Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument has always looked interesting to me on maps. I finally had a chance to visit in the summer of 2014 and felt like it didn't quite live up to its promising sounding name. The monument encompasses 618 square miles of recent lava flows. The 60 different lava flows are from 15,000 to 2,000 years old. It's in a mostly flat and otherwise empty section of Idaho. The nearest town is Arco which is about 20 miles away. All of the developed and accessible parts of the monument are clustered around the visitors center off of highway 26. So the monument feels slightly crowded in spite of its 1,117 square mile size. The lava flows are strikingly desolate and mostly featureless except for a few small cinder cones. The only vehicle access to the interior of the Monument is via a short loop road that begins at the visitor center. There is an $8 fee per vehicle to use this road. Several trails that head further into the lava flows can be accessed from the loop road. The monument has a developed campground ($10) per night and a interpretive center. The visitor center and loop road were slightly congested when I visited in 2014. Highway 26 travels along the edge the lava flows and there are several places where you can pull over as you pass the monument and look at the lava.
Shoshone is about 60 miles Southwest of the visitor center on highway 26. The Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 museum is about 40 miles west, also on 26. The incredible Mackay Mine Hill and the town of Mackay are about 50 miles north on Highway 93.