Craters of the Moon National Monument and Wilderness Area Hikes

Special Considerations in this Area: Hikers must pay a vehicle entrance fee as well as possess a backcountry permit for overnight trips. Hikers should also bring plenty of water, sunscreen, insect repellant, and flashlights for exploring caves (if desired). Magnetic compasses do not work in the area due to the lava rock’s high iron content, and hikers are urged to stay close to the trail as the area’s massive landscape can be confusing. In addition, the rugged area is known for tearing apart boots, so hikers should plan on wearing backpacking boots with durable tread.
Echo Crater
Distance: 10 miles roundtrip
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: difficult
Usage: light
Location: Drive 18 miles southwest of Arco on US Highway 20/26 to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Following the loop road, turn onto Tree Molds Road to locate the Tree Molds Trailhead.

Traversing across buttes and craters, hikers will wander over a colorful, twisted lava landscape to the Great Rift while enduring desert like conditions. From the trailhead, follow the trail 0.25 miles to the junction with Wilderness Trail. Bear right along Wilderness Trail and utilize cairns to travel between Big Cinder and Half Cone Buttes. At the 3-mile mark, stay to the right at a trail junction while crossing Trench Mortar Flat and proceed to Coyote Butte. Here, travel 0.75 miles northeast to Echo Crater, paralleling the Great Rift to the left. Proceed 1 mile southeast from Echo Crater to reach the large lava cone known as Watchman at the 4.5-mile mark. Staying along the Great Rift to avoid the jagged lava flows off-trail, travel 0.5 miles to the Sentinel’s northwest side. Here, the trail begins its loop back to the trailhead. Best months for hiking are late May to early June and late fall due to extremely hot temperatures during peak summer months.

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