Craters of the Moon National Monument {National Parks with Kids}

Sometimes, you find the coolest things in the most unexpected places.  And sometimes, those things mean you have to pull off the highway and discover them.

In March, we took a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park.  It's one of my happy places, especially being back in the mountains.  On the way back to Washington, we took the southern route and discovered a cool treasure somewhat off the beaten path in Idaho--Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located along the Snake River Plain and is actually lava beds!  The volcano in the area last erupted about 2000 years ago, but there could still be activity at some point.    The park is full of lava cones, including spatter cones, and lava tubes, perfect for exploring, though our winter trip limited much of it.

Since the weather precluded much exploring, we did stop into the visitor center to discover more about the park and for the kids to participate in the Junior Ranger program.  The ranger on duty told the kids that it is the only place on earth where you can become a "Lunar Ranger".  The kids both earned their patches to add to their National Parks collection.

The park is beautiful, especially covered in snow, but we were a little sad that some of the access roads were shut down.  The weather affects how much of the park is available (sort of like Yellowstone).  Depending on our summer trips, we are hoping to pass that way again and see some more of the park.  I have a feeling it will be beautiful in the sunny weather.

Cool Things We Learned:
  • NASA Astronauts used Craters of the Moon National Monument to learn more about geology and how to collect rock specimens on the moon, since the moon is covered with many volcanic materials.
  • Goodale's Cutoff, part of the Oregon Trail route, is located within the National Monument.  
  • It is the only park where kids can earn a "Lunar Ranger" patch, until they open national parks in space!