Craters Of The Moon: Idaho’s Best Kept Secret

Post Summary: Why You Should Visit Craters Of The Moon in Southern Idaho

Craters, what? This is in Idaho, you say? Little did we know this national preserve would be the catalyst that drives us back to Idaho over and over…and over again.

Craters of the Moon National Preserve is one of the most unique features in Idaho state. Perfectly preserved lava tubes, cones, and black landscape covers nearly 1 million acres (753,000 to be exact). Between unique photo opportunities and one-of-a-kind-adventures, there are tons of things to do at Craters of the Moon.

In this post, we’re highlighting what we love most about Craters of the Moon in Idaho, tips for visiting, and more adventures to take nearby!

5 Reasons To Explore Craters Of The Moon

Fast Facts about Craters Of The Moon:

  • Craters of The Moon National Preserve was established in 1924.
  • The park preserves over 400 square miles of lava fields.
  • Located only a 3-hour drive away from Boise, Idaho (Even closer if you live in Twin Falls on Idaho Falls!)
  • Camping is available, though it gets busier during June/July/August. Sites are first-come-first-serve, so come early to claim a spot if you plan to camp.
Craters Of The Moon National Preserve - campsite


1. Craters of The Moon Looks Exactly Like The Moon

Okay, it’s not like we’ve gone to the moon, but you get the gist.

If you are interested AT ALL in going to space, come to check this place out. The park even lets astronauts train here to prepare for future moon trips!

Originally a site loaded with volcanic activity, the US has preserved this site full of beautiful pitch-black structures, lava flows, and tunnels for visitors to explore. It was awesome climbing up cinder cones and capturing endless, dark, rocky fields with our cameras.

Craters of the Moon also is home to many lava tubes, four to be exact. In the summer months, you can climb down into these caves and maybe even see some bats!

Pro Tip: Come with lots of gear for sun protection. This includes hats, sunscreen, and long sleeves (I know, even when it’s hot!). There is essentially NO shade in the entire park.

Read More: 101 Road Trip Questions To Ask Your Friends

Craters Of The Moon National Preserve - Cinder Cone

Emily at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve

2. You Will 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.

Read More: A Winter Getaway In Stanley, Idaho (A 2-hour drive away from Craters Of The Moon)

Emily at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve
Rocks of Craters Of The Moon National Preserve
Craters Of The Moon National Preserve Rocks

3. Its Natural Life Is Weird And Breathtaking

Of all the places we’ve traveled around the world, no place compares to Craters of The Moon.

Case in point – in the park, there is a place called the Devil’s Orchard. Trees are limited in the park, but in this particular place, trees grew but 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, gnarled 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!

Read More: 11 Stunning Places To Visit In The Inland Northwest

Lone tree at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve

Dead Tree at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve

4. You Can Camp At Craters Of The Moon

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. 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!

Didn’t get a spot in the park? We use an app called The Dyrt to help us find spots in the area for last-minute camping. We have the PRO version to utilize offline browsing so we can use it without cell service! Try their pro membership free for 90-days when using our code MANDAGIES90!

Pro Tip: Looking for quick and easy food to make on the road? Read our easy camping meals post for cheap and fast ideas!

Read More: Car Camping 101: The Complete Guide To Sleeping In Your Car

Craters Of The Moon National Preserve Camping
Morning at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve

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. Y

ou 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!

Pro Tip: Use our road trip planner tools to make it your best trip yet!

Read More: 30 Road Trip Essentials You Need To Be Packing

Parking lot of Craters Of The Moon National Preserve
Berty at Craters Of The Moon National Preserve
Mountains of Craters Of The Moon National Preserve

Want More Ideas To Explore Idaho?

Idaho is one our of favorite places to explore, and we’ve only scratched the surface. To help you plan your own adventure (which includes Craters of the Moon, of course!) here is a clickable map to help you discover new places to see!

Idaho Blog Posts:

[interactive_map id=”12″]

Have you ever been to Craters of The Moon? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!

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Want more location inspiration for your next trip? Follow our Landscapes Board on Pinterest!

2 thoughts on “Craters Of The Moon: Idaho’s Best Kept Secret

  1. Looks amazing! Id love to visit, Im just one state away and I cant belive I haven’t been!

    Ps I love your blog!

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