A Complete Guide to Camping Lava Beds National Monument

Jan 21, 2019

Lava Beds National Monument has many things worth knowing about, but few know about camping at the Lava Beds. Many visitors who visit Lava Beds National Monument yearly have discovered that one of the best ways to immerse themselves in the Lava Beds is to camp there. Lava Beds National Monument camping opportunities abound whether you camp within the Lava Beds grounds or camp outside the national monument. For ease, and to help you determine the best camping option for you (and your family or friends), we have compiled a guide to help you with your Lava Beds National Monument camping experience. Let’s go camp Lava Beds National Monument!

Lava Beds National Monument Camping Rules

As Lava Beds National Monument is a part of the National Parks, there are several rules to remember while you are within the Lava Beds for everyone’s safety and continued enjoyment. These will also help make your Lava Beds National Monument camping experience more enjoyable.

  1. Hiking: When you go hiking while in the Lava Beds National Monument camping, be sure to stay on all marked trails.
  2. Campsite: Use existing and available campsites at all times. Do not leave any evidence behind of fire rings, tent sites, trash, or graffiti when you leave the location. This is a similar rule to the Lava Beds Caves known as ‘caving softly’.
  3. Food Protection System: While in the Lava Beds National Monument camping, there are no permanent systems that are provided or permitted for your food protection. Portable systems are allowed, but all of these must be removed when you leave the campsite.
  4. Wildlife: This rule should go without saying, but do not feed the animals. Feeding the animals or interacting with them is seen to be encouraging contact between them, which can promote injury. The Lava Beds does not allow for visitors to interact with the wildlife. If a situation should arise, contact a park ranger.
  5. Trash and Waste Disposal: All trash while camping at Lava Beds National Monument must be packed out of the location. Under no circumstance are you allowed to bury it. For human waste, “cat holes” should be dug 2” deep at minimum and 200 feet away from caves, campsites, and trails. If cat holes are not feasible, cover waste with a rock, or pack it out of the park. Please leave the area cleaner than you found it.

With all of these rules in mind and in practice, you will be on your way to the best possible Lava Beds National Monument camping experience.

Indian Well Campground

The main campground that Lava Beds National Monument features within the grounds is Indian Well Campground. This Lava Beds National Monument camping spot is located about a ½ mile from the Lava Beds National Monument Visitor Center and the cave loop.

There are 43 campsites available at Indian Wells Campground for your Lava Beds National Monument camping experience. They are a first come, first serve basis. We recommend arriving early, so you can have your pick. Any of these 43 campsites are able to accommodate tents, pickup campers, and small trailers. Some also are able to support motorhomes up 30 feet, but not all are able to do so. Be sure to check if you are taking a motorhome to Lava Beds National Monument for your camping trip.

Despite how you are choosing to camp, whether it be a tent or a trailer, all sites are $10 per night, per site. All sites also include a picnic table, a fire ring, and a cooking grill. You and your camping party are allowed to use wood fires, unless you are otherwise notified by park staff. Firewood can be purchased during the summer months. Call the Visitor Center to check availability. You can also bring your own firewood. The Modoc National Forest often has dead or downed firewood that you can collect and bring to use.

Also, there are restrooms available at Lava Beds National Monument camping to use year round with running water, sinks, and flush toilets. There are no locations within the Indian Wells Campground for the use of showers, hookups, dump stations, or locations for gas or propane.

While you stay at Indian Wells Campground, be aware that the campground features quiet hours from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am and all campground rules apply to everyone. The hours that you can use your generator are from 8:00 am to 10:00 am or 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

A maximum of 8 people per site are allowed to camp within Indian Wells Campground with a maximum of 2 vehicles or 3 motorcycles. While you camp at Indian Well Campground, there is a maximum day stay of 14 days consecutively within in a 30 day period.

For all of the Holders of an Access Senior pass, you will receive a 50% discount on your campsite. Pets are permitted within the campground, but must remain on a leash no longer than 6 feet or 1.8 meters. However, pets are not permitted within the caves, on the trails, or in buildings.

On the rare occasion during the busy summer months that there are no locations available, Lava Beds National Monument staff can point you in the direction of other camping arrangements within a 30 minute drive.

Camping within the Lava Beds or nearby will put you in the perfect spot to explore the Lava Beds National Monument caves or experience all of the many things to try while at Lava Beds National Monument.

Backcountry Camping

For the more adventurous groups that want to take part in Lava Beds National Monument camping, there is the option to backcountry camping. The Lava Beds has made it easy and safe to do this while putting you directly in the heart of the Lava Beds.

Backcountry camping in the Lava Beds permits your experience to be free, provided you follow the safety requirements set in place. This includes, but is not limited to, no camping near developed caves (100 yards away) or within the caves. You are not allowed to have fires, but gas stoves are permitted. There is also no surface water available so be sure to bring plenty of your own as it can be extremely hot in the Lava Beds.

All backcountry camping groups must be a maximum of 12 persons. Also make sure to carry plenty of first-aid supplies. Make sure that when you go camping in the backcountry of Lava Beds National Monument, that you notify someone outside of your party where you are going and when you plan to return. Hiking into the backcountry to camp can also be arduous, so proper hiking gear is recommended.

The best trails to consider camping are: Three Sisters Trail, Missing Link Trail, Lyons Trail, Big Nasty Trail, or Whitney Trail. Many others are available, but these are some of the best for camping. If you want to use a pack animal, horses are permitted on Three Sisters Trail, Lyons Trail, and Whitney Trail only. All previous regulations apply to both riders and horses. It is also advised that both horses and riders use leg protection.

Group Camping the Lava Beds

For those who wish to camp at Lava Beds National Monument with a large group, there is a group site available as well. The minimum camping party requirement is 15 people with a maximum camping party of 40. This campsite has picnic tables, 2 pit toilets, a group fire ring, a water spigot, and a large cooking grill. There are no fee waivers available for this site though, so be sure to keep that in mind.

This particular campsite is also in a gated location and permits only one vehicle at a time for unloading and loading purposes. All other vehicles you bring for your party must be parked in the "A" loop overflow parking area, near the comfort station, or at the Visitors Center for your benefit. Fees for this location are per group, per night based of $3.00 per person, with a minimum of $45.00 per night to a maximum of $60.00 per night. You can make reservations up to 3 months in advance.

Adventures While Camping

While you visit Lava Beds National Monument, camping should definitely be on your list of must-dos. Whether you choose to camp at Indian Well Campground, backcountry trail camp, or gather a large group, Lava Beds National Monument camping is sure to be an adventure as you interact first hand with the Lava Beds. Lava Beds National Monument is sure to offer plenty of excitement as you cave by the day, and watch the sun set by night while you camp. Have fun camping Lava Beds National Monument!