One of the least populated states in America, Idaho is the third state that makes up the Pacific Northwest—besides Oregon and Washington. This is a large and wild state, spanning two time zones and stretching from the Canadian border all the way south to Utah and Nevada. Its vast tracts of old-growth forests, various subranges of the Rocky Mountains and Hells Canyon, America’s deepest canyon, make camping in Idaho an essential thing to do during any visit.
Idaho’s wide variety in landscapes and biotopes, from arid plains to towering mountains, from pristine forests to river canyons, attract an equally varied array of visitors. Fishermen are drawn to the state’s abundant and exceptional fish species. It’s the West’s only inland state where you can catch blue-ribbon trout as well as king salmon and steelhead. Mountain bikers, rock climbers, and boaters find delight camping in Idaho’s wildernesses.
Hiking and camping in Idaho is, however, arguably the state’s most popular outdoor pursuit. And it’s available all across the state. A particularly great destination is the Boise National Forest, the location of the awesome Red Mountain Trail. Other fantastic places to go backpacking and camping in Idaho include Craters of the Moon National Monument, the remarkable Bruneau Dunes State Park and iconic Yellowstone National Park, a sliver of which lies in the state’s southeastern corner.
In the middle of southern Idaho lies Shoshone Falls, a series of huge cascades on the Snake River sometimes referred to as the “Niagara of the West”. The Snake River meanders its way further west, making up the northern part of the Oregon and Idaho border, and flows through massive Hells Canyon. Ten miles wide and almost 8,000 feet deep, this is the deepest river canyon in North America, an absolutely natural gem to explore when camping in Idaho.
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I get it, it looks foreign to those who have never seen a lava field or remnants of volcanos. Somewhere it mentions it was the only one in the continental states… which isnt true! But it is probably the largest for sure. There is a huge area to drive through, and its certainly a sight to see. But the price is too high in my opinion. The campsites are super close together, its windy, hot in the summer and no showers. There are some interesting things to walk up to and literally walk up, but all of the hiking and areas where several people could be in the same area were closed due to health concerns. Yet the price remains at $20… half the park for the same price!
If you are coming from the east, there isnt much to see as you approach. If you are coming from the west, its almost as good of a view as the drive through tour!
This is beyond the Payette River campground, if you follow the South Fork road down a ways, you will see a few turn outs, likely with several filled. This is US Forestry or BLM or both land. You’ll hear echos of gunfire, the occasional semi blasting up the highway or the rumble of tons of bikes making their way up the highway… and if its fire season, there will be helicopters coming in and filling giant buckets of water as there is a Ranger station and water reserve near by.
It is a surreal view and area. Dispersed, no amenities, nothing but you, the dirt, rocks, tall pines and little critters. The chipmunks like to tease dogs, but they also taste amazing fried up with some potatoes. There are huge fish in the river below and the water is unbelievably clear, albeit 40ft down from the camp sites in most areas. There are some markers in a few of the areas identifying the land and the forest rangers like to come out and make sure you dont have a campfire. People get possessive over these spots, even though it is public land. Seems a few of these campers have setup and been there a while.
Regardless, it is stunning and perfect!
Its pretty close to the snake river, and at the trailhead of a non vehicle trail. Its after Celebration Park on Victory Ln, you drive around the park and it turns into a dirt road. BLM or County land I think. Not many folks here. Smells like horse droppings. Pretty rough terrain getting to the end. There was a sign about a mile back that said “3 day camping limit”. You can get to the water, but its a slippery and steep trip. Its beautiful otherwise. There are big critters out here sniffing and jumping onto my camper, making my dog go crazy. Free camping, dispersed, no fresh water, no fires allowed. Hikers going to the trail will walk past your site if you park on the road turnouts… so dont shower outside… lessons learned.
Close to the road, you can hear all the traffic. Close to the boat launch ramps, you can hear all the boats racing to their fishing spot as the sun comes up. Close to an Air Force Base, you get to listen to jet exhaust all day and night. Its windy. No shade. Serious off-road trails (surprise if you’re driving in at night). Desert like.
This location is a perfect place to stay for a Yellowstone visit. My partner and I were just passing through Yellowstone for the day coming up from the Tetons and booked a single night here to crash after. It’s really close to the west entrance to the park. Amenities here were great, and everything was really nice and quiet at night. It’s also about a 13 minute walk from the bustle of West Yellowstone which has some cute souvenir shopping and local restaurants. I’d absolutely stay here again.
The place is beautiful and you have a hiking trail through the canyon and the balance rock is 5 min by car. Thegood: It’s free, has water, trash cans, and bathroom pits, roofed picnic tables, fire grills, fire rings. Can stay 7 days, tent on grass only Thursday through Sunday (sprinkles during the week), camp near the river, kayak, fishing… The bad: limited space, flies are something out of this world (seriously, they won’t let you do anything outside), very windy because of the canyon walls, no service not even with boosters, fish tiny and bony.
One of the most gorgeous sunsets we’ve ever seen. Fairly quiet, even on a Friday night. Limited services, but all we needed, and decent privacy between sites. A little gem.