Craters of the Moon National Monument

Visited: August 2019

Location: Arco, Idaho

Accommodations: Silver Creek Hotel, Bellevue, Idaho

Duration: 2-4 hours

Lava rocks gallore. Lava comes from volcanoes, but there isn’t a volcano here in sight at Craters of the Moon National Monument??? The lava here at this park came from a series of deep fissures known as the Great Rift. Starting more than 15,000 years ago lava emerged up from the Great Rift to produce an ocean of rock here in the Snake River Plain. The most recent eruption happened 2,000 years ago, and geologists believe that more events in the future may still happen.

Here at Craters of the moon you will learn all about active volcanics and how features present at this park are formed. Spatter cones, cinder cones, lava tube, kipukas, fissures and rifts all combine to erupt with life and give us a spectacular National Monument in the middle of Idaho.

How to explore Craters of the Moon:

There are 7 stops on the 7 mile loop road that you drive, starting at the Visitor Center. Here we grabbed Junior Ranger books, did a Junior Ranger Patio Talk outside, and viewed the park film and exhibits.

Stop 2: North Crater Flow, a .3 mile trail that crosses a lava flow.

Stop 3: Devils Orchard Nature Trail, here there is a short walk through lava fragments.

Stop 4. The Inferno Cone, Hunter and I walked to the top while Grandma and Gunnar sat in the car and worked on the Junior Ranger booklet. It was a moderate hike up and down, with some cool overlooks at the top. Here you can see cinder cones lined up along the Great Rift.

Pretty impressive from above, I would suggest doing the steep, but short .2 mile hike up the hill.

Stop 5. Spatter Cones and Big Craters Area, miniature volcanoes, one had snow inside of it which impressed my children since it was the beginning of August 🙂

Stop 6. Trails to Tree Molds, Broken Top, and Wilderness. This was our turning around spot on the spur from the one way loop road. Back to the loop road we go.

Stop 7. Cave Area. Here you will see lava tubes- Dewdrop, Boy Scout, Beauty and Indian Tunnel on a .8 mile trail across lava. We opted out of this since we had just done Lava Beds National Monument and once you have seen one lava bed you learn you have seen all you need to see.

We headed back to the Visitor Center and earned our Junior Ranger badges and got the all important passport cancellation.

We are off to lunch, ice cream and our last stop in Idaho, check back for the post, it was my favorite Idaho NPS site. I will give you a hint, it “rocked”. Questions on visiting Craters of the moon?? I am more than willing to help you. Hope you have a great visit if you go, let me know what you think of it.

Minidoka National Historical Site

This is where we lose the Hell pig!!

Visited: August 2019

Accommodations: Banbury Hot Springs Hotel

Duration: 1-2 hours

Minidoka National Historic Site was depressing, however I feel my children need to be educated on even the worst times in history. Minidoka was a relocation center for over 13,000 Japanese-Americans. Over 2/3rd of them were American Citizens. Housed on a 33,000 acre site most of its 600 buildings were crowded into 946 acres, making the camp the 7th largest city in Idaho.

When we showed up at Minidoka, we parked out by the guard tower and did the walking tour to the Hermann House, which was the current Visitor Center. They were in the process of building a new interpretive Visitor Center and it looks like it will be amazing! For now the one we visited was an old house. All along the trail were wayside exhibit signs to read.

Once at the Hermann House you can see the Fire Station and the foundation of Water Tower #2. All of the houses are gone, not sure if they will make some models of what was there in the future but you couldn’t go inside any of the buildings. Even the Visitor Center was closed when we arrived, however I noticed a car there so I knew somebody had to be around. Through much persistence a park worker answered the door and let us in 🙂 She was very friendly and let us get our Junior Ranger books, badges, passport cancelations and anything we wanted to purchase. We were very thankful for her that day because we might not ever be back and she was so nice to us with our poor planning of not coming when the VC is open.

