Looking for a vacation destination that literally provides a glimpse into an ancient past? Or maybe you are just a big fan of holes in the earth. Or, just perhaps, the destination you really want to put on your bucket list is the moon, but what are the odds of that happening? The next best thing to visiting the moon may be closer than you think. Tourist attractions designed around craters abound in America.
Craters of the Moon National Monument: Arco, Idaho
Here you will find more than 53,000 acres of landscape that is quite likely the closest of anyone born in the 20th century or the early 21st century is ever going to get to the moon. Volcanic eruptions of magma as recent as 2,000 years ago and as far back as 15,000 years ago resulted in a landscape that is the ultimate geological definition of desolate and foreboding. If you can’t picture yourself as an astronaut traipsing across the lunar landscape by visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument, then perhaps you can see yourself trekking along with Charlton Heston on the rocky path of futuristic earth were apes have evolved from man. Hiking trails are available for the hardy astronaut wannabe while campgrounds provide home base for the visitor who wants the full experience that, depending on when you visit, can include skiing, interpretive walks and spelunking.
Lunar Crater National Landmark: 75 miles east of Tonopah, Nevada
From another perspective, Lunar Crater National Landmark gets you even closer to the astronaut experience than the strangely sci-fi topography of Craters of the Moon National Monument. That perspective is that one looking at things from the historical reality that these volcanic fields were the site of astronaut training in advance of landing on the moon by the Apollo mission in the 1960s. Even though Lunar Crater National Landmark does not possess the expansive quality of looking like a cold and bizarre planet far outside our solar system that is the hallmark of Craters of the Moon, the desolation factor is actually increased due to the primitive tourist amenities found here. Anyone wanting to see not just the massive crater (the result of volcano rather than a meteor, actually) but to experience the poetic profundity of the barren bleakness of being alone on another world should first get some experience right here on the good old terra firma of America.
Crater Lake National Park: Crater Lake, Oregon
If your idea of taking advantage of the craters across America that serve as tourist attractions means diving into the big hole rather than standing on top and looking in, then head to the gorgeous state of Oregon. Crater Lake National Park offers more than 183,000 acres of tourist activity that you probably think of quite naturally when you hear the words “National Park.” Volcanic eruptions over 7,000 years ago brought for both destruction and creation that turned a massive volcano into the big hole in the ground filled with water that has drawn millions of tourists to the Pacific Northwest. If you want to tick off the most impressive craters in America–and in the world, for that matter–then you cannot possibly allow Crater Lake National Park to slip on by. When you go swimming in these waters, you are swimming in the deepest lake in America. Hiking, skiing, biking, camping, snowboarding, snowmobiling and fishing are possible thanks to the momentous blast that marked the death knell of Mount Mazama all those thousands of years ago.