Hike the Craters of the Moon's Lava Tubes

Caves Trailhead, Arco, Idaho, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    1.6 Miles

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Scenic

Investigate three incredible caves and lava tubes. Some extend over 1000 feet under the ground.

Craters of the Moon National Monument in Southern Idaho is a vast ocean of lava flows, with scattered islands of cinder and splatter cones created by volcanic activity 15,000 years ago. Over 618 square miles, this surreal field displays the strange geography that can be caused by significant eruptive activity.

Most interesting is a series of caves created by lava tubes that guided molten magma up to the surface, where it bubbled and formed this amazing landscape. When the lava flow stopped, deep tubes were left behind, reaching to the source of the magma. Over the millennia, many of the tubes sealed up and collapsed, but some still remain, extending hundreds of feet below the surface of the park.

The three main caves (Indian Tunnel, Boy Scout Cave, and Beauty Cave) can be easily accessed by following Caves Trail, and are very close to the Cave Area parking lot.

Indian Tunnel is the largest of the caves, with multiple collapses that create skylights. Boy Scout Cave is especially interesting as it has a 2 foot crawl space that extends 15 feet, forcing you to scramble underneath to get out the other side. Beauty Cave is a 300-foot long tunnel, accessible via a scramble down a large slope of rocks.

Safety Note: Watch your step and your head – the caves are cold and dark, and it is very easy to slip on the pools and columns of ice. There are also many precarious, large icicles hanging from the ceiling.

Pack List

  • Cave Permit
  • Camera
  • Headlamp
  • Warm jacket
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Reviews

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H W

Great easy hikes. Very interesting and beautiful in its own way. Don't just drive through. Take the time to get out at each of the stops and explore. Make sure to visit the caves. There is one that is very family friendly. It is amazing to be in the caves! Make sure to go into the visitors center first. Bring flashlights or headlights for the caves. The caves are colder so bring a jacket. Try to go late Spring or early Summer before it gets too hot. You can camp at the campsite at the lava beds but there isn't really any shade. Another option is to camp at the KOA in Arco.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Craters of the Moon is like being in a different planet. Definitely hit up Boy Scout👌🏼

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Colin Ayers Explorer

University of Washington Student Studying Geophysics

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