Make a reservation for postcard Idaho campgrounds

These great locations are some of Idahoans' favorite places to spend a weekend.

rphillips@idahostatesman.com pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comMay 14, 2014 

With the hundreds of campgrounds spread throughout Idaho, there are no shortages of scenic places to pitch a tent or park an RV.

The sheer number of campgrounds may leave you shaking your head, so we've made some easy picks for prime spots near resort towns.

These are the postcard campgrounds you will see in brochures, and they're among the popular camping sites because they blend great scenery with easy access to towns, restaurants and resorts.

Because of that, competition is fierce for many of these spots and you may need a reservation to get one, and you may need to make it weeks or months in advance. Don't delay, and here are some options:

STANLEY AREA

STANLEY LAKE

This campground is among lodgepole pines at scenic Stanley Lake on the edge of the Sawtooth mountains. It has 19 campsites that are packed in summer.

Campers enjoy fishing, swimming and canoeing at the lake.

The Idaho Centennial Trail trailhead begins at the campground and takes hikers into the Sawtooth Wilderness.

The campground has amenities like toilets, drinking water, picnic tables and fire rings.

Fees: $15.

Getting there: From Stanley, go 5 miles north on Idaho 21 and turn off on the Stanley Lake Road. Go 3.5 miles west to the campground.

Information: This campground is part of a reservation system. Call (877) 444-6777 or go to recreation.gov.

ALTURAS LAKE INLET

This campground on Alturas Lake near Stanley has 28 campsites, including five double sites.

It is in the trees and is the gateway for swimming, canoeing, fishing and hiking on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Trails at the end of Forest Road 205 lead into the Sawtooth Wilderness. An ATV trailhead is within a quarter-mile of the campground. The lake is also popular for waterskiing.

Fees: $15.

Getting there: From Stanley, go south 21 miles on Idaho 75 and then west about 4 miles on Forest Road 205.

Information: Sawtooth National Recreation Area Visitor Center, 727-5000.

MOUNT HEYBURN

The campground is in a lodgepole forest and has 20 campsites near Redfish Lake. Eight sites can accommodate up to 16 campers.

The nearby visitor center offers area information and interpretive programs.

There is a boat ramp at Sandy Beach on the east shore of Redfish Lake. Campers can also take a hike on the nearby Fishhook Nature Trail or a longer walk west into the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Equestrian stables, an RV dump station and boat rentals can be found at Redfish Lake Lodge. Three small playgrounds are provided for children in the campground.

It has drinking water, toilets and other camping amenities.

Fees: $16.

Getting there: From Stanley, go 4.5 miles south on Idaho 75 and 3 miles on Forest road 214.

Information: Sawtooth NRA, 727-5000.

MORMON BEND

If you like fishing the Salmon River, Mormon Bend is a good choice, with 15 campsites on the river.

It is located in a patch of lodgepole pine with sagebrush in the open areas.

It is also a designated put-in and takeout on the Salmon River for rafting.

It has drinking water, toilets and other camping amenities.

Fees: $13.

Getting there: From Stanley, go 8 miles northeast on Idaho 75.

Information: Sawtooth NRA, 727-5000.

CHEMEKETAN

This is a secluded group area located in a lodgepole forest at the headwaters of the Salmon River south of Stanley.

Fishing and hiking are the main activities in the area.

When not reserved for a group event, Chemeketan is available for individual campers.

Fees: Individuals, $10; groups, $25 to $125 depending on size of the site.

Getting there: Head south on Idaho 75 from Stanley to just before climbing the grade to Galena Summit. The campground turnoff is on the right following the Salmon River. Go about 3 miles on Forest Road 215.

Information: (877) 444-6777 or recreation.gov.[0x0b]

KETCHUM/SUN VALLEY

NORTH FORK

There are several campgrounds north of Ketchum off Idaho 75 that allow you to enjoy the wilds of the Boulder Mountains but still be close enough for dinner in Sun Valley.