I would also like to give a shout out to the wonderful person that found Gunnar’s Hell pig on the interpretive trail and turned it in. I emailed them when we returned home from the trip and they had it, taking great care of him. I donated some money to the Historic Site and WALA……. we have our Hell Pig back 🙂

Not much here, but I think they are working on building more. I really am looking forward to seeing how the new interpretive center looks. Please let me know if you visit I would love to hear all about it. If you are planning a visit and have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Visited: August 2019

Accommodations: Banbury Hot Springs Poolside Condo

Duration: 2 hours

Hagerman Fossil Beds in Hagerman, Idaho. Stopped into the Visitor Center first thing in the morning and grabbed some Junior Ranger booklets. We headed out for a drive on Bell Rapids Road which runs side by side with the Oregon Trail. There are 2 overlooks on this road, the Snake River Overlook and the Oregon Trail Overlook.

Beautiful drive with scenic overlooks but I think we enjoyed the exhibit outside of the Visitor Center the best. 🙂

Into the Visitor Center to peruse around and get our Junior Ranger Badges. The Visitor Center had a TON of Junior Ranger patches and badges from other parks, they were really fun to look at.

Badges earned and passport stamped!! Onto Shoshone Falls for a lunch stop. Check that out in the Idaho blog coming soon.

Looking forward to exploring Idaho, check back for more Idaho sites.


Oregon state line sign is #40 out of 50 for us. We loved both of these signs and couldn’t decide between which one so we took both. I will add there is an AMAZING one on I-5 coming North out of California but unfortunately that would have taken us out of the way from our stops we made in Oregon. However, both of these worked. The first one was taken on Hwy 199 when we left Redwoods heading to Oregon Caves, the second picture was taken on a detour north of Lava Beds National Monument on Hwy 97.

Oregon National Park Sites we visited:

Crater Lake National Park

John Fossil Beds National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument

We have one left to visit, we have gotten the Junior Ranger online but I suspect we will visit it Summer of 2022 so stay tuned.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Visited: August 2019

Accommodations: Leaving Crater Lake and heading to Idaho

Duration: 4 hours, could spend a whole day here.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was one of the greatest unplanned stops on any of our National Park trips. Luckily we did all the things we set out to do at Crater Lake National Park so we had time to stop and explore this gem. We left Crater Lake in the morning hours and got to the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds around lunch time. This worked out perfectly. There was a small Visitor Center with an awesome picnic area for us. We grabbed our Junior Ranger Booklets here, along with a stuffed hell pig you will be graced with seeing in the next few park stops (until Gunnar loses it). No worries it was found and we tracked it down once we were home and unpacked, more on that in later blog posts.

We ate our lunch, worked on the booklets and then explored the Painted Hills, these were gorgeous!!

John Day Fossil Beds consists of 3 units; Painted Hills Unit, Sheep Rock Unit and Clarno Unit.

We didn’t visit the Clarno Unit because not much of that area is open to the public. I will cover the Painted Hills and Sheep Rock Unit.

Painted Hills

An unbelievable display of color splashed hills in the middle of Oregon.

Sheep Rock Unit

Included in the Sheep Rock Unit is The James Cant Ranch, Foree Area, and the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and Visitor Center.

The Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and Visitor Center has over 60,000 specimens that includes a working laboratory you can view. You walk through 50 million years of the Age of Mammals. This place was amazing!! There is a fun scavenger hunt to do here in the Junior Ranger booklet. Here is a sneak peak below.

Junior Rangers badges were all gone when we arrived. We had to send the books in when we returned home and wait for them to send them back to us. Here are our passports and badges below.

What an amazing stop to learn about the Fossils in this area and to see some beautiful landscape that we weren’t expecting. Off to Idaho, stop back for some more National Park Service sites.

Crater Lake National Park

Visited: August 2019

Accommodations: Crater Lake Mazama Cabins

Duration: 2 nights, 1.5 days

Crater Lake National Park is a photographer’s dream! We pulled into the Cabins (Mazama Cabins) around sunset so we didn’t get to enjoy the park the first night. We unpacked in our cabin that is way outdated and not the cleanest, but that is what you expect when you stay in a National Park. After a horrible nights sleep had by all, we got up and ate some cereal on the front porch. We headed out for the day a little after sunrise, to beat the crowds and get some amazing pictures.

Crater Lake is an easy National Park to navigate, it has one road that goes around the lake with multiple pull-offs and overlooks with 3 roads that spur off. One leading north out of the park, one that leads to Mazama Village and the south entrance and one that leads to Pinnacles overlook. We did the main circle first and took hundreds of pictures, stopping at every stop and overlook.

