Inferno Cone Trail is a short but steep path up the cinder cone at the center of the scenic loop drive in Crater of the Moon National Monument. This 6,181-foot summit provides a panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic landscape. Inferno Cone Trail is just half a mile round trip with 160 feet of elevation gain. The killer overview of Craters of the Moon is well worth the effort.
As you begin hiking up Inferno Cone, you might wonder how the great heap of cinder was created. A panel at Inferno Cone Overlook explains:
Cinder cones form when gas-rich volcanic froth erupts high into the air and then piles in a mound.
As you power your way up Inferno Cone Trail, keep in mind that you are walking on the settled fragments of a massive volcanic explosion. This hike is short and the directions are simple. Start at Inferno Cone Overlook and march up the worn track ascending the dark rock of the face of the cinder cone. When you get to the top, simply walk around and enjoy the views.
You will not find a crater on the top of the cone. The source of the eruption was buried by the collection of wind-swept cinders. What you will find is an excellent overview of the Great Rift, the volcanic area preserved by Craters of the Moon National Monument. To the east is a long stretching lava field. Big Cinder Cone, visible to the south, rises to 6,515 and is considered to be one of the worlds largest purely basaltic cinder cones. Silent Cone and Snow Cone are visible to the west, and there are other cinder cones to admire to the north. The views are wide in every direction from this 6,181-foot cone. There is a single tree, an iron-willed juniper rising above a patch of sagebrush on the round summit, which is the only thing capable of obscuring the panoramic views.
Leave Inferno Cone the same way you came up. You can see the trailhead from the top of the cone, so there is no risk of getting lost. There is an $8 national park entrance fee to reach this trail in Craters of the Moon National Monument, but no permit is required. Dogs are not permitted.
To get to the trailhead: Whether you approach Craters of the Moon from Blackfoot along Interstate 15 to the east or from Twin Falls along Interstate 84 to the west, it is an approximately 90 minute drive off the freeway to Craters of the Moon National Monument, located along US Route 20/26/93 (three routes in one), 19 miles southwest of the town of Arco and 24 miles northwest of the town of Carey. Turn into the main entrance for the monument on the south side of the road and proceed 2.8 miles into the park to the trailhead. The hike begins from Inferno Cone Overlook, located on the left, 0.8 miles after the split in loop road.
Trailhead address: Loop Road, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Arco, ID83213
Trailhead coordinates: 43.444881, -113.555657 (43° 26′ 41.57″N 113° 33′ 20.36″W)
This 1.6-mile hike travels above and below the surface, exploring lava tubes in the Great Rift Lava Flow.
|Lava Flow Campground|
This seasonal 51-site campground sits on a lava field near the entrance to Craters of the Moon National Monument.