After our stop in Yellowstone, we pushed on into Idaho and camped at Crater of the Moon NM&P. It is such a cool place! It is named because of the lava rocks that make the area look moon-ish. Who would have thought that once, in the middle of nowhere (Idaho is a lot of that!), there were volcanoes and they erupted and now we have this landscape that looks like the moon, and lava tunnels that have collapsed in such a way that many are caves you can go into and explore?
The monument area was very small in comparison to the rest of the preserved area. We spent about three hours exploring the trails and caves, and accomplished 95% of what the area had to offer, save for one four mile trail (one way) and the back-country trail.
Funny story I will always remember: We got to the park about mid afternoon and set up camp. Being that the area we were in is very desert-like (I’m not sure if it actually classified as a desert) and is was super hot out, we decided to leave the rainfly off the tent. It was after 3 pm, and really, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so we were not worried about the weather in the slightest bit.
We explored the shorter trails, went up the side of an old volcano (which is now just a large hill), went into the caves… then it started to rain. Big, fat drops. We were pretty wet by the time we got back to the car. And so was our tent. Total rain shower time: 20 ish minutes.
This is DEFINITELY a place we want to go again!
Tips if going:
This park is not a national park, but they are trying to become one, and they also offer a stamp for the Passport books at the visitor center.
It is not very crowded so there is plenty of campsites available. It is also much less expensive to camp here; I think it was $8-10/night, which is much better than the $20-30/night in most of the National Parks.
Open fires are NOT permitted; charcoal grills only. The grills are provided in each campsite and charcoal can be purchased at the visitor center.
There were flush toilets and running water in the restrooms, which was surprising to me.
Bring a flashlight for the caves! They were so cool to go into and poke around. The difference in temperature between the top of the earth and just a few meters down is amazing.
You must have a permit stamped with the current day in order to enter the caves. The rangers give these out for free; you just have to ask. We left ours on the dash of the driver’s side of the car. Others carry it with them.
Side note: Because of the spread of the White Nose Syndrome in bats, you CANNOT wear/bring anything into the caves that has been previously worn/brought into a different cave/mine within the past ten years. This includes shoes, flashlights, watches, hats etc. For example: If you visit Colorado and take a mining tour or explore Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs before heading to Idaho, any clothing/item that was brought into the caves/mines of Colorado CANNOT be worn/brought into the caves in Craters of the Moon NM&P. The rangers ask you this as you enter the park.