Only a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know this place existed. My friend from Boise invited us down to Idaho for the weekend and she suggested a bunch of cool things to do, and Craters of The Moon National Preserve was one of them. After receiving her text I instantly googled it and my first reaction was ….uhhhh what? This is an actual preservation site?? After doing some research I realized I was trying to compare this place to the other national parks around me. Lush green trees and beautiful lakes cover the Pacific Northwest’s national parks, but there are other landscapes worth visiting/preserving too! Berty and I drove over 1,500 miles in one weekend to see it with our own eyes and to find out if it was worth its title. Let’s just say this park did not disappoint. If you have any hesitation about visiting a place with no trees, shade, or water (lol) let me clear some things up for you:
- Craters of The Moon National Park was established in 1924
- The park preserves over 400 square miles of lava fields
- Located only a 3-hour drive away from Boise, Idaho
- Camping is available, though it gets busier during June/July/August
Why You Should Visit Craters Of The Moon
1. Craters of The Moon Looks Exactly Like The Moon (Not like we’ve been there, but you get the gist)
If you are interested AT ALL in going to space, come check this place out. Originally a site for loads of volcanic activity, the US has preserved this site full of beautiful pitch black structures, lava flows, and tunnels to explore. It was awesome climbing up cinder cones and capturing endless, dark, rocky fields with our cameras. Hopefully next time we can return and see the lava tubes! (They were closed because there’s still snow in them!)
2. You Learn A Ton About Geology
At the visitor’s center right at the entrance of the park, we found helpful staff and a really interesting walk-through museum explaining the strange landscape of the park. We quickly learned about different types of lava, volcanic structures, and the evolution of the land. As we drove through the park, we rattled off our new found knowledge…“Look! Pahoehoe lava! A spatter cone!” There are also several hikes available to take throughout the park, which allow you to experience this landscape up close and personal.
3. It’s Natural Life Is Weird And Breathtaking
Of all the places we’ve traveled around the world, no place compares to Craters of The Moon. In the park, there’s a place called the Devil’s Orchard. Trees are limited in the park, but in this particular place, trees grew and were taken over by another kind of plant. This created a super creepy mutation where the branches of the trees turned and twisted and died. Thus, creating a frightening collection of dead trees and black dirt for a perfectly named “orchard”. Also within the park, you can climb pitch black cinder cones where sagebrush has begun to grow. It’s crazy to me how plants can grow despite such harsh conditions!
4. You Can Camp At The Preserve
At this particular time of year (April) we were one of maybe 5 other groups in the campsite. The water for the site wasn’t going to be turned on for a few more weeks so we had to pack in our own water supply. You are not able to reserve a spot online, so it’s a first come first serve basis when it comes to sites. On a positive note, one night of camping was $8.00. CHEAP! Staying overnight here allowed us to experience an evening in the park, and explore when the sun wasn’t so harsh. We definitely suggest camping if you plan to visit during the peak summer months. We would assume that the average June/July/August temperatures can get pretty dang hot!
5. The 7-Mile Loop Makes It Easy To Explore in One Day
Craters of The Moon makes it easy to run a self-guided tour throughout the park. There are 7 main attractions and each stop has informational signs, facts, and history about each place. You can also pick up a map of the loop and read about each stop along the way. We asked so many questions to the park ranger that he just gave us a gigantic map of the entire preservation! It’s a pretty cool souvenir, so ask and I’m sure they would be happy to give you a copy, too!
Have you ever been to Craters of The Moon? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!
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