Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is one of the most unique landscapes in Idaho. The area was formed by volcanic activity between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago. During this time, eight major periods of volcanic eruptions created deep cracks in the earth and lava fields that grew to cover 618 square miles.
Today, visitors can explore these unique volcanic features over miles of hiking trails and roadways. The seven mile loop road through the park gives campers a great overview of the area. Then, dive in and hike the Caves Trail or Broken Top Loop Trail which connect with the five explorable caves at Craters of the Moon.
At night, the area is perfect for star gazing. Campers can see the Milky Way with binoculars or, on a good night, the naked eye.
During the winter months, the trails transform into tracks for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Lava Flow Campground is open to RV campers May through November. The campground offers 42 sites with a limited number available to RVs and trailers. Sites are first come, first served. No hookups are available, but guests can access restrooms and drinking water. Each site includes a charcoal grill and picnic table.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is located 18 miles southwest of Arco, Idaho, and 24 miles northeast of Carey, Idaho.
Park officials recommend that visitors do not try to enter the park using digital navigation systems. These systems usually send guests down incorrect and unpaved roads. The park entrance and visitor center are located on a paved roadway off of U.S. Highway 20/26/93.
Roads leading into park areas and into the campground are paved, making them easy to navigate by RV or while towing a trailer.
The area features a variety of trails for exploring the monument as well as a seven mile long loop drive through the area.
Biking is allowed on roads and trails except during the winter months. All bicyclists must wear a helmet.
Parking is available at each site in the campgrounds. Additional parking can be found at the visitor center. Park only in designated areas, and do not park along roadways.
Lava Flow Campground is open to RV campers May through November. Campers can enjoy the charcoal grill and picnic table provided at each site. The campground offers 42 different sites with no hookups and a small number of them are available to RVs and trailers. Sites are first come, first served. Guests can access restrooms and drinking water and generator use is allowed except for during quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
In 2017, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve was designated as an International Dark Sky Park. Because of its location far away from city light pollution, visitors can observe unobstructed views of the Milky Way and other stars, planets, and celestial events like meteor showers.
Star Parties are held at the park each spring and fall for public night sky viewing with the Idaho Astronomical Society. During the summer, rangers lead full moon hikes.
Visitors to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve can start their experience at the Robert Limbert Visitor Center. The visitor center is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Here, guests can explore exhibits that share the ecological and cultural history of the area and teach about the wildlife that call the unique landscape home. There is also a collection of educational films for viewing. Restrooms are available.
Though park trails are closed to motorized vehicles during the winter months, the park opens a special winter trail made for exploring the monument in the snow. The trail is typically four to seven miles long and designed for cross-country skiers. The entire loop can typically be traveled in two to four hours.
Snowshoers can follow markers each winter to trek the one mile Snowshoe Loop Trail. Scheduled snowshoe walks happen Saturdays in January and February for snowshoers of all experience levels and even first timers.
During the summer months the monument offers a variety of guided programs and special events led by park rangers. Daily programs include hikes to the volcano, ranger-led exploration of the caves, and interactive presentations on the natural and cultural history of Craters of the Moon National Monument. The Junior Ranger program allows kids of all ages, and even adults, to learn how to be a park ranger. On Friday evenings, rangers lead astronomy programs at the amphitheater in the campground.
Craters of the Moon National Monument has five caves open to public exploration. By following the Caves Trail, guests can access four of these caves. The fifth cave is located on the Broken Top Loop Trail. The Caves Trail is paved to the cave entrance.
Once inside the caves, the trails are rocky and uneven due to the natural lava surfaces. The Indian Tunnel is rated easy and a great choice for beginners. The Broken Top Loop Trail is unpaved and comprised of lava surfaces, compacted cinders, and loose lava rocks. The trail is rated at moderate difficulty, but once visitors reach the cave, the trail becomes difficult. A free cave permit is required.
Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy exploring a truly unique landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument. By taking the 1.6 mile Caves Trail, hikers can travel through the monument on a paved trail. The trail also connects to four of the monument’s caves that are open to visitation. The Broken Top Loop Trail is a more difficult climb at 1.8 miles and is unpaved. It also takes visitors past Buffalo Cave. Other popular trails include the one hour hike to North Crater Flow and the two hour hike to Big Craters.