Stopped at the Rim Village Visitor Center and grabbed our Junior Ranger books to start our tour. We opted to do this area later while eating lunch in case we have a wait.

Here are the sites we stopped at going around the lake:

  • Discovery Point
  • Watchman Overlook
  • Cloudcap Overlook
  • Pumice Castle Overlook
  • Sun Notch

We made it all the way around the lake and back to Rim Village in time for lunch and a Junior Ranger Program. We ate lunch at Rim Village, in the Rim Cafe. We looked around the gift shop and walked outside on the Rim for great pictures. There was a special Junior Ranger Program behind the Rim Visitor center where kids earned a really cool patch (see picture below), they made postcards of Crater Lake and really enjoyed doing this activity. You can also earn a badge by completing the Junior Ranger book. My kids opted for doing both.

Time to explore more of the park…

We headed to Pinnacles overlook via Vidae Falls. This part of the park is gorgeous. Beautiful tall pine trees and waterfalls. This is what I imagined all of Oregon looking like. WOW. We parked in the parking lot and walked down to see the pinnacles. These were icing on top of an already amazing cake. This park was worth the visit.

After having explored all corners of this park we headed back to Rim Village for our dinner at Crater Lake Lodge. I had booked a reservation months in advance here and I gave us some time to wander the Lodge and take in this gorgeous lodge atmosphere. We did have a few issues getting in at our reserved time and the wait staff wasn’t the friendliest but I have found that National Park restaurants and staff are not top notch, we need to remember we aren’t here for the service we are here for the history and atmosphere. Food was good, drinks ok and the atmosphere made it worth the stop.

All in all this Park was wonderful. We really enjoyed it here and met some great PCT hikers at the Mazama Village gift shop and gave a through hiker a ride through the park on our way out the next morning. Her story was amazing to listen to.

Passport stamps, Badges and Patches earned, we are off to the next park.

Have you been to Crater Lake? I loved the views, it is a photographers dream. I had a hard time stopping from taking a picture everywhere we went. Put it on your list if you are in the area. Well worth the stop.

Oregon Caves National Monument

Visited: August 2019

Duration: 2-3 hours

Accommodations: In between AirBNB in Trinidad, CA and heading to Crater Lake NP

Oregon Caves National Monument, to our surprise was an impromptu stop that turned out to be an amazing addition to this trip.

Gunnar had purchased a Circle of Discovery shirt while in Lassen Volcanic National Park, it had all of the Parks we were visiting on this trip with the inclusion of Oregon Caves (that wasn’t on our itinerary) so we felt we best stop here and check it out, so we could complete the Circle of Discovery. So glad we did!

We pulled into town and stopped at the Oregon Caves Visitor Center in Cave Junction, Oregon. To our delight they had room for us on the next cave tour in 1.5 hours. The road from Cave Junction up to the cave itself is twisty and turny and takes almost an hour to get there so please think about this if stopping here. I had both of the kids take naps there and back so we didn’t deal with motion sickness.

The Chalet that is at the cave was shut down for repairs and rehabilitation so there was no food or lodging during our visit. Please check on this if going.

When we got there we had about 20-30 minutes for our tour so we grabbed our Junior Rangers and started on them.

The tour started and rest was history (literally). We had THE BEST Ranger tour of our lives. Ranger Neil was our guide for the tour and boy did he go above and beyond. If you can hold the attention of 2 young boys (ages 14 and 12) while talking about geology and caves then you are the winner for the day. Ranger Neil was a Geology professor for 30+ years at Oregon State University and now does cave tours, he was simply amazing and so much fun. From the beginning of the cave to the end, he kept us entertained and educated. So glad we stopped here.

Oregon Cave was first discovered by a hunter, Elijah Davidson in November of 1874. However, to geologists we know that it takes caves millions of years to form. They have found Grizzly bear remains in Oregon caves that have been radiocarbon dated to be over 50,000 years old. Because the soils have no acids like top soils and the temperature and humidity in the cave are constant, bones are preserved well here. Oregon Caves National Monument became a National Monument in 1909 and people have been going on tours since.

Here are some pictures and info. on the tour we took. We opted for the Discovery Tour.