North Fork Campground has 29 campsites at the beginning of the 18-mile Harriman Trail.

The campground is on the banks of the Big Wood River in a grove of aspens and cottonwoods.

Trails in North Fork Canyon lead to Amber Lakes and over the Boulder Mountains, and you can fish the nearby Big Wood River.

The campground has all the usual amenities.

Fees: $12.

Getting there: From Ketchum, head 8 miles north on Idaho 75 past the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Headquarters office. It's the first campground on the south side of the highway.

Information: Sawtooth NRA Visitor Center, 727-5000.

WOOD RIVER

This is a large campground in the trees near the Wood River. It has 30 campsites that can accommodate up to 150 people.

You can get on the same trails accessible from North Fork Campground.

Wood River is a developed campground with typical Forest Service facilities like outhouses, picnic tables and fire rings.

Fees: $12.

Getting there: From Ketchum, go north 10 miles on Idaho 75 past the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Headquarters. It's the second campground on the south side of the highway.

Information: Call (877) 444-6777 or go to recreation.gov.

EASLEY

This is a smaller campground located in a grove of cottonwoods and aspens on the Wood River north of the previous two campgrounds.

You'll find 10 campsites with access to the Harriman Trail.

There also is a hot springs swimming pool at adjacent Easley Resort.

Getting there: From Ketchum, go 14 miles north on Idaho 75. Turn south at the signs for Easley Campground.

Information: Call (877) 444-6777 or visit recreation.gov.

BOUNDARY

A really close campground to Sun Valley, this has nine campsites on Trail Creek, 2 miles northeast of Sun Valley Resort.

The four-unit Boundary Picnic Area is adjacent to the campground and shares a vault toilet and hand pump for drinking water.

Campsites also have a designated area for tent camping.

Camp and picnic sites have hardened surfaces allowing wheelchair access. The campground has beautiful views of Bald Mountain Ski Area to the west.

Fees: $10; double unit, $20.

Getting there: From Ketchum, go northeast through Sun Valley on Trail Creek Road about 4 miles. Boundary Campground and Picnic Area will be on the right.

Information: Call the Ketchum Ranger District at 622-5371.

MURDOCK

Since the Sun Valley/Ketchum area is such a popular recreation spot, there are plenty of campgrounds north of the towns, and this is one of them.

It has 11 campsites located in the pines, 2 miles north of the Sawtooth National Recreation Headquarters in North Fork Canyon.

It has hiking, bicycling, and fishing opportunities. Sometimes moose can be found feeding in the marshy areas of the canyon.

Fees: $12.

Getting there: Drive north of Sun Valley on Idaho 75, 2 miles north of the SNRA headquarters.

Information: Call the Sawtooth NRA at 727-5000.

MCCALL AREA

PONDEROSA STATE PARK

If you had a campground battle royale, the heavyweight contenders would be Redfish Lake's campgrounds and Ponderosa State Park on Payette Lake.

Both are postcard-perfect spots next to beautiful mountain lakes.

Redfish gets extra points for having the Sawtooths as a backdrop, but Ponderosa has Payette Lake and McCall at its doorstep.

Want to ice skate in July? Lace up your skates and slide. Want to eat a gourmet breakfast in a bistro? Have a seat.

The park itself isn't too shabby, either. There are 163 campsites nestled among the namesake pines, showers and flush toilets, RV hookups, sandy beaches, boat ramps and docks, hiking trails, wildlife, bike paths, and the list goes on.

If even RVs make you feel like you're roughing it too much, there are cabins available, as well as spacious, comfy yurts with beds.

Fees: Basic campsites start at $14 per night, but expect to pay about $25 for most campsites. More if you make reservations, which is recommended on weekends during summer.

Reserve by calling (888) 922-6743, or go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

Getting there: Drive about 100 miles north on Idaho 55 to McCall and follow the signs to the park.

Information: Go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/ponderosa or call 634-2164.

