Dig Deeper into Adventure at these Idaho Campgrounds
After being cooped up inside for months during the start of the pandemic, many people took to the outdoors. MANY people. Now those experiences that were once quiet—hiking, biking, camping—are often filled with lots of new outdoorsman flocking from cities to more rural areas.
With more popular and easily accessible campgrounds getting filled, it’s time to head deeper into the woods to find some more peaceful, secluded campgrounds. While many of these Idaho campgrounds are not suitable for big RVs, they do offer primitive camping with more peace and quiet.
1. Upper Payette Lake Campground
Located just 19 miles north of the town of McCall, the Upper Payette Lake Campground is located on a mountain lake in the Payette National Forest. There are 12 sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis and eight sites that can be reserved.
Each site comes with a picnic table and fire ring as well as beautiful views of the Grassy Mountains and local wildflowers. There are also a number of dispersed campsites along the lakeshore. Enjoy hiking and mountain biking opportunities as well as soaking at the nearby Burgdorf Hot Springs.
2. Iron Creek Campground
Reviews of the Iron Creek Campground all seem to agree: not only is the area beautiful but the campsites are also quiet and well spread out. Composed of nine sites in lodgepole pines alongside Iron Creek southwest of Stanley, these sites are all fairly primitive and are first-come, first-served.
The nearby Iron Creek trailhead will take you on numerous hikes including Alpine Lake, Sawtooth Lake, Trail Creek Lakes, Goat Lake, and the McGowan Lakes. Enjoy hiking, fishing, and the beauty of numerous Sawtooth peaks. The road to the campsite can be a little rough.
3. Windy Saddle/Seven Devils
Located near the town of Riggins in the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, the Windy Saddle and Seven Devils campgrounds are both remote owing to the slight difficulty of getting there. The road to the area is one mile south of Riggins and is a rough 17 miles and 5,500 feet of elevation gain to the top (so large trailers are not recommended).
Your reward is access to an alpine lake and views of one of Idaho’s beautiful mountain ranges as well as a jumping-off point for hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding in the area. There are six tent sites at Windy Saddle (no fees or reservations) and 10 at Seven Devils. Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire pit, and two vault toilets are available.
4. Wildhorse Lake Campground
Wildhorse Lake Campground is a remote spot in the Gospel Hump Wilderness near Elk City, Idaho. You’ll need a good vehicle to travel the rough roads but you’ll find beautiful campgrounds in solitude next to Wildhorse Lake and Tenmile Meadows. There are six campsites to enjoy while fishing in the lake or hiking some of the many nearby trails.
5. Owyhee Byway
This scenic, backcountry byway stretches 100 miles between Grand View, Idaho, and Oregon’s Jordan Valley. There are tons of camping opportunities away from the crowds, including one developed campground in the area. The developed campground, the North Fork Owyhee Campground, is a BLM campsite with 6 sites.
If you choose to camp elsewhere, you’ll need to be self-contained and bring water, food, etc. and pack anything out you bring in. Explore the three sections of the newly designated Owyhee Wilderness: Little Jacks Creek, Pole Creek, and the North Fork of the Owyhee.
6. Shiefer Campground
Shiefer Campground, located in the Payette National Forest, is extremely primitive, remote camping. This undeveloped site on the Salmon River offers beautiful views of the South Fork canyon country from its perch at 3,050 feet.
Hiking trails along the river lead into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a 2.367 million-acre protected wilderness area. This campground is a several-hour drive from McCall.
7. Pine Flats Campground
Despite being located only 38 miles outside of Boise in the Boise National Forest (near Banks), the Pine Flats Campground remains a very quiet, underutilized campground with easy access to numerous hot springs.
A total of 24 sites (some single-family and some double-family) are available for $15 (single) or $30 (double) or $5 for day use. Visitors can enjoy rafting, kayaking, and fishing on the South Fork Payette River as well as numerous hot springs along the Banks-Lowman Highway, known as the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. A ¼-mile nature trail leads from the campground to a natural hot springs pool on the river.
8. Big Springs Campground
Like others on this list, the difficulty in getting to this campground keeps it serene and beautiful and well worth the journey. Located in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Big Springs Campground is a draw for several reasons, including its close proximity (16 miles) to Lava Hot Springs.
The campground itself is located on the banks of Pebble Creek at 6,500 feet. Enjoy fishing, tubing on the Portneuf River, and hiking, biking, and horseback riding on the Boundary Trail. The campground has one large group site that can accommodate up to 175 people with a shelter, tables, campfire ring, grills, and parking. Single and double sites are also available as well as vault toilets and drinking water.
9. Black Lake Campground
Black Lake Campground is for those truly looking to camp off the beaten path. As usual, the road to this campground is steep and rough and will be difficult for RVs or trailers.
Four tent sites make up this rustic campground just 60 miles south of Riggins, Idaho. It’s on the edge of Black Lake next to the Hells Canyon Wilderness in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. The campground lacks facilities and amenities. But it has beautiful, natural recreation activities like hiking and swimming.
10. Graham Bridge Campground
Located about 90 miles from Boise and 53 miles northeast of Idaho City, the Graham Bridge Campground lies at the end of a scenic backcountry road that goes over 8,000 feet in elevation at times.
Graham Bridge is a designated Forest Service campground. It features four sites with picnic tables, an outhouse, and fire wings on the North Fork of the Boise River. There are no fees. Experience staying in a historic Forest Service building. Just rent the Graham Bridge Guard Station for $35/night.
Find more Idaho campgrounds
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John Rudd says
Regarding #4. Wild Horse Campground. This camping area is not for the ‘faint of heart drivers’. It is absolutely and strictly FOUR WHEEL DRIVE vehicles only. From Old Orogrande it is 8 miles of steep, one lane road, with very few turn-outs. I have personally been there several times and I would NOT RECOMMEND it unless you are an experienced 4×4 driver with a well equipped vehicle.
Thank you for the camping info for I – d – hoe and Tax – as … good stuff to know, tired of the “resort” stuff.
Be careful, Campground #4 Wildhorse Lake Campground in the Idaho Gospel Hump Wilderness is NOT the picture shown. This picture is of Wildhorse Lake in the Steens Mountains in southeast Oregon. I doubt that this author has ever been to the Gospel Hump Wilderness in Idaho. This leads me to ‘suspect’ the accuracy of this entire article.