Below is a demonstration led by Ranger Neil showing us how acid wears away at the marble to form and shape the cave and cave features we will see today. Ranger Neil’s volunteer is none other than Ranger Gunnar!! Everyone on the tour earned their Ranger status if they volunteered to help. Ranger Barb made sure everyone stuck together and didn’t wander off the path.

Some of the amazing cave features we saw on this tour are below.

What a great information tour. We weren’t going to do a tour but in the end we caved…… 🙂

At the end of the tour Ranger Neil does it again….. takes a family photo of each family at the exit to the cave with a little pic of himself for us to remember him (how could we forget him).

Back to the Visitor Center at the cave for our souvenirs, cancellations and Junior Ranger badges. What a great stop. I can’t recommend this place enough. Worth the trip. A+++++++

That is all for Oregon Cave National Monument. As I have said before, we are so glad we stopped. Put it on your list of places to visit. It was amazing. Until next time.


California state line!!!! This is #39 out of 50 for our state line signs. This picture was taken outside of Worden, Oregon, there is a really cool Oregon sign across the road as well. We ventured up here from Lava Beds National Monument since it was a relatively low traffic area. Turned out pretty good, the kids still remember some funny Trump sticker that was on the sign 🙂

While in California, this trip we did the National Parks in the Northern part of the state and they did NOT disappoint, they were all phenomenal!! Check out each of the blogs below to see our adventures at each:

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lava Beds National Monument

Whiskeytown National Recreational Area

Redwoods National Forest

While staying in Trinidad to see Redwoods we visited Patrick’s Point State Park. This park was so beautiful that I am yearning to go back (that doesn’t happen very often). We spent an afternoon hiking and checking out this amazing place, so glad our guest services lady told us not to miss this at our cabin in Lassen. In my opinion it was the best part of the trip.

Check out these photos!!

The hiking at this park was just unbelievable. I can’t wait to get back out there. We really enjoyed Northern Cali. It is going in the top 5 for favorite states visited 🙂

Stop back soon for the next state line sign.

Redwoods National Park

Visited: August 2019

Duration: 2 full days and then some…..

Accommodations: AirBNB Idyllic Coastal Log House in Trinidad, CA

Redwoods National Park, the whole reason for this year’s National Park Trip Season 4. Each child was given a summer task (last year) to write a report or do a slide show on which National Park they would like to visit and why. Gunnar’s report won, it was on Redwoods National Park. Here we are and I couldn’t be more grateful that he chose this park to report on. From Trinidad (the home base of our AirBNB all the way up to Hiouchi Visitor Center on the Northern most tip of the park was nothing but amazing beauty from the ocean, to giant trees, fun stops along the way and a kayaking adventure along the Smith river to top off one of the most beautiful parks in our country. This puts Redwoods National park as one of my favorite parks we have visited.

Our first stop was Kuchel Visitor Center where we met with a ranger and he gave us some ideas of what we need to see and do in our 2-3 days here at the park. We grabbed Junior Rangers and some little pamphlets called Redwood EdVentures which, by far was what we enjoyed the most. If you have kids or are an adult that is just out to have fun, these are great. They are hikes that you follow to find key words or numbers that earn you a patch. We did 4 of them while in the area but there are 20 or so total. Check it out at

We headed north out of the visitor center on Hwy 101 that cuts through the park. Second stop of the day was just up the road at Elk Meadow, The Trillium Falls Trail (also an edventure quest). This trail was where we witnessed our first banana slug, which was exciting but not as exciting as getting out and seeing the redwoods. You can’t imagine how amazing these trees are until you are right next to them.

Banana Slug
Trillium Falls

Back to the car and up to Prairie Creek Visitor Center for our second EdVenture quest. The Prairie Creek Trail, where the trees were even bigger and you can stand in them and walk through them.

You feel small out here
The roots of a fallen Redwood

Up the road we continued and stopped for the obligatory tour through the tree photo at Klamath. Hunter got out to guide me and take the photo. Pretty fun and I would do it again.

Next stop was lunch at the Forest Cafe, super cute, they had duck feet hanging from the ceiling which made it look like we were under water. Great food and when we were done we went across the street to visit Paul Bunyan and do some souvenir shopping at Trees of Mystery. The kids got some sweet bigfoot slippers, see below.

