Craters of the Moon – Bridge of Tears Loop

Location Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
Distance 16 miles
Total Elevation Gain negligible
Topographic Map


Craters of the Moon doesn’t offer much in terms of long distance trails, but offers quite a bit of vast and beautiful wilderness. In the beginning of June the weather is just starting to warm up and the wildflowers are blazing.

Head out from the Tree Molds parking lot toward the Wilderness Trail. Take that trail to its end at The Sentinel (and hike up it for lunch with a view) then go basically due east. This will require a short trip over some lava that could potentially be avoided if one were to head a good deal south–but I don’t think it is worth it.

Eventually, on the horizon you should be able to spy a six foot tall cairn. The Bridge of Tears area is right around there (slightly east of the cairn). Spend some time checking out the collapsed lava tube features and the electric blue patina on the lava around here. You’re probably the only person who will see it all week!

Turn around and head straight back toward Echo Crater. It should be easy to find on the horizon. It isn’t the close one; that’s probably The Watchman. This part has easy travel fields followed up by a medium-short scramble over some lava. Camp inside of Echo Crater, which offers some meager protection from the wind and some shade.

This is a relatively simple loop that won’t take you over much hard terrain and doesn’t require much off trail expertise–but… you know… be aware of how to use a map and compass. Despite the relatively easy navigation, the toothy ground dissuades most from venturing off trail. This loop, however, only crosses over about a mile of old aa lava flows. Which can be a pain to trip through, but certainly isn’t something difficult to overcome. Get out there and enjoy it.

  • Wind whipped through my tent at night. Glad I put out my guylines.
  • The ranger who gave me my backcountry permit was very grumbly about how difficult my proposed route would be. Turned out to be completely unwarranted. Just have some desert travel experience and don’t be afraid of taking slow terrain slow.
  • The second day will be a super short one–use the extra time to check out the day hikes in the park. They’re really neat!

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