Camping in Idaho
By Sara Sheehy
Idaho is a state that flies under the radar for many travelers—until they arrive, that is. Naturally, it's a wonder, with rugged mountain ranges, wild rivers, dense forests, and arid high desert. Home to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, which is the largest Wilderness Area in the lower 48 states, Idaho is a destination that thrills adventurous spirits who thrive off the beaten path.
Closer to civilization, Idaho offers up a handful of cities and even more small towns that surprise first-time visitors with their farm-to-table restaurants, modern art galleries, green spaces, and welcoming locals.
Ready to check out the Gem State? Here's where to camp while you're here.
Idaho State Parks
Sixteen state parks in Idaho welcome campers. The parks are scattered throughout the state, each offering a different landscape to enjoy, with many scenically located along rivers, reservoirs, and lakes.
Idaho State Park camping favorites include Bruneau Dunes State Park, home to the tallest single-structure sand dune in North America; northern Idaho's Farragut State Park, situated on the shore of massive Lake Pend Oreille; Henrys Lake State Park near Yellowstone, just a stone's throw from one of the country's best trout rivers; and Ponderosa State Park, a secluded haven nestled in the woods near the resort town of McCall.
Learn more about Idaho State Parks.
Idaho National Parks
Though no national parks reside entirely within Idaho's borders, there are plenty of other National Park Service lands to explore. Take Craters of the Moon National Monument, for example. Visiting this vast landscape of lava flows, cinder cones, and sagebrush is an otherworldly experience in any season.
Other destinations to put on your bucket list include the City of Rocks National Reserve, a rock climbers paradise, and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, home to over 200 species of fossils and the famous Hagerman horse.
And don't forget Yellowstone National Park, a sliver of which graces Idaho's eastern border with Wyoming.
Idaho RV Parks
Idaho is a wild place, filled with more remote locations than front-country destinations. That being said, there are a smattering of full-service RV parks that welcome campers of any stripe for a night, week, or season of Idaho explorations.
RV parks abound at Lava Hot Springs, a quirky town that developed around a series of perfectly clear, odorless hot springs. You'll also find several RV park options in Idaho's bigger cities, including Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls.
Learn more about Idaho RV Parks.
Idaho National Forests
If there's one thing that Idaho does not lack, it's public land. The federal government manages over 32 million acres of public land in Idaho, covering nearly 62% of the state. National Forests make up almost 20.5 million of those acres.
Camping in the National Forests in Idaho is a mix of campgrounds and free, dispersed camping. While you won't find many amenities at the campgrounds, you will find designated campsites, spectacular views, remote corners to explore, and plenty of quiet.
Explore the National Forests in Idaho
- Beaverhead National Forest
- Bitterroot National Forest
- Boise National Forest
- Caribou-Targhee National Forest
- Clearwater National Forest
- Coeur D'Alene National Forest
- Kaniksu National Forest
- Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests
- Payette National Forest
- Saint Joe National Forest
- Salmon-Challis National Forest
- Sawtooth National Forest
Dispersed Camping Idaho
With so much public land, Idaho is nirvana for boondockers. We'll even go out on a limb and say that it's easier to find free, dispersed camping in the majority of Idaho than it is to find amenity-rich campgrounds.
While it's near impossible to highlight just a few boondocking destinations in such a big state, favorite destinations include the tiny mountain town of Stanley (and nearby Redfish Lake) in the Sawtooth Mountains, the river-runs-through-it allure of Island Park near Yellowstone, and the wilderness gateway of McCall, with it's easy access to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Learn more about free camping in Idaho.