Have I landed on the moon? That thought will definitely cross your mind as you venture across the awesome landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve! Located in Arco, Idaho, this unique area features interesting and breathtaking beauty that was thousands of years in the making! Plan a trip and see for yourself just how amazing it is!
About the Park
The interesting and unique landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument, with its sprawling lava fields and moon-like craters, was formed anywhere between 15,000 to 2,000 years ago as molten lava erupted from deep cracks, known as the Great Rift, which span 52 miles across what is now the park! You’ll encounter several great remainders of the tumultuous eruptions, like pahoehoe, which is lava that once flowed in a ribbon pattern and has hardened into an intricate design. You’ll also get to adventure amongst the cinder cones, which are small-scale volcanoes!
Craters of the Moon has been admired and traversed by humans for thousands of years, with members of the Shoshone and Bannock Native American tribes traversing the area and making use of its resources, with artifacts preserved and later discovered in unearthed lava beds! Western settlers didn’t have hope for the seemingly barren land until an adventurous explorer named Robert W. Limbert extensively explored the area in the early 1900s and learned of its true beauty and wonder! Even astronauts are drawn to the area! Apollo 14 astronauts visited the park before embarking on their mission to the moon to learn about and interact with the volcanic landscape, which is very similar to the surface of the moon! Today, visitors can explore and experience the wonder for themselves! Open year-round and with a cost of only $10 per vehicle, it’s a great inexpensive sight that you just shouldn’t miss!
Plant and Animal Life
Many may assume that the seemingly barren landscape isn’t hospitable for plant or animal life, but the opposite is actually true! Plenty of birds and rodents call this land home, along with nocturnal animals like skunks, foxes, bobcats, owls, and more! Because of the vast number of caves, bats are quite common as well! Various species of shrubs and brush can be found through the landscape, but the springtime brings a surprise that is not expected of the land! Each spring, dozens of species of wildflowers pepper the lava fields and cinder cones, adding splashes of beautiful color across the horizon, proving the adaptive nature of life!
Things To Do
Before you set out to explore the mysterious landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument, stop at the Robert Limbert Visitor Center! Here you can peruse some exhibits, watch some films, take a look in the book store, and more! You’ll be able to obtain permits needed to explore the caves, and you can get valuable information and tips on how best to experience the park!
One of the biggest draws of Craters of the Moon National Monument is the awesome caves! There are five diverse caves open to the public, although there are more within the park that are not available for exploration. From easy, open caves to difficult caves for experienced adventurers, there’s a little something for everyone! You must obtain a permit and submit to a screening before entering any cave in order to prevent white-nose syndrome from spreading from cave to cave, which can be fatal to the park’s bats.
This large, open cave is great for adventurers of any age! At 30 feet high, 50 feet wide, and 800 feet long, it’s cavernous and perfect for exploring! Collapsed portions in the ceiling allows sunlight to illuminate the inside of the cave, so flashlights probably won’t be needed! If you are visiting in the summer, ranger-led guided hikes are offered to Indian Tunnel, so be sure to check with the visitor center!
Boy Scout Cave
This neat cave is fun to explore, and maintains an icy floor year-round! This is a bit of a more difficult cave, as you must crawl over loose rock in order to enter the cave, and is substantially darker, so be sure to bring along at least one flashlight per person!
One of the most challenging caves of Craters of the Moon, Beauty Cave features a 3000-foot long tunnel, where you’ll have to scramble down a rocky slope, which delivers you to a lovely
300-foot long tunnel, scramble down a slope of rocks, ending at a smooth pahoehoe floor! Be sure to bring along extra flashlights as this cave gets really dark once you get away from the open mouth of the cave!
The best activity to participate in during the summer months is hiking the many trails throughout Craters of the Moon National Monument! These trails take you across the lava fields, wind you around the cinder cones, and send you into the shadowy depths of caves! Just be sure to stay on the designated trails in order to keep this fragile ecosystem from sustaining damage!
This great trail spans a total of 1.6 miles and takes you along to explore four of the park’s caves! Be sure to obtain the proper permits before adventuring out, and bring along plenty of flashlights!
North Crater Trail
This hike is awesome if you want to see some variety! You’ll traverse along the North Crater Flow Vent, which is an impressive sight to see! You’ll then scale along the Big Craters, and finish out on the Spatter Cones Trail! It’s lengthy at 3.5 miles, but it’s well worth it!
Broken Loop Trail
As one of the best hikes of the park, this is a great trail if you’re interested in seeing the different geological aspects of Craters of the Moon National Monument! Make your way along the 1.8-mile trail, where you’ll get to see tons of different instances of the results of basaltic eruptions that occurred over the years! It’s a great learning experience with a lot to look at! Be sure to bring along the trail guide for this trail to learn even more!
This trail is only half of a mile long, and is paved and wheelchair accessible so everyone can experience the fun! This trail features a series of exhibits along the way, highlighting the National Park Service’s efforts of preserving this fragile environment, which isn’t an easy feat!
Since this park is open year-round, there is plenty of opportunity for winter fun in Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve! A snow trail is groomed each year and typically spans anywhere from four to seven miles long and is closed to motorized travel, which provides a nice, even area for cross-country skiers and snowshoers to traverse safely! There is also a snowshoe loop, and guided snowshoe walks are held throughout the winter so you can get off the beaten path and explore this intense winter wonderland!
Lava Flow Campground
There is only one campground within Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (except for a single group campsite), so you can get a great night’s sleep and wake up near all the fun! This campground is surrounded by young lava flow! The 42 sites located here are available on a first come, first served basis and reservations are not accepted, so snag your spots early in the day during peak season! The cost is $15 per night in the main season, and only $8 per night after the water has been shut off to the campground. There are no hookups or dump stations available, but you’ll still enjoy water, restrooms, picnic tables, as well as recycling! Prepare your RV in advance for dry camping!
Mountain View RV Park and Restaurant
With spacious sites, a friendly atmosphere, and an unbeatable view, Mountain View RV Park is the perfect spot to stay if you don’t want to stay inside the preserve! With hot showers, free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and even mini golf, it’s a great area to settle down and get some rest! When you don’t feel like cooking, head over to the on-site restaurant, which features amazing ribs, delicious smoked baked potatoes, and an amazing beer garden with craft beer and wine! Give their office a call for more information on the park or for reservations! You can find their contact information here on their website!
Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA
This highly-rated campground is another great, clean place where you can stay comfortably and enjoy some rest after your adventures! You’ll love the modern, clean bathrooms, awesome gift shop, free continental breakfast, paid food delivery right to your campsite, a playground, and daily ice cream socials in the summer. It’s an amazing place to relax! Reserve a spot on their website now!
Enlighten yourself and plan a trip out to marvel at the stunning Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve! It’s both a fantastic learning experience as well as adventure that you won’t find just anywhere! Start planning your trip and leave us a comment telling us what you are most excited to see while exploring this Idahoan wonder!