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!
McCoy Campground, spot 10, has the most stunning view! Bathrooms close by and an old fashioned “pump it yourself” well (that didnt work despite pumping my butt off)… but the dammed area of the snake river has plenty of fresh water regardless. Fire rings, swing out grill, bear boxes and a nice steel picnic table make this spot typical and complete. Not made for large RVs and bring padding if you are taking the tents. The view of the mountains and water is breath taking. I could have stayed much longer! You can hear voices and music from across the river as clear as day. There were a few water skiers and a couple fishermen. I tried my hand at fishing and got nothing for my 4 days of effort. Plenty of drift wood and fallen branches for firewood. One of the small berry bushes had branches that smelled like cherries when it burned. Rather pleasant surprise. This place was just amazing!
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.
If you have a tiny camper or teardrop, it doesnt look welcoming. Typical city RV lot, bunch of expensive looking RVs, really tidy, and nice.
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.