Campsite Review: Lava Flow Campground is the only campground in Craters of the Moon National Monument in southwest Idaho. Craters of the Moon is a huge Lava flow so unique that it was made into a National Monument. To get to Craters of the Moon and the Lava Flow Campground get on US Highway 26 either in Shoshone from the west or Arco from the east. US Highway 26 is also known as US Highway 20 and in this area also carries the name US Highway 93. As for highway names, I have no idea how one road has so many names. As for a more precise location, the campground is located about halfway between Arco and the tiny town of Carey.
Unless you are intending on going to Craters of the Moon, it is unlikely that you would just happen to be on US Highway 26.
The only cities big enough to register on the multiple grocery store list are Idaho Falls, well to the east, and Twin Falls to the southwest.
Here is our story while we stayed at the Lava Flow Campground. Goodale’s Cutoff
The campground is carved into the lava rock close enough to the highway as to have easy access, but far enough away that noise is not a problem. It is unlikely you would hear much anyway, this road is not well-traveled. The east section of the campground is much better for large RVs to the point that large RVs won’t fit in the western section of the campground.
There are 42 individual sites, most are not suitable for large RVs.
The campground is 100% first come first serve, with exception of the group campsites which can be reserved through Recreation.gov. The group sites are located north of Highway 26 and all the individual sites are south of the highway.
We really like camping at Lava Flow Campground even though it was difficult to get to and was very rugged.
Address: Highway 93, Arco ID 83213
Ranger station phone number at the park: (208) 527-1300, expect to leave a message and get a call back.
Reservations only for group sites at recreation.gov. All individual sites are first-come-first-serve.
Link to Google Map for the area: Craters of the Moon
Phone Number/Reservations: (877) 444-6777 email and chat also available
Dates stayed: September 23-25, 2019
Comfort: Temperatures were cool at the end of September. Air conditioning, at this time of year, was not required. Temperatures in mid-summer can get very hot. Even though we had solar, it was a challenge to charge our batteries due to the orientation of our RV.
Season: Mid May through September although camping is permitted before and after the “season”. The extended shoulder season is very possible every year. The determining factor is snow, which can and will block the road — every year. The only way you can tell if it is open in the winter is by calling the park.
Price Paid: $7.50 per night, Here is a link to the article I wrote on how I get such a low price. FoxRVTravel-Snippet: America The Beautiful Pass . When the campground turns off the water, the price is reduced to about half the previous rate. According to one source, the campground is open anytime the road is open during the winter. This reference said during this part of the year, camping is free. Don’t expect water or toilets in the winter.
You must pay by credit/debit card. Cash and checks are not accepted.
Our Site: #12
Hook-ups: None except for site number 35 which is not reservable and cites “medical needs”. This also would be a call ahead and find out the details.
Dump station: No
Restrooms: Pit toilets no running water
Shower: Bring your own
Laundry: Are you kidding?
Potable Water: Yes, but only during the “season”
Water to fill your RV storage tank: No
Cell service: Verizon – no service / AT&T – no service in the campground, however, if you climb to the top of a nearby cinder cone you can pick up a signal enough to download email and make a phone call from a very distant tower.
Campsite Review: Lava Flow Campground insider info:
Sites number one and two really are not in the campground, but rather next to the entrance. Campsites three to seven were also in odd locations. The pay station is near the entrance booth.
When we were looking for sites, we didn’t even know about sites number one and two. Most of the sites in the eastern section might fit our RV, but sites to the west obviously would not.
The entrance booth was open even in the last week of September. After we pulled through the gate we took off the car near-site number 8. While unhooking the car, we could see that site number 12 was ideal. Even though number 12 was a pull-through site, this would have put the door on the wrong side of the RV, so we backed in.
Since the campground is first-come-first-serve, make sure you put something on the site to claim it for yourself. We didn’t really expect as many people here at the end of the season as were there. The campground was nearly full every night.
Most people also departed early the next morning. We stayed for three nights and saw a nearly 100% turnover while we were there.
One of the good places to park your RV to remove your car is at the visitor center. Then you can explore the campground in your car and find your campsite. It is an easy walk from the campground to the visitor center. The visitor center is not a great place to hook-up your car before departing, because the parking spots are oriented for inbound traffic.
Craters of the Moon National Monument was full of surprises. As I said, most campers made a drive through the lava and departed the next morning. The park has numerous interesting hiking trails and wildlife.
Craters of the Moon is far away from most cultural lighting so the sky can be super dark. Perhaps the very best stargazing close to the campground is on the trail south of the campground, over the hill towards the North Crater Flow Trail. Make sure to bring a chair and a flashlight.
The next time we stay here, when we go back we will spend a day in Arco. Arco was the development site for the very first nuclear reactors and the only town, this far from water, to sport a submarine. Much of the Navy’s nuclear power program started in Arco.