Where You Can & CANNOT Camp in Idaho
There are few things better in life than a gorgeous, fun, relaxing and successful camping trip in Idaho. With ample mountains, lakes, rivers, trees, streams, fish, hot springs, and clear skies with starry nights, Idaho is the place to be. There are 35 million acres of public land and hundreds of private campgrounds and backcountry campsites to choose from. It will actually be hard to find a camping place that is a bad one.
The Idaho Forest Service is asking campers to do their homework before going out in the forest to make sure that they are actually allowed to camp there. According to an interview with Zach Poff, the recreation and program manager for the Ketchum Ranger District KTVB reports that there are two types of campgrounds. "Designated and dispersed." We are all familiar with designated campsites. They are not hard to come by and usually means you are camping near other campsites in a camping community of sorts. Sometimes with sharable amenities like water, public bathrooms, garbage cans and built in fire pits. Most of these type of sites need to be reserved in advance and many have fees associated, although typically minimal.
Now on to the type of Idaho camping that is in question. Dispersed camping. This is where you can pull off the road and use certain areas to make camp. There are no fees but also no amenities. Just you and nature. This is my preferred type of camping. When I go out to camp, no offence but I don't want to run into anyone else except my little family if possible. The tricky thing is some are clearly marked and others are not. So how do you know what is ok and what is not?
This is where the research comes in. The Forest Service has a motor vehicle use map on their sites where you can go and find where camping is permitted. It shows roads where motorized travel is allowed and what types of uses are permitted in those areas. It is important to note that even in areas where camping is permitted, usually there are time limits, some max at just 3 nights while others you are good for up to 10.
If you have any questions about where or how long, check the website for the forest service area you are wanting and find the section with Maps, there you should find a Motor Vehicle Use Maps, here is a link to the Sawtooth area map.
Here is the link to the Boise Forest Service one. You can also call your local Forest Service office with any questions you may have. Also, Idaho is amazing, lets keep it that way, please please leave the place better than you found it.
Special thanks to John Masters at KTVB for the great information and interview that will help keep Idaho great.