good places to begin a tour of Craters of the Moon National Monument because interpretive exhibits explain the fundamentals of terrain and vegetation. 

For the next few hours, the initial component of this spectacular hiking adventure will provide a broad range of new experiences and the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating nature of new volcanic terrain. 

This may be less interesting if you happen to live in the Hawaiian Islands or Iceland.  

 

 

 

 

Categories: 

Tags: 

Comments

We did not experience any road closures on our route from Helena via Arco to Craters of the Moon. It was all good road with a lot of it being vacant single lane. Much of it is flat and straight through desert and some might say boring and tedious. I find the desert very beautiful and mesmerizing but we swapped out driving frequently to avoid the risk of driving at high speed through sagebrush. Regarding your comment, the only thing I can think of is that there are many large and restricted military installations in the area. Perhaps, during exercises, traffic is reduced or rerouted. It is a guess. BTW, if you happen to find yourself driving through Arco on the way to Craters of the Moon, there is an small, very old, decrepid building (shack) beside the river on the right hand side of the road heading towards Craters of the Moon. I will never forgive myself for not stopping to capture the incredible image. So, if you can grab that one for me, much appreciated.

Question with regards to your trip to Craters of the Moon! Was the drive from Helena to Arco straight forward? When I do a google map of the directions, portions of the directions say "restricted usage road" or "partial restricted usage road".

We stayed in Dillon the first night of the Yosemite trip and prior to our exploration of Craters of the Moon. For years I have wanted to take a month and do nothing more than visit old mining towns in Montana. It is a goldmine of opportunity (no pun intended) for anyone who shares my fascination with history, and achievement through hardship. Thank you for mentioning Bannack. We learned of its existence but there was not time on the recent trip to take advantage of the opportunity but it is on the list and potentially a component of the upcoming trip to Zion and Bryce later this year. Thank you for your comment, Randey. Much appreciated. And I am glad we have shared the opportunity to explore some of the same trail. There are photos and narrative in this blog for our last trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Amazing parks jammed with natural wonders and magnificent scenery.

Great post as usual, Barry! Takes me back to when I visited Arco and Craters Of The Moon in the summer of '09 on the way home to Calgary from Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Next time you are passing through (If you haven't already been to see it), very close to Dillon, MT is the well preserved ghost town of Bannack in Bannack State Park -- well worth a visit.

The weather is always a factor in the mountains and particularly in and around Calgary which experiences warming Chinooks in the winter. There is a wealth of opportunity in the Bow Corridor at Canmore. Banff and Lake Louise always offer a multitude of opportunities at any time of the year. The problem here is not finding spectacular photograph; it is more when to stop and trying to isolate the highlights. You will have a wonderful time. There are a number of photographers who work out of Canmore and Banff National Park. Their sites would be good reference. With your outstanding eye for an excellent composition there will be an infinite number of possibilities.

I have only been to Calgary once. I plan on being in Calgary this winter. Any suggestion for photographs?

We had a great time and experienced a wide range of hiking environments. Yosemite National Park provided a broad range of terrain. We staged from four different areas to hike major portions of the park and I will post those over the winter months. Recently I did a hike and bike tour through Bowness Park and Baker Park on opposite sides of the Bow River in Calgary and it appears your fall colour in Edmonton is similar to what we have here in Calgary, Alberta. Strange year. Long winter, late summer and it appears we will have a short fall..

Sounds like a fun trip. I can't wait to see all the places and pictures :)

Add new comment