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Odessa Craters

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This area north of Odessa is dotted with geological oddities: craters left in the aftermath of the Great Missoula Floods. The craters range in appearance from a simple deep hole in the ground to a vast depression a quarter mile around--looking almost look like a meteor might have glanced across the steppe landscape.

New parking areas with trail signage guiding folks to these craters make it easy to enjoy them. For the first stretch of your legs, hike 0.5 mile northeast from the parking area to the Amphitheater Crater--one of the bigger pits to explore. There is a faint trail in places and game trails in other areas--even a little bit of flagging in winter of 2003. Return to your vehicle but keep walking northwest for a 0.5-mile loop to Rose Crater. As you explore the lands around the holes, enjoy the rich sagebrush ecosystems and the presence of some beautiful birds. This area boasts a sizeable population of horned larks.

After enjoying nearly a mile of walking around the Rose and Amphitheater Craters, drive your vehicle northwest another 0.3 mile on SR 21 and turn left into the parking access for the Cache Crater Trail (we spotted a herd of seven mule deer here during our research visit).

Cache Crater Trail winds 0.2 mile to a deep pit of a crater. Though the distance is short, the beauty is great. Enjoy the wildflowers and the wildlife. In addition to the deer, you'll likely see quail along the path, and hawks high above.
Driving Directions:

From Vantage, drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 206, signed "State Route 21-Lind/Odessa." After exiting, turn left and drive 18.1 miles north on SR 21 into Odessa. Continue 6.7 miles past Odessa on SR 21 to a parking area signed for "Odessa Craters."

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 3 trip reports for this hike.
Odessa Craters — Apr 13, 2014 — Steve A & CJ
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: No water source
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As of April 13, 2014, the trail was well marked and easy to navigate thanks to the efforts of the Fu...
As of April 13, 2014, the trail was well marked and easy to navigate thanks to the efforts of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) of Odessa High School.

Wildflowers were blooming and birds were singing in the clear skies.

The trail has on small uphill jaunt if you choose to take the hike counter-clockwise from the trailhead. Either direction will give the hiker a nice hour long walk if stopping to take photos.

Approximately 1/4 mile north is yet another crater which is easily walked to in a matter of minutes. A stroller with wider wheels could be pushed here. The are two benches set for viewing, one alone the trail, the other at the crater.

Several hikers with dogs were met during the hike to Amphitheater Crater. Kids could also easily hike this if they had the desire to do a mile.

There are no water sources, so bring your own. Better yet, finish the trip with lunch back in town at them Odessa Drive-In.
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Odessa Craters — Mar 12, 2011 — runbrianj
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Water on trail
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We (my wife and 3 kids aged 3-9) enjoyed hiking to a couple of the craters today. Coming from the n...
We (my wife and 3 kids aged 3-9) enjoyed hiking to a couple of the craters today. Coming from the north, we first parked on the west side of the road at a well-marked turnout. It was a short hike and the trail looked newly-surfaced with some kind of crushed rock. There were two benches along the trail which also looked pretty new, as well as a sign-kiosk at the trailhead.

I'm not sure I really understand the geology . . . do a little Google-ing and find someone who knows what they're talking about. It was a weird, rocky, hole-in-the-ground.

We drove south from there about 1/2 mile and then parked at another well-signed turnout on the east side of the road. This trail also features new-looking improvements. The route from the trailhead makes a big loop and the terrain is pretty rocky overall. Mostly, it looks newly-routed like it needs a few hundred people to hike on it to wear it in.

We liked the frequent posts marking the trail, and they even feature arrows so you know where to turn. It was probably a 1-2 mile loop. The kids stumbled a few times on the uneven surface, but it was a good hike. We saw some small yellow wildflowers, which surprised me considering it's early March! The main sight on the trail is Amphitheater Crater (I believe that's what it's called). You drop down into a basin that has a small lake, and there are a couple concentric fins of rock ringing around the pool. I'm pretty sure it's a geologically-unique situation.

I also liked the fact that, with it being early in the season, there were no issues with rattlesnakes and mosquitoes. You'd want to really have the deet and watch your step in the summer. We did have some issues with mushy spots in the trail, but nothing we had much trouble hopping over or routing around.
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Ring Dike Craters, Odessa — May 01, 2006 — Kim Brown
Day hike
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Ring Dike Craters. I’m not making this up! Several years ago, I purchased a book by Marge & Ted Mu...

Ring Dike Craters. I’m not making this up! Several years ago, I purchased a book by Marge & Ted Mueller – ""Fire, Faults & Floods"" from the University of Idaho Press, which details the topography of the entire area affected by the Bretz and Missoula floods. In it are detailed descriptions of the various affects of the basalt flows and subsequent floods, and where to find examples. Ring dike craters seemed like a really neat thing to go see. So I did.

Ring dike craters are a little difficult for me, a layperson, to describe without being charged with plagiarism – if you buy the book, you’ll see excellent diagrams. Ring dikes were formed by huge pools of still-molten basalt lava that lay beneath a cooled and hardened surface-layer of lava. These underground molten pools spewed up and out through cracks in the hard layer, creating dikes. The Bretz Floods then came along and tore off the original top hardened layer of basalt, then washed out the molten lava, and what remained were the solidified dikes in a ring formation. They look like great doughnuts laying all over the place.

Several can be seen by taking either a very short stroll off the road, and the largest, Cinnamon Roll, it’s called, can be seen from the road. The picture is probably boring – but if you go see it in person, it’s exciting, as is the twisty road leading to the area.

A very deep crater, Cache Crater, is accessible by a short gravel path. 2 others are in the area, and accessible via a short cross-country stroll through BLM land. Cache Crater and Wild Garden Crater signs are easily spotted from the road.

This was part of a 4 day road trip. The last day, as I was breakfasting at a hotel in Othello, I met a geologist who is assigned to work on the Sprague Lake signage of the new Federally commissioned Channeled Scablands trail. It was approved by Congress about 2 years ago. From what I understand, all the roads leading to the various points of interest already exist; however viewpoints to various formations will be created or existing ones upgraded. Signs such as the one my new friend is working on will be put in place, and of course a map of the road routes will be provided. It was exciting to meet him, and his wife was only too glad to turn him and his geo-rambling over to me for an hour while she read the paper and chatted with her daughter. According to this gentleman, the signs will be in place by Fall, 2006. I don’t know when the project officially opens.

To see the craters: From Odessa, continue north 5.2 miles on Hwy 21. Cinnamon Roll is on the corner of Hwy 21 and Trejbal Back Road. (the property opposite the Roll is privately owned). There are more craters on the Lakeview Ranch (BLM property) – see Alan Bauer and Dan Nelson’s book, ""Best Desert Hikes"" for directions and trip descriptions to Lakeview Ranch. See Muellers’ ""Fire, Faults and Floods"" for directions to various ring dikes within the Lakeview Ranch.

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odessa craters kim brown.jpg
Odessa Craters. Photo by Kim Brown.
Eastern Washington -- Spokane Area
Bureau of Land Management, Spokane
Roundtrip 2.0 miles
Highest Point 1700 ft
User info
Good for kids
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Moses Lake

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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