Craters of the Moon (Arco, ID)

Adventured: 14 July 2015

If you live in Idaho, or even just driving through, I beg you to make Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve a destination. The park was created in 1924 to preserve the stunning 2,000 year old volcanic site and I’m so glad they did. The eerie, rather desolate landscape requires a moment just to take in, it’s nothing like the other trails you’ll see on this site.

I went over the summer with one of the girls I was interning with and her boyfriend who came up for the weekend from Utah. From Rexburg, it was a little less than 2 hours to get there. I expected to spend about 4 hours there exploring the caves the preserve had to offer but we ended up spending all day, and that was just for the caves. I could probably spend a whole weekend walking the landscape.

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When you arrive, the visitors center is the first building on the left. You’ll have to stop there to get a cave permit, don’t worry, it doesn’t cost anything! The east coast has an issue with a White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which is a fungus that attacks bats and was brought over from Europe. The fungus disrupts the hibernation cycles of bats and usually results in a lot of bat deaths each year. So far, the fungus goes only as far as Oklahoma and Nebraska to the west and conservationist are trying their hardest to keep it that way. The permit is a couple of simple questions to make sure you are not carrying gear that could have come in contact with the fungus in the east so as not to pass it on to the bats in these caves. Though I didn’t see any bats while there, There’s a slight smell in the air once in the caves. Passing the questions leads to a stamp then you’re on your way into the park!

The entrance fee is $10 a vehicle and there were 3 of us so that wasn’t bad at all. There’s a discount for cyclists, bikers, and walkers. Anyone under 15 years old is free so it’s great for families! There is a campground on the property so you have the chance to fully explore the preserve. I wish we could, but we only get one day off a week. If you do plan to go caving, wear pants and bring a headlamp. There’s still snow in those caves during the summer and it’s very dark and wet.

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Both on the website and at the entrance there are maps of the preserve to plan out your day. It’s set up in a loop with a couple of branches off the main loop. Parking is pretty stress free and available in many places so you don’t have to walk miles just to see some things if you don’t want to. Most of the roads are one way and decently sized so walking them or taking your bike isn’t too big of a headache.

There are a number of caves situated together with walking paths so you can park once and explore them all; we went to the stand alone Buffalo caves first before heading to the cluster. My favorite cave was the Boy Scout Cave in the cluster that had two sides. It was cold and damp with a couple tight fits, but when you turn the headlight off and sit in the dark for a few minutes it’s totally worth the trip out.

We were surprised when we noticed the day had flown by and that we should probably head home. We were tired but all decided we could have stayed much longer and visited other sites like the Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail or the Spatter Cones.

The day’s experience truly is hard to put into words, so I’m going to let some photos do that part.

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