From Dinosaur National Monument, I continued my wanderings by taking a drive through the Sheep Creek Geologic area in Utah, followed by a quick but uneventful visit to Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming (maybe third time will bring success), and finally I reached Idaho.
With a few days remaining before I needed to be in Boise for a wedding, I found the perfect place to explore.
Of course my eyes were immediately drawn to the Pioneer Mountains. I wondered how soon they’d be accessible.
I found the geologic history interesting.
These tiny pink monkeyflowers were a great accent to the black volcanic landscape.
I hiked most of the trails with the exception of the Wilderness Trail.
Signage was exceptional.
Since there weren’t many wildflowers I found myself drawn to rocks.
Hiking the Broken Top Loop Trail provides many opportunities for learning. Be sure to grab an interpretive guide from the Visitor Center.
Pahoehoe (ropy) lava flows
Tree molds were one of the more challenging features to find. If you look closely at this picture, there is a trough just above the sign and to the right. Per NPS literature, “tree molds are an impression left in the lava of the charred surface of a tree.”
I also visited several of the lave tube caves including this one on the Broken Top Loop Trail. NOTE: be sure to grab a cave permit from the Visitor Center as one is required to enter caves.
Collapsed lava tube
A benefit of staying in the park campground was hiking at sunset and sunrise. The North Crater Trails begin at the campground.
Views along the North Crater Trail were exceptional.
It was an awesome experience to walk the ridges of the cinder cones, especially early in the morning when I had the place to myself.
Yep, all MINE – even mid morning on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Notice the duck tape on my fender.
If you’re lucky, you might just spy some petrified wood.
Keeping the cinder from shifting isn’t an easy task. Kudos to the trail builders and maintainers. There’s a reason they ask hikers to stay on trail and to respect closed areas.
Look at all that volcanic activity. So much history in one place.
My wildflower finds.
It’s a harsh environment for wildflowers. They are few and far between as demonstrated in the following photo.
I truly love being surprised when places exceed expectations; this one was a home run!
My one frustration this trip was road construction. I got stuck several times waiting my turn in one-way traffic but this incident topped the cake. I’d planned to hike the Caves Trail when I completed my early morning jaunt on North Crater Trail. But, due to construction the normal one-way driving loop to Caves Trail was blocked with only access to Broken Top and Tree Molds trails. Since I’d already hiked Broken Top I hiked the Tree Molds trail. On my return I was happy to find the Caves Trail parking open. I hiked to the various caves but upon returning to my car I found myself and many others included a couple buses of preschoolers blocked in. No one was manning the blocked entrance/exit. I was first in line to exit. We waited and waited and waited as the road has just been sealed. We called the visitor center and they didn’t know status either and weren’t able to contact the contractors. Finally the bus drivers decided to bust through the barricade. What was I to do but follow? HELLO, this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
- Obtain a cave permit from the Visitor Center. It’s free and required to enter the caves. Also grab a copy of the caves interpretative guide.
- Pick up a copy of the free hiking trails guide from the Visitor Center, plus the one detailed for Broken Top.
- If you are interested in geology be sure to ask for the free handout at the Visitor Center.
- Consider staying at the NPS campground. It was worth it for me to have evening and morning access although there is dispersed camping opportunities within 30 minutes of the park.
- Photography is especially challenging under harsh sunlight conditions.
- It’s a HOT place in the summer!