Hiking Inferno Cone: A Summit With The Best Views Of Southern Idaho

Inferno Cone is a huge cinder cone at the center of Craters Of The Moon National Monument. At the top of the 6,181 foot summit are spectacular views of the park and its volcanic, moon-like landscape.

Inferno Cone Hike At Craters Of The Moon National Monument

Hiking to the top of Inferno Cone is one of the top things to do at Craters of the Moon National Monument and well worth the effort to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding vast landscape, especially because most of this national park is inaccessible unless you’re willing to go backcountry hiking.

Inferno Cone Trail Details

  • Distance: 0.50 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 160 feet
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Time: 30 – 45 minutes
  • Best Time To Hike: year round
  • Trailhead: Inferno Cone Trailhead
  • Restrooms: no
  • Camping: no
  • Dogs: not allowed

The trail up to the top of the summit and back down is only 0.5 miles so you won’t have to dedicate too much time to this activity. If you only have time to complete one hike at Craters of the Moon, this should be it!

Inferno Cone is stop #4 along the 7 Mile Loop Road through Craters of the Moon National Monument after the Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail.

Inferno Cone At Craters Of The Moon National Monument

What Is A Cinder Cone?

You might be wondering what exactly is Inferno Cone and how was it created? Inferno Cone is a cinder cone which is the simplest type of volcano, although not a volcano.

A cinder cone is a steep conical hill of loose pyroclastic fragments such as volcanic ash or cinder that has been built around a volcanic vent. The pyroclastic fragments are formed by explosive eruptions or lava fountains from a single vent.

As gas charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as either cinders or scoria around the vent to form a cone that is often symmetrical with slopes between 30 and 40° with a round crater at the summit.

Inferno Cone is a unique cinder cone though because unlike other cinder cones, it does not have a crater at its summit.

Hiking Up Inferno Cone

The trail to Inferno Cone’s summit begins along the 7 Mile Loop Road at the Inferno Cone Overlook. At the trailhead there is a large parking lot with several information boards that explain the nature of cinder cones.

Looking up, you’ll notice there is no official hiking trail to the summit. March up the side of this cinder cone any which way you want starting at the Inferno Cone Overlook.

The hike up is very steep with no switchbacks to ease the climb up but the trail is short and it won’t be too long before you reach the summit. It takes approximately ten to fifteen minutes to reach the top.

Once you reach the summit you might be surprised to see there is no crater. Inferno Cone is unusual to other cinder cones in that it has no crater at its summit.

You might also be surprised by how much vegetation there is at the top of the summit. There are several patches of sagebrush and a single juniper tree that stand in stark contrast to the black soil.

The panoramic views from the top are outstanding and include a sweeping overview of the Great Rift which is the volcanic area preserved by Craters of the Moon National Monument. Miles and miles can be seen in every direction!

The area around here was shaped by volcanic activity and not so long ago. In fact, the most recent volcanic activity happened here only 2,000 years ago when eruptions similar to those currently happening in Hawaii created what you see in the park today.

The lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument are some of the largest and best preserved in the world!

Inferno Cone’s summit offers some of the best views in Southern Idaho.

In the distance to the north are the Pioneer Mountains, to the northeast is the Lost River Range which includes Idaho’s tallest peak – Mount Borah (12,662 feet), and to the east is Big Southern Butte (7,550 feet) which is near Arco.

Landmarks that can be seen inside the park boundaries include Paisley Cone (6,107 feet) and Sunset Cone (6,410 feet), as well as a massive lava field to the east. Big Cinder Cone rises to the south (6,515 feet) and Silent Cone and Snow Cone are visible to the west.

We spent a good thirty minutes at the summit soaking in the views and taking pictures of the incredible scenery.

The only downside was how extremely windy it was. The wind was blowing so hard that it was making walking very difficult. We had to hang onto our hats during the entire hike.

Keep in mind it is usually windy at Craters of the Moon National Monument due to its elevation (the park sits at an elevation of 5,900 feet) and because it’s a vast stretch of land without any features to break up the wind so be prepared for gusty weather! Especially at the summit of Inferno Cone.

Take your time to soak in the views from the park’s best viewpoint before heading back down to the parking lot the same way you came up. Once back at the parking lot you can continue onto stop #5, the Spatter Cones.

Here are some other fun hikes at Craters of the Moon:
Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail
North Crater Trail
Broken Top Loop
Caves Trail

Craters Of The Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument charges a fee to enter. Fees are $20 per vehicle or $15 per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot or bike the fee is $10 per person. You can also purchase an annual national park pass which will give you entry into all U.S. national parks for an entire year.

See here for a complete Guide To Visiting Craters Of The Moon which covers information on hikes, caves, camping, and more.

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