Hey travelers! We are Dasha and Kyle, a travel couple known on Instagram as @travellife_journey. In this article, we will be sharing our experiences at the incredible Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.
Before we get started talking about this destination, let us tell you a little bit about ourselves. Dasha is Ukrainian and Kyle is American. Kyle grew up around Sacramento, California while Dasha grew up in a place called Dnipro in Ukraine. She moved to the USA five years ago for a tech job.
We met on a ski trip in Park City, Utah with about 50 other people. The group consisted of people from the Bay Area and Sacramento. We were both new to the group and it was our first time traveling with them – so we were both a little out of our element. Luckily, we hit it off right away. By the end of the trip we decided to continue seeing each other in the Bay.
Travel has always been a big part of Kyle’s life. He grew up taking trips to the many different hiking spots, waterfalls and other points of interest near Sacramento. Kyle was raised by a single mom who prioritized travel so much that he had been to three different continents by the time he was 12 months old! Dasha, on the other hand, got into travel a little later in life.
She started traveling abroad when she was 26, at the time when she could afford it. Dasha has a curious mind and always wanted to see more countries, so she traveled solo a lot when none of her friends could join her. When she met Kyle, it was meant to be as he loves traveling as much as she does. Since then we have never stopped traveling together!
Road Trippin’ from Sacramento to Yellowstone
We decided to visit Idaho because the lifting of COVID restrictions caused half of America to go out and explore after so long in lockdown. This surge in tourism led to insane prices for rental cars, flights, etc. So we thought we would circumvent the flights and car rentals by taking a road trip.
Neither of us had been to Idaho before so Kyle started researching blogs for tips, but he didn’t find any good advice. We are both avid skiers and were aware that Sun Valley was located somewhere in that area. So we decided to investigate the state a bit more. We found Craters of the Moon National Monument and Sawtooth National Forest and added them to our itinerary.
Amazing Day at Craters of the Moon National Monument
We had never even heard of Craters of the Moon National Monument (or the Sawtooth Mountains) before researching our trip. Even then, we didn’t know that we would visit until the day before we arrived. We planned to have three and a half days in Yellowstone, but the day before we were supposed to leave we had already seen everything that we wanted.
There were more things we could have done in Yellowstone, however we remembered from our research that Craters of the Moon was near our hotel the next night in Arco, Idaho. Therefore, we left Yellowstone early the next morning and spent the day at Craters of the Moon (after a four hour drive). This was the best decision ever and we are so glad that we went!
We were only at this place for one day. When we first arrived, we realized that there was camping available. We regretted getting a motel in Arco, Idaho for the night as it would have been phenomenal to sleep under the stars. Apart from that, we made the most of our time (we didn’t have a lot of it). We saw everything at Craters of the Moon that piqued our interest:
- Caves Trail
- Beauty Cave
- Inferno Cone
- Indian Tunnel
- Dewdrop Cave
- Boy Scout Cave
- Big Sink Overlook
- Devil’s Orchard Trail
- Spatter Cones and Snow Cone Trail
- Big Craters on the North Crater Trail
Top 5 Things To Do at Craters of the Moon
1. See the Big Craters on North Crater Trail
This was a great hike with a phenomenal view of the park. The craters themselves are really interesting and next to them are the Spatter Cones that are made up of piles of lava that look like they froze mid-eruption. Top that off with Inferno Cone across the way with a backdrop of black, craggy lava fields in every direction. It felt like we were looking at another planet.
2. Hike through the Otherworldly Caves Trail
If looking at the lava fields gave the appearance of another planet, walking through them certainly made us feel like we were there. The way the path snaked through the cracked flows of rock was incredible. Some of it looked like flowing chocolate! It was gorgeous and a very memorable place.
3. Take in the Icy, Glittering Walls of Beauty Cave
This cave was our favorite of the four we entered. Even though it’s pretty small, it was unique in that it had puddles of ice on the ground and some areas with frozen ice on the walls that would catch the light and glitter like stars underground. It was also a nice, cold relief from the heat outside.
4. Watch a Majestic Sunrise up Inferno Cone
This is a short, steep hike that anyone can do with breaks and water. We went up for sunset and had a 360 view of the whole park. Unfortunately, the Sawtooth Mountains are directly west and block most of the sunset. Next time we visit we will surely go up there to see the sunrise. There is an uninterrupted view all the way to the Tetons about 150 miles away.
5. Check out the Fire Circles at Indian Tunnel
The largest of the tunnels at Craters of the Moon National Monument and there are a number of places where the roof of the lava tube has collapsed. It was nice that you didn’t need a light to explore most of it because there were enough holes in the ceiling to make it pretty far down into the cave.
There are also remnants of fire circles that were made by ancestors of the Bannock and Shoshone tribes. These people tell stories passed down for generations of witnessing lava flows thousands of years ago.
Our Best Experience at Craters of the Moon
Our favorite moment at Craters of the Moon National Monument was when we were watching the sunset on top of Inferno Cone. It was great to just sit after such a busy day (remember we started in Yellowstone that morning).
We sat and watched the sun go down and the fields in the distance turned from green to gold in the dying light. We just revisited all the different sights that we had seen that day and relaxed in the middle of that scenery.
Where to Stay near Craters of the Moon
We recommend camping at Craters of the Moon. The stars are gorgeous with very little light pollution. You can camp at the Craters of the Moon or at any of the hundred or so campgrounds in Sawtooth National Forest. If you choose the forest, Iron Creek Campground is a fantastic choice.
For people that aren’t as fond of sleeping in nature, there are a number of wonderful hotels in Sun Valley, Idaho. This is a ski town, so you can find accommodations ranging from 5-star resorts to hole-in-the-wall hostels. Airbnb’s will be high quality, but they are meant for four to eight people.
There are lots of cool people to meet in town, but the best place to make friends is at one of the hot springs. Our favorite was Frenchman’s Hot Springs located 30-minutes west of Sun Valley. It’s easy to get to and pretty well maintained. You can venture out to find less crowded sites though.
Eco-Tips for Visiting Craters of the Moon
The most important eco-tip for Craters of the Moon: protect the bats from white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome is a disease caused by a fungus that absolutely obliterates bat populations, killing more than 90% of an infected colony. It can be spread by tourists who explore a bat cave that has the fungus and get spores on their clothes (especially shoes).
If you accidentally wear the same piece of clothing coming from an infected area, you could be the cause of hundreds of deaths of the bats in the area. Other than that, leave only footsteps and take only memories – we all need to work together to preserve the nature all around us.
Need to Know Before you Go
Research the weather before you go. It’s hot during the day, and cold at night and in the caves – so pack accordingly. Bring a headlamp or lantern so you don’t rely on your phone to light your way through the caves.
Download an offline map in case you get lost without service. Bring energy bars and water on any hike, even short ones. You never know what will happen. Closed toed shoes are a must in the lava fields, we recommend boots to protect you from rolling an ankle on the uneven ground.
Pictures are wonderful, but remember to step out from behind the camera and enjoy the experiences first-hand. You will absolutely love the otherworldly landscapes on offer at Craters of the Moon!