UPPER PAYETTE LAKE

This campground gets you away from McCall, but just a short ways off pavement and easy access for RVs. You get camping on a beautiful mountain lake, but without state park-size crowds.

There's a boat launch, and group sites if you have a large party.

This is a Forest Service campground with standard amenities such as outhouses, water pumps for drinking water, and picnic tables and fire rings.

The lake is perfect for small boats such as canoes and kayaks because it is a no-wake lake, and there are several hiking trails in the area.

Fees: $10 per night for single sites and $15 for doubles. Campsites are reservable by calling (877) 444-6777 or going to recreation.gov.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north to McCall and Warren Wagon Road about 16 miles north of McCall to the campground.

Information: Go to fs.usda.gov/activity/payette/recreation and click on "camping-cabins," or call 634-0700.

GROUSE

You will have to wait until summer for this campground because it's at 6,400 feet in elevation, and the snow doesn't usually clear until mid- to late June.

But it's a nice campground on a lake in the mountains northwest of McCall and near Brundage Mountain Resort.

It has 22 sites on Goose Lake, and it's a short drive to several other lakes in the area.

Getting there requires about 10 miles of gravel road that is steep and can get rough, so you if you baby your RV or motorhome, you may want to avoid it.

Fees: $10 and $15 for double sites. Nine sites are reservable by calling (877) 444-6777 or going to recreation.gov.

Getting there: From McCall, go about 4 miles west on Idaho 55 to Goose Lake Road, which takes you to the campground.

Information: Go to fs.usda.gov/activity/payette/recreation and click on "camping-cabins," or call 634-0700.

CASCADE AREA

LAKE CASCADE/EASTSIDE

There are three campgrounds close to each other and near the city limits of Cascade: Crown Point, Ridgeview and Van Wyck.

That means you get lake-side camping with the convenience of boat launches, restaurants, gas stations, stores and even a golf course.

Some have full hookups, flush toilets, water and other comfortable amenities.

These areas are all easily accessible for RVs, and it's a popular area for summer campers who want to enjoy the lake and also have quick access to other recreation in the Cascade area.

Fees: $10 to $38 per night depending on the type of campsite. You can make reservations by calling (888) 922-6743 or go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

Getting there: Drive 75 miles north on Idaho 55 to Cascade and follow the signs to the park on the north end of town.

Information: Go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/lake-cascade or call 382-6544.

LAKE CASCADE/WESTSIDE

These campgrounds include Huckleberry, Buttercup, West Mountain and Poison Creek.

Services vary at each site, but you can find flush toilets at some and outhouses at others, shoreline camping in grassy areas, or in the forest. The west side tends to be a little less crowded than the east side of the reservoir.

You also have easy access to Tamarack Resort, which offers restaurants, golf, zip line tours, mountain biking and other recreation.

The west-side campgrounds also provide quick access to thousands of acres of Forest Service land to the west for hiking, riding motorcycles and ATVs, and other activities.

Fees: $10 to $38 per night depending on type of campsite. Reserve by calling (888) 922-6743 or go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov.

Getting there: From Cascade, go north on Idaho 55 to Donnelly and west on West Roseberry Road to West Mountain Road and head south toward Tamarack Resort.

Information: Go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/lake-cascade or call 382-6544.

WARM LAKE

This lake is in the mountains east of Cascade and is accessible by a paved road, but it's a twisty one.

There are two Forest Service campgrounds near the lake - Shoreline, with 31 campsites, and Warm Lake, with 12.

The area was hit by major wildfires several years ago, and you can still see the burned trees. But it's still green and a nice place to camp.

There's also good access to backcountry areas, such as the South Fork of the Salmon River, Stolle Meadows and Landmark, and you can take a scenic drive down Johnson Creek to Yellow Pine.

Fees: $15 per night. Some campsites are reservable by calling (877) 444-6777 or going to recreation.gov.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to Cascade and Warm Lake Road about 25 miles.

Information: Go to fs.usda.gov/recmain/boise/recreation or call 373-4100.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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