Craters of the Moon is well-named for its otherworldly appearance. Alternating patches of chaotic black rock and reflective black sand make up the landscape nearly as far as you can see. The park has a loop road (and caves that we didn’t have time to stop at) where you can see many of the different terrains. There was even a large hill I could scramble up.
Craters of the Moon is a misnomer, though, for how it formed. The landscape is not made up of craters and doesn’t really have much to do with the lunar landscape–except in appearance. The monument is actually is made up of cooled lava fields that escaped from a continental rift zone.
Stretching forces on the Earth’s crust opened up a tear (called a rift) in the land, and lava from the Earth’s mantle seeped out. Here the stretching of the land was thought to be caused by pressure from the nearby Yellowstone Caldera. As you may know, the continent moves westward over the Yellowstone hotspot. Had we wanted to visit this land ~10 million years ago, we would have had to look in Yellowstone National Park!
While we didn’t have as much time to explore the park as we wanted, it was still neat to drive the scenic loop and see the landscape. We hope to return someday to explore the caves and to sleep at the campground set out in the middle of this barren landscape. But for now, we must continue eastward!