If there is only time for one hike in Craters of the Moon National Monument, North Crater Trail should be the first choice. This trail has more hilly terrain to navigate than most of the others, and it is not a loop, but if a car shuttle to the trailhead at the spatter cones parking area can be arranged, this one-way hike ends up very close to the campground.
The trail starts out with a steep climb on a paved path up to the first of the big craters. This quarter-mile stretch can be done by most hikers and offers a spectacular view for a moderate effort. The North Crater Trail continues around a few more large craters with great views of Big Cinder Butte and the surrounding hills. Climbing down a bit from the big craters, the trail undulates over several ridges, passes a small lava cave, and crosses lava flows. There is a lot of up and down hiking, but the trail is well-graded, and it is not particularly strenuous. The final curve winds along the North Crater Flow and offers a distant view of the campground across the lava field. This part of the trail is also one of the few areas of the park with good cell reception.