Craters of the Moon Hikes: Indian Tunnel, North Crater Trail, Wilderness/Broken Top Trail

I decided to spend this weekend hitting up some of Craters of the Moon, since it was so close. I ended up exploring Indian Tunnel and then hiked the North Crater Trail on Saturday. On Sunday, I returned to hike the Wilderness Trail and the Broken Top Loop trail together.

I chose to camp at Hayspur Fish Hatchery in large part due to its proximity to Craters of the Moon. I loved the park the last time that I came through, and I was excited to  come back for more. Last year, I really only spent one morning in the park, driving through and doing only brief, short hikes. So, this time, I opted to spend 2 days hiking around.

Saturday morning, I woke up, packed up and headed into the park. I was able to arrive just shortly after the visitor center opened, where I got a permit to go into the caves for the day. I immediately made that my first stop!

IMG_6120I only ended up doing Indian Cave, of all of the caves I had the option of doing, but it was a wonderful cave to explore. Although large in size, it was also pretty easy and short for a hike. A small bit of scrambling and really only one part of ducking down, and I was out on the other side. I followed the undeveloped trail back to the entrance, enjoying walking the lava flow and noticing the collapses that I had been walking under within.

IMG_6189From there, I made my way over to the Spatter Cones, where I set off on the North Crater Trail. A 3.5 mile trail going through a sizeable area of spatter and cinder cones, I really enjoyed the hike! I ran into a few other hikers doing the same trail along the way, but I really had almost the entire trail to myself for the majority of my time on it. With awesome views of lava flows, cinder cones, and several other features, this one quickly became a favorite.

The park service recommends having a car at both trailheads, if you can, so you don’t have to walk both ways, but I found walking both ways on this trail wonderful, to be honest. Although it was a fairly easy hike for me, the different views and different visibility as I crossed some of the craters made it worth going both ways, for me.

Unfortunately, for Saturday, I was feeling a bit ill by the time that I finished the North Crater Trail and decided to head back to camp to relax and save the rest for Sunday instead, hoping to feel better by then. Sure enough, when I woke up Sunday, I was feeling significantly better and decided to head off to the Broken Top Loop and Wilderness trails.

IMG_6239I got to the trailhead when it was still quite empty, and headed off down the Wilderness Trail first, although not without first crossing a wonderful section of the Broken Top Loop, of course. More walking among lava flows for this section, but it turned into walking along much simpler terrain as I progressed down the Wilderness trail. Mostly flat, but a long 4 miles before the trail supposedly ended. Looking at the maps, I appeared to continue for a mile or so past the end of the trail, though! I ended up on the side of a cinder cone, taking in some great views of the wilderness before turning back around.

Overall, the Wilderness Trail was simply magnificent. Although it didn’t have the remarkable lava flows that make up so much of the more accessible areas of the park, I thoroughly enjoyed what there was. The Lava Trees were somewhat underwhelming to me, to be honest, but the hike still became an easy favorite in the park for its quiet solitude and beautiful views of so many volcanic features.

IMG_6258Turning around, I decided to do the remaining portion of the Broken Top Loop trail as well. I simply love the volcanic features visible from all over that loop, and the views at several places along the hike were simply magnificent as well! The Broken Top Loop would be significantly easier without adding in the Wilderness Trail, of course, but it was absolutely worth it!

With a long day in the wilderness area of the park completed, I headed back to camp for some nice rest. A great weekend at one of my favorite preserves in the country complete!


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