Our Adventures RV'ing

Our Adventures RV'ing

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IDAHO: Craters of the Moon National Park, Arco, ID

We originally had not planned any trips this summer but when we saw  there was going to be a Newmar Kountry Klub rally in Cascade Lake, Idaho we decided to take a summer trip and sneak a getaway to Idaho. We are going to the big International Rally in Colorado in September and it sounded like a fun way to meet some other RV'ers that might also be going to the International Rally. Our tour of Idaho was 11 days and included stops to visit Craters of the Moon, Sun Valley, 2 days boondocking at a campground by the Payette River in Lowman, Idaho, and then on to Cascade Lake. Our last stop would be in Boise so that Mike could visit an old friend from high school and then back home.

First stop was Crater of the Moon National Park https://www.nps.gov/crmo/index.htm

"I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own, that has a curious fascination for me." Theodore Roosevelt

July 21-23, 2016

Craters of the Moon's visitor center is located 18 miles southwest of Arco, Idaho on Highway 20/26/93.

Craters of the Moon formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. Lava erupted from the Great Rift, a series of deep cracks that start near the visitor center and stretch 52 miles (84 km.) to the southeast. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles (1600 square km). This is an amazing area, when you drive the entire loop it seems you are in a totally different world. Barren but alive it was a surreal experience and I am glad we put this on our route.
Stop at the visitor center first and get a map and the permit, which is free, to hike through Indian Tunnel or any of the caves. The permit is necessary to screen you so as to not pass any diseases to the local bat population. https://www.nps.gov/crmo/planyourvisit/cave-permits.htm There is also a small museum that will give the full history of the volcanic activity and the lava flows in the area.
The seven-mile loop road begins after the visitor's center and you will pay your entrance fee at the gate or you can use the annual park pass. There are parking areas at all of the trails. Trail mileages are round-trip distances. Allow half an hour for the drive itself and more time for stopping at viewpoints and for hiking the trails.

 It's pretty barren out here and depending on the time of year it can be very cold or very hot. July can be hot so we got an early start in the morning. It was on the cooler side for July and there was a lot of wind which helped make our hikes comfortable. There is no water inside the park so bring water or fill up bottles at the visitor center and wear good shoes, the trails are paved but when you go into the Indian Tunnel there is more loose rock and will require some rock scrambling. We didn't visit the 4 other caves, which are smaller, very dark and would definitely require flashlights. I wasn't into the spelunking concept so we skipped them.

Well paved trail over the lava fields
Indian Tunnel, one-half mile from the parking lot, is the largest cave and the easiest to visit. Skylights permit enough daylight to enter so that you do not need a flashlight.

Indian Tunnel entrance: Ladder to climb into the cave

Hike through the Indian Tunnel

The exit: as much spelunking as I would do.

 There were lots of interesting trees in the park that looked like works of art.

 Inferno Cone Overlook trail is rated strenuous but the hike is short and you get some good views at the top. The hike is 0.5 mile and an elevation gain of 164ft.

Trail up Inferno Cone

Top of the Inferno- windy up there.

We were able to see all of the park at a leisurely pace in 4 hours, of course you could do longer hikes in the area but consider the heat and be prepared.

There are 3 RV parks in the area of Arco that are convenient to Craters of the Moon. The national park has one but it was closed due to renovations and improvements being made to the park. There is a KOA in Arco and the RV park we stayed at, which I would highly recommend, called Mountain View RV Park and Restaurant. http://www.mountainviewarco.com/
The RV park is approximately 20 miles from Craters of the Moon and has 50amp full hook ups and nice wide spaces with grass in between and there are lots of trees in the park. Surface roads and sites are gravel and the park was easy to get in and out of.

Mountain View RV Park Site D-6

View behind our site

Lots of room between sites

A big bonus, the park has its own restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner. Definitely
should eat here at least once and have their baby back ribs, they are phenomenal. They serve it with a smoked baked potato. That's right they smoke the potato, I never had a potato prepared that way, it was delicious. Not as dry and had more flavor than a regular baked potato. The desserts are all homemade, I had the huckleberry ice cream from a local creamery and it was extra special.

NPS website says the time between eruptions at the Craters of the Moon Lava Field averages 2,000 years and it has been more than 2,000 years since the last eruption.
The volume of past eruptive events suggests that slightly over one cubic mile (4.2 cubic km.) of lava will be erupted during the next event. Scary.......at least it didn't happen when we were there.

Next up: Sun Valley, Idaho

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