Bigfoot slippers at the cabin

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing our other EdVenture quests at Patrick’s Point State Park and Trinidad which can be found on the California blog. I highly recommend stopping at Patrick’s Point State Park, to me it is one of the most beautiful places in the U.S. I am looking forward to returning here and camping. Dinner in Trinidad on the water, and then back to the cabin to play Trekking the National Parks. 🙂

Day 2

Up and at em, so we get to the park before anyone else. We have a full day ahead of us today. We headed straight up to Fern Canyon to do some hiking where Jurassic Park and Star Wars were filmed. This place was awesome!! I highly recommend doing this part of the park even though it is very rough to get here. On the way back there were several cars stuck. Make sure you have 4 wheel drive if going here. Also it’s a one lane road so go slow because if traffic is heavy your are in trouble at some spots. We got in early and out about the right time.

Check this out, Ferns everywhere!! I would love to have ferns like this at home but I haven’t botany, not sorry.

This hike was truly amazing and will go down as one of my favorites. It felt like another world out there.

We headed out of Fern Canyon and up to Hiouchi for our kayaking tour this afternoon. This was another great memory that I can’t recommend enough. We went through Redwoods Rides. Our guide Joey was amazing and the kids still talk about him 2 years later. Clear waters all the way, we stopped to swim (jump off of rocks) and Joey took some pretty amazing photos of us with the Redwood trees. I gave this 5 stars on TripAdvisor and it was one of the highlights of our trip.

We drove back to the house on the Old Redwoods Road, name Howland Hill Road. This was gorgeous! The sun was going down and shining through the trees, what an amazing experience. That wraps up another perfect day at Redwoods National Park.

Day 3

Today we leave but not before stopping at all visitor centers to shop, get our Junior Rangers and EdVenture badges. See below for the nice haul we got visiting Redwoods. We can’t wait to get these on our National Park vests.

Also be sure to stop at ALL of the Visitor Centers (even the State Parks) for awesome Passport cancellations and stamps.

We are heading north into Oregon and hope that we can stop at Oregon Caves for a tour, fingers crossed they have openings when we get there. This was not on our itinerary but Gunnar has purchased a shirt with The Circle of Discovery on it, it includes all the parks we are going to this summer plus Oregon Caves, so we figured why not stop. 🙂 Redwoods was awesome, definitely going in our top 5 for sure, I think it may be Gunnar’s #1 Park. Regardless, it is a must do in your lifetime! I can’t say enough about this park, go see for yourself. It has been 2 years since our visit and I want to go back so bad (more than any other park I have been to). Thanks for visiting. Have you been to Redwoods? What did you think?? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Visited: August 2019

Duration: 4-6 hours

Accommodations: Stayed ON at Shasta View Hotel went to Whiskeytown, then ON at Redwoods.

I wasn’t really that thrilled about going to Whiskeytown, it was just a NPS site on the way from Lassen to Redwoods. We arrived here around 9 in the morning, it was a 1.5 hour drive from our hotel last night at the base of Mt. Shasta. We arrived at the Visitor Center and grabbed our needed supplies, Jr. Ranger book, t-shirts that say Whiskeytown, magnets, passport stickers and cancellations. This is the spot that my kids got these goofy hats that you will continue to see throughout the park visits. They love them, they drive me crazy 🙂

Once we got out of the VC, I realized how cool this place actually was, there are tons of things to do here and it is gorgeous. We took J.F. Kennedy Memorial Drive down to Brandy Creek. Passing the Kennedy Memorial and Glory Hole Spillway shown below.

This reservoir and dam feed all of California. The Central Valley project was built to move water from norther California to the drier areas farther south, The lake brings many benefits to this area like recreational opportunities, flood control, hydroelectric power, and a dependable water supply.

We made our way to the Brandy Creek area, where we parked, rented paddle boards, swam and enjoyed a picnic lunch. We had an amazing time and the views were awesome. This place really shouldn’t be missed.

Gunnar eating lunch and working on his Junior Ranger

After hours of fun, we headed back to the Visitor Center where we earned our Junior Ranger badges. Off to the Redwood forest, I can’t wait.

Check back soon for Redwoods National Park and the Oregon Parks.

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