Visiting Craters of the Moon National Park
A visit to the moon. Craters of the Moon. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Arco, ID was a great drive-by on our journey. At this point in our trip we hadn’t yet purchase the Airstream, so the Expedition was it… we had planned to tent camp in the Craters of the Moon campground but quickly discovered that wouldn’t be a good idea. The campground is really cool looking but its not cool. The land was volcanic and therefore is covered in dried lava. Its black and hard. So, that created 2 major problems for us. #1 being it was HOT! Our car was registering well over 100 degrees. #2 it would have been nearly impossible to stack our tent and it was windy. After some debate we decided to skip the camping and basically do this park as a drive-by. It isn’t a large preserve (the easily accessible part.)
We started by stopping at the Visitor Center to double the rules about dogs. As we had expected that meant we really couldn’t do any of the hikes, the dogs weren’t allowed on the trails and there was no place to put them. The caves, which are the big attraction were off limits to us. We did learn at the Visitor’s Center that you need to have a pair of shoes that you haven’t worn into another cave in the past 5 yrs. They are worried about White-Nose syndrome. The paved loop road was our best bet to get a good feel for the park. There are a lot of backcountry roads that my husband was itching to explore, if only his 2 door jeep wasn’t stuck in Florida.
Our total time in the park was 3 hours. The first hour was spent in the visitors center reading the displays. The second 2 were spent on the road. We drove all of the paved road, taking every off-shoot so we could see as much as possible with out limited freedom. I highly recommend you bring food and water. They don’t offer a whole lot in the Visitors Center and the town of Arco isn’t what I would call close.
We made all of the highlight stops from the map, which you can pick up in the Visitors Center. My favorite was the North Crater Flow stop. It is a short trail that goes through the youngest flows. This was a fun stop for the kids, my little toddler could easily walk it and was interested in having the signs read to him.
Our experience at Craters of the Moon was rushed. It was a big reason we decided to buy the Airstream. The fact that we couldn’t tent camp, we couldn’t leave the dogs and couldn’t visit the caves was a big bummer. We got to see the preserve but not really experience it. That being said if you only have a short time to visit you should go! If you have never seen an old lava flow, there is nothing really like it. The fields of black come out of no-where. The temperature rise when you reach the inferno landscape or “garden-of-doom” as Tyler called it was intense, rising at least 10 degrees just at the entrance.
We are planning to revisit Craters of the Moon in the future, with the Airstream and with clean shoes.