Explore a Cave

A person walks down a set out stairs into the wide open entrance of a lava tube.
Indian Tunnel is one of the easiest caves to access for most visitors.

The caves at Craters of the Moon are actually lava tubes, formed by hot rivers of molten rock flowing beneath the surface. Today, these hollow tubes provide refuge for bats and other wildlife, and four popular caves offer unique opportunities for visitors to explore a dynamic and fragile underground world.

Know Before You Go

  • A free permit is required to enter caves at Craters of the Moon. Pick up free permits at the visitor center during business hours. The Annual, Senior, Access, and Military passes do not count as a cave permit.
  • The caves are filled with snow during the long Idaho winter and slowly melt out in the spring. In a typical year the cave entrances are not free of snow and ice until mid-May. Check current conditions
  • If you have boots or other gear (pants, tops, hats, gloves, pads, packs, or anything soft/porous) used in caves or mines outside of Craters of the Moon, please leave these items at home. This is an effort to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is harmless to humans but fatal in bats. Anything that has been in any underground space cannot be worn into the caves at Craters of the Moon, even if it has been washed or decontaminated.
  • Please do not bring food into the caves or leave trash behind. Remember that all cave features are fragile and irreplaceable. Do not remove any rocks or other objects from the caves area.
  • Scroll down to learn more about caving safely and caving "softly."

Exploring the Caves

There are four caves you can explore at Craters of the Moon. All other caves found in the monument are closed to visitation in order to help protect sensitive bat populations. Please note that Buffalo Cave is currently closed.

Caves Trail

Follow this 1.6 mi (2.6 km) round-trip trail to access four popular caves:

Indian Tunnel
800 ft long, stairs provided at entry

Dewdrop Cave
Open, bouldered entrance

Beauty Cave
Open, bouldered entrance

Boy Scout Cave
Tight, rocky entrance

Cave Safely

  • Sturdy, close-toed shoes are a necessity for the difficult, uneven terrain of Craters' caves.

  • Long sleeves and pants keep you warm in chilly caves and help to protect you from scrapes on sharp lava rocks. Gloves and kneepads are recommended in difficult caves

  • Protect your head - Use bicycle, construction, or other types of helmets.

  • Each person should carry at least one flashlight or headlamp, but having extra light sources and batteries is strongly recommended. Three light sources per person is ideal.

  • Know the abilities of everyone in your group and don't push beyond anyone's limits. Children and seniors should be able to walk safely on their own. Caves are not appropriate places for infants.

  • Explore as a group. If you must go alone, choose easier caves and carry three light sources.

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Do not deviate from your planned itinerary, and be sure to check in with them when you return.

Cave Softly

Caves are a fragile and precious resource and an important part of the Craters ecosystem. Help to protect them by "caving softly."

  • Stay on available trails: Walking off trail damages fragile lava flows found at the cave sites.
  • Leave no trace of your visit: Do not eat, drink, smoke, or leave trash in the caves.
  • Do not use caves as bathrooms! Vault toilets are available at the Caves Trail and Tree Molds parking areas, so plan accordingly. In a pinch, use a wag bag or plastic bottle for waste, and pack everything out with you.
  • Wherever possible, look but don't touch. Do not collect any rocks or other natural objects.
  • Please observe closures: To protect bats, all caves outside of Indian Tunnel, Boy Scout Cave, Beauty Cave, and Dew Drop Cave are closed to the public.
  • Please respect any wildlife you may encounter in the caves by not shining light directly on them.
  • Pets are not permitted in caves.
  • Alcohol is not permitted in caves.
Entrance fees may apply, see Fees & Passes information.
Accessibility Information
Terrain in the caves is rough and uneven. Navigating caves may require scrambling over rocks or crawling through small spaces. Access to Indian Tunnel is via a set of stairs. Indian Tunnel has natural skylights and is bright during the day, but has some areas that are poorly lit. Boy Scout Cave, Dewdrop Cave, and Beauty Cave are dark and unlit beyond cave entrances.  

Pets are not allowed on trails or in caves, but service dogs (dogs that are specially trained to perform a task for a person with a disability) may go wherever visitors are allowed.

Last updated: August 23, 2021