Trying to Camp in Craters of the Moon Again
We were heading down from Montana trying to find a place to hide out from the crowds during Labor Day. We got to Craters of the Moon National Monument on the Thursday before the long weekend. The last time we tried to get a campsite here, right after the eclipse, the campground was sold out. Because of that, we were nervous about being able to get a campsite in Craters of the Moon’s campground this time around. It was a long drive (for us) from Deer Lodge, MT, around 6 hours, so we got there a bit later in the day than we normally like to, for walk-up sites. Luckily, there were campsites open and we grabbed the first site that our RV and car could fit in.
Lava Flow Campground
The campsites here are really off level and small. There were a few sites open that we could fit in and that we felt we could get the RV level in. Even then, our tires were off the ground, which we prefer not to do. There were a few other sites that were bigger and more level but they were all taken.
We got settled into our site and thought “Eh, it’s an alright site.” Then, we walked up the hill on the trail in our site and WOW! What a gorgeous view of the lava fields. This picture does not do it justice! The sunsets were also amazing on the top of the hill.
Our kid’s favorite part about our campsite was this tree. They made it their secret base and played underneath it all day.
Junior Ranger Night Program
One of the big benefits about staying inside the park is that you can walk to many of the programs that the park service has to offer. Ranger Jennifer had walked around the campground inviting everyone to come to the Junior Ranger Night Program that night. We decided to walk over to check it out and we were the only ones there! Ranger Jennifer was awesome! She talked with us and taught us about the different jobs that Rangers do, she taught us about how the lava fields were formed (complete with a mini exploding volcano) and she taught us about animal scat.
After the program she told us stand on stage. As I was taking the picture of the kids on stage, she told me that adults can become Rangers too and to go up on stage too. Once I got up there she swore us all in as Junior Rangers. (It was my first badge. Hehehe) We loved the experience and we learned so much!
The next day, we decided to go walking through some caves. You need to obtain a permit in order to explore any of the caves at Craters of the Moon. So off we went to the Visitor Center, to obtain our permit and headed out to the Cave Area.
Armed with our flashlights and headlamps, we first went to Indian Tunnel.
Indian tunnel cave was the longest of the 3 caves that we saw that day. This is one cave where we didn’t need our flashlights. It was neat to walk through the cave and to look up through all of the areas that have caved in and see birds nesting. Also, the kids imagined that hot lava was pouring through these tunnels at one time and were in awe of . When you exit the tunnel at the other end, there are these posts that lead you back to the trail.
Next up was Beauty Cave. This cave was pretty dark, we climbed down into the cave and walked all the way to the back. We turned off our flashlights and were amazed at how dark it was.
The last cave we went into was the Boy Scout Cave. This cave was really small. There were warnings about this cave being really icy. We tried to look for ice and we found a few small patches of ice toward the back along the edges of the cave, but there wasn’t much. We wonder if there would be more ice in early summer.
That afternoon we decided to try to see if we could see the Buffalo Caves. But, it ended up we took the wrong trail and ended up on the Tree Moulds Trail. Hahaha! Taught us to not rush and to double check our maps. Anyway, it was one of the trails that we had not gone on yet and we were happy to be able to finally see them.
This trail leads to impressions left from trees that were charred by lava and later eroded away. There were a few tree molds and some vertical molds as well. It was amazing to see evidence of the forest before the lava flow.
There is so much more to see at Craters of the Moon! The last time we were here we climbed Inferno Cone. The next time we come we want to definitely explore the Buffalo Caves, but, it was time to find a peaceful spot for Labor Day. We planned on trying to find a campsite in Ketchum, ID. Wish us luck!