Volcanoes and lava flows are evidence that Earth is a somewhat unpredictable place to live. Even we westerners who are used to our bizarre geological environment find it rather odd to have the ground open up and expel molten rock. Yet Idaho and eastern Oregon show evidence of such tumult, and it happened not that long ago.
Scientists estimate that hot lava may have boiled forth as recently as 2,000 years ago at Craters of the Moon National Monument and perhaps as late as 500 years ago at Eastern Oregon’s Jordan Craters. Both sites are intriguing to visit. Each requires about the same travel time from the Boise area, but visitors’ experiences at Craters of the Moon are quite different from those at the Jordan Craters.
Craters of the Moon National Monument is 173 miles east of Boise. People who are new to Idaho can take in a lot of scenery on this road trip. Follow I-84 to Mountain Home and turn east on US 20, marked “Sun Valley.” US 20 intersects with State 75 a few miles south of the Hailey-Ketchum-Sun Valley area — another place worth seeing and only a short side trip away. To reach the Craters of the Moon, stay on US 20 for another 52 miles.
The visitor center at Craters of the Moon is open year around except for some holidays. There is an $8 entry fee per vehicle. The area cannot be seen to the best advantage until mid-April when the auto tour road is open. Hiking the trails is more pleasant when the air temperature is warm but not hot because the wind blows constantly. Visits in May and June or in the fall are most comfortable.
Jordan Craters is 97 miles southwest of Boise. The last 24 miles are unpaved road and the last mile of that stretch is rough. Turns are marked with signs but when in doubt stay on the most-traveled  road. There are no admission fees or facilities at Jordan Craters.
People who are new to the area can get a taste of the real west on this trek. The prime time to visit is mid-May to the end of June because at that time the trip is not too hot or dusty and the flowers are out. Oceans of blue camas reward the traveler who is willing to invest 2 hours — each way — on the unpaved part of the route. Bring a picnic lunch. Stop for cows. They’ll want to cross the road ahead of your vehicle; it adds a touch of drama to their day. Bring a walking stick too — it makes walking in the cinders easier.
To reach the Jordan Craters, take US 95 south out of the Boise Valley. After crossing into Oregon begin watching the mile post markers. Near mile post 12, turn west on Jordan Craters Road.

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