Road Trip: Craters of the Moon

My wife and I moved to Boise, Idaho, about five years ago. After just a few months, my coworkers told us that we had explored the state more than most people they knew who had lived here their whole lives. Throughout the initial phases of COVID and having our first kid, we kept at it, too. It wasn’t until we had our second kid that we realized we couldn’t do what we wanted to do anymore. At least not easily.

Enter: The Turtle Van

We realized that if we were going to travel with two kids and a dog, the Subaru wouldn’t suffice. We needed more room. We wanted to simplify our setup a bit. We would go on walks/runs/bike rides around the neighborhood and see a wide range of RVs, trailers, and camper vans. We’d look them up and find many options far out of our price range. Until I saw a listing for a 2016 Mercedes Sprinter 2500 4×4. It didn’t have the full RV build-out. But what it did have was a high clearance and the bare necessities. It came with a bench seat for our kids. It came with a bed rack and upgraded floors + walls. It was perfect, and within a couple of weeks of seeing it, it was ours.

Boise: The Perfect Base Camp

We’ve loved living in the Treasure Valley for a lot of reasons. Not only do we have a ton of options in and around town (the Boise River, the Foothills, Bogus Basin, and so much more), but we also have many outdoor recreation options within a relatively short drive. A couple of hours to the north and/or east, and we’re in the forest, amongst mountains, rivers, and lakes. A wide range of beautiful deserts are found in pretty much any other direction. Whether we want to stay in an established campground, an RV park, or do some boondocking, the options are pretty much limitless.

The Inaugural Trip

After a few weeks of going back and forth on options, we finally settled on a KOA out in Arco, Idaho. With two little ones, we had enough to stress out about; why make hunting for a camping spot another problem to solve? Plus, it was just a few hours away and gave us a National Monument to visit along the way.

Craters of the Moon

Admittedly, we didn’t know much about Craters of the Moon until we arrived. About 14 miles out from the Visitor Center, there was a sudden shift in scenery along the highway. The land was covered by dark rock formations—what we would later learn to be 2000-year-old lava rock. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We knew that we wanted to check out a lava tube, and we lucked out that they had just opened for the season a few days before our arrival. We pulled into the Visitors Center parking lot and had a frightening realization that neither of us had brought our wallets with us. No credit cards, no cash, not even a driver’s license (oops).

Thankfully, the entrance kiosk accepted wireless payment via Google Wallet (or Apple Pay, if that’s your thing). We got on the list to visit one of the lava tubes, picked up an America the Beautiful National Parks pass, and were on our way.

The Ranger we talked to recommended Indian Tunnel as an easy option for us since we had our kids with us. Honestly, it was a fair bit of work and isn’t for everyone. But we loved it, and between the scenery and cave exploration, I’d highly recommend stopping here if you’re in the area.

Craters of the Moon / Arco KOA

After our visit to Craters of the Moon, we pressed on to Arco (with a quick pit stop at Family Dollar to pick up replacement hot dogs for the ones I forgot back at home in the fridge).

Just a couple of notes: the KOA staff was super friendly and helpful. The facilities were super nice and clean. They had a relatively new playground. It was exactly what we needed: a no-frills option to set up our campsite and relax with the kiddos.

Did the night go perfectly? Of course not. Both kids were up at various points. There was crying. There was a middle-of-the-night bottle of formula. But honestly, it was nothing that hadn’t been happening semi-regularly at home. It was just a little bit trickier navigating all of it within the confines of our Sprinter van.

The Trip Home: Detour to Hailey

We went on this trip without any concrete plans (aside from our KOA reservation). I thought it might be fun to check out EBR-I, one of the world’s first nuclear power plants. But because it was Memorial Day and it was a federal facility, it was closed. I think Laura was actually a bit relieved if I’m being honest. Maybe another trip in the future, though!

Instead, we took a short detour on the way back home up to Hailey for Wiseguy Pizza and a visit to a fantastic playground. It’s important to remember to keep everyone happy on a road trip. Pizza and beer will work wonders for Laura and me, and playtime is much-needed for the little ones. It honestly worked out so well, and it made the final couple of hours on the road home easy.

Well, that’s about it for this trip. I’ve never been a consistent blogger, but I’m going to try and keep at it with our road trips, sharing our favorite destinations and things to do within driving distance of Boise: from Idaho to Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana – there’s so much to see and do, and we’ll be doing a lot of it for years to come!

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May 2024

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