By Marc Bowen
Volcanic Tuff Cone
In east Idaho near the town of Menan are twin buttes known as the North and South Menan Buttes. The north butte is also known by locals as “R” Mountain because of the big white ‘R’ painted on its north face. The south butte (the smaller of the two buttes ) is privately owned. The north butte is publicly owned and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. The buttes are two of the worlds largest volcanic tuff cones.
I wrote about these tuff cones and hiking this area in great detail on my blog last year. You can read that post by clicking this link: Hiking The Volcano – N Menan Butte
Hiking The Butte
This hike is 4.2 miles out and back with 1,089 feet of elevation gain. The trail leads up the west face and then follows the rim around the entire crater and back. The hike to the rim of the crater from the trailhead will get your heart pumping. I have hiked this trail 6 times in the past 8 weeks (in the months of April and May). It’s close to my home and I can hike it early in the morning and be home by 9 or 10am. It’s a great workout and is good preparation for some more difficult hikes in the months to come.
The images in this post I shot over a period of two months. The images are dated as I thought it would be fun to show the surrounding landscape as the seasons change.
Coming up the west side of the butte you know your near the top when you get to a line of steel posts connected to each other with a chain (above image to the right of the big rock formation). The footing is very poor in places and the chain gives you something to hold on to.
Because of the geology of this place caves and varied rock formations are a common sight. This one (above) is to the left of the trail near the top.
Just past that formation looking back down the slope at the trailhead parking area.
Once you’ve made it to the top of the trail you will be standing on the rim of the buttes cratered center. Now you’re on the rim trail and can go left (above photo), right (scroll down to next photo) or even walk a trail down through the middle of the crater (not shown).
I have arranged my photos in a sequence as if hiking to the right around the crater. As you hike this direction you can see (in this photo above) across the crater into the valley to the east toward Rigby, Ririe and the distant hills.
As the trail curves around the south side of the butte you can see South Menan Butte, the town of Menan is across the river in the middle right in the above photo and Idaho Falls is in the middle distance at the base of the hills.
If you compare this panoramic image (above) with the one above it you can see the difference 5 weeks makes. Crops are growing and summer colors and foliage have arrived.
Looking back to the east from the trail across the crater, part of the valley between Rexburg and Rigby can be seen.
As the rim trail curves east you will arrive at a formation of rocks called the ‘Wind Bowl’. This is a fantastic formation and almost seems like the landscape should be part of another planet. Great area to do some ‘bouldering’ … Looking south across the bowl you can again see South Butte.
There is a time span of six weeks between the above two photos.
Below is a video clip of the Wind Bowl recorded on 4/10/18. ‘click’ to play
Above is a another photo of the Wind Bowl from a different perspective.
Below is the most recent video clip of the Wind Bowl.
(above photo) Looking east towards Rigby and Ririe and the point where the Henrys Fork and South Fork of the Snake River come together. You can see some of the current flooding. Snow melt has caused all the rivers and streams to run at higher than normal levels the last month or so.
Again in the above photo the view is to the east as this is the east side of the butte. Part of the Teton mountain range can be seen on the horizon.
I took the above photo as I hiked the trail around the north side of the butte heading west. This is looking south across the crater to the south rim and South Butte beyond that.
If you look north from the trail on the north rim the St. Anthony Sand Dunes can be seen in the distance with the city of Rexburg to the right of that (above photo).
In the above photo I am looking west across the desert towards the Lost River Range of mountains.
Another one of the many rock formations in the area and another view into the buttes crater.
I shot the above image as I was hiking south along the west rim of the crater. The orange-colored rock formation across the crater on the other rim is the area where the Wind Bowl is located.
My daughter Nicole (above photo) joined me on the May 15th hike. Looking out over the parking lot below and the Deer Parks Wildlife Management Area across the highway.
Below is a video clip shot from the northwest rim in April of this year.
Another view (above photo) looking down on the parking lot / trailhead and the Deer Parks WMA.
Above is another view from the same area but shot over a month earlier.
The above two images were shot a month apart at slightly different angles.
I shot this last image as I was headed back down the west face of the butte.
As I mentioned before I usually hike this trail early mornings with cool temperatures, beautiful light and colors surrounding me, and few people around. Sometimes I’ve had the butte all to myself and its a perfect time to change perspectives and remember whats most important in my life. Just being outside breathing the fresh air and having the sun shine upon me energizes my soul and changes my mood for the better.