Go prepared! - Caving Checklist
Out of This World
The Craters of the Moon National Park in Southern Idaho takes in three lava fields consisting of about 500,000 acres. The lava is not from one volcano but from a fissure some 52 miles long on the Snake River plains and part of the Great Rift. Evidence shows that the Shoshone Indians passed this way and left mysterious stone circles. Early emigrants avoided the area for obvious reasons. Curiosity finally led federal geologists to explore the area in 1923 and a subsequent article by National Geographic resulted in the area being named a National Monument in 1924.
The object of this hike is Indian Tunnel. The National Park service uses the terms cave, tunnel, and lava tube to describe these features. In reality these are lava tubes and the Indian Tunnel is the largest of these the public is allowed to enter. It measures 30 feet high, 50 feet wide, and 800 feet long. It is actually longer but has collapsed blocking further exploration.
The trail starts out as a narrow paved trail over and thru the lava field. Several features stand out along the way. The flow of the lava is fairly obvious and the features intriguing. Several areas of tube collapses are present and obvious. The view of the horizon shows a seemingly endless ocean of lava which would certainly turn back most. The summer sun heats the black surface to incredible temperatures yet in the lava tubes along the trail there is ice underground. At the Y intersection bear right for Indian Tunnel. In a short distance there are a few large stone circles attributed to the Shoshone Indians. Tube collapses are on either side of the trail and resemble craters. Soon you arrive at the entrance to Indian Tunnel. A metal stairway was built to assist the descent. Several adjectives come to mind as you enter this huge underground natural feature. Hesitating at the bottom to let your eyes adjust somewhat to the darkness you will note a collapse to the right. The trail goes to the left and with some exceptions is pretty much a scramble thru various size rocks for the next 200 yards. There is no right or wrong way whatever works for you. Occasionally the darkness is broken by one of the many partial collapses of the ceiling which lets in a little daylight. Look carefully and you can find Stalactites hanging from the ceiling. The more adventurous will want to traverses the entire cave which involves scrambling, and crawling thru some small openings. When you come out thru a small opening at the far end rock cairns supporting 3 foot sticks mark the way across the lava field back to the trail for the return trip to the trailhead.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.