Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
brown, volcanic hills with blue sky and moon at dusk
Craters of the Moon Camping

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is one of the weirdest places I've ever visited. To say it's in the middle of nowhere is an understatement. Crates of the Moon is also huge , tallying in at 464,304 acres between the "towns" of Arco and Carey, Idaho at 5,900 feet.. When thinking back on my trip to this monument, I had the sense I was driving on another planet. The first view of a lava field is something to behold. Kings Bowl and Wapi lava fields are at least 2,200 years old. The monument is home to cinder cones, spatter cones, shield volcanoes, and other interesting geologic features.

The monument is best known for its three major lava fields. These fields stretch on for as far as you can see, and to observe such terrain while being pummeled by fierce winds is an otherworldly experience. The rugged lava fields lie along the Great Idaho Rift. The deepest open rift crack in the world is in the park, dropping to an astounding 800 feet. Watch your step.

What can the visitor expect? how about twenty five eerie volcanic cones, A single paved road that barely enters the northern section of the park, sparse vegetation that struggles to survive thanks to the black lava. Plant cover is at 15% on "normal" terrain and 5% on the cones. Much of the 15-20 inches of rainfall in the parks seeps into lava cracks, robbing vegetation of any moisture. Crates of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is about as harsh as it gets. The ambiance of the monument is unique in the park system, and worth a visit if you're in the area. The trouble is Craters of the Moon really isn't on the way to any major destinations, although it's not too far from Yellowstone (176 miles west).

huge snake on the road in Idaho
A snake absorbing the heat on the road. Not a wise snake, as it was dusk and I almost ran it over. I prodded it off the road with my monopod.


Upon pulling to Crater Lake Campground, I had to ask my self where I was Immediately you are surrounded by old lava flows, and a hot, bleak landscape. A few pine trees try to cling to existence, and the terrain surrounding you looks like crushed coal. Welcome to Craters of the Moon campground. Also of note is that the camper is a long, long way from anywhere. The nearest town (and I use that term loosely) is 18 miles to the east in Arco. Expect tons of wind, a wickedly cool camping spot amongst lava remnants, and a feeling like you are indeed on another planet. This is the kind of thing campers embrace, of course. Who wants to camp at the same type of sites every time? Those looking for a different camping experience in a remote setting will be pleased with Craters of the Moon campground. Make sure you catch our campground review below.


Craters of the Moon campground facts:

Video Tour available: Coming soon
Open: May to November (snow can close things early)
Sites: 51, no reservations
Laundry: No
Showers: No
Dump Station: No
Store: No ( Arco 18 miles east)
Quiet Hours: 10 am to 6 am
Fee: $10 per site, $6 per site shoulder season
Vehicle length limit: Large trailers and RV's in a few sites only
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Toilets: Yes | Tables: Yes | Fire rings: No fires permitted
Water: Yes
Elevation: 5,868 feet
Fishing: No
Generator: Yes (6 AM to 10 PM)
Gas: No (18 miles east to Arco)
Repairs: No(18 miles east to Arco)
Reservations: Not available


campground road with bathroom and lava flows


Group Campground is located behind Cinder Cone on the north side of Highway 20/26/93. Open May/September by reservation only. Maximum 30 people. Call 208-527-1325 for more group camping information. Unlike the main campground, fires are permitted at the group campground.


Location: 8
Scenery: 9 (based on originality, not "oh wow")
In-campground aesthetics: 9
Unnatural Noise: 6
Cleanliness: 8
Site Privacy: 4

Parkcamper Rating: 7.3/10


winding boardwalk amidst petrified lava flows and cinder cones with blue sky and moon


flowers and old trees with desert feel and sunset hues


camsite in craters of the moon national monument

Campsite at Craters of the Moon National Monument



Coming Soon: Craters of the Moon Campground. Our universal files work on any iPod or computer. Click the iPod to order.

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Yellowstone, Grand Teton,
Badlands and Theodore
Roosevelt National Parks.
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