Dispersed camping is a great way to set up a site when you find yourself without a campsite reservation. Other than the fact that you will have to pass up on some of the amenities that come with making regular campsite reservations, with dispersed camping, you do not have to worry about prices and availability of space.
If you find yourself boondocking- another name for dispersed camping- in Idaho, consider yourself very lucky. With the vast stretches of public land located in various places in Idaho, your choices are pretty much endless when it comes to dispersed camping. Below, we have provided the 20 best dispersed camping spots for you In Idaho.
Why Go Dispersed Camping In Idaho
A state with the least population in America, Idaho sits snugly in between Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Wyoming. If you think the small size of this state is a declaration of its lack of potential, you might want to think again. Idaho might be one of the least populated states in the USA, but what it lacks in human life is overcompensated with stretches of uninhabited land rich in biodiversity. Idaho is a large state that spans two time zones from the Canadian border to the south, connecting with Utah and Nevada.
Idaho is easily one of the most underrated locations for enjoying a connection with nature. With its vast landscapes and biotopes that range from undisturbed forests to towering mountains, river canyons, and arid planes, it is easy to see how Idaho is any camper’s dream. Because Idaho has such a vast stretch and abundance of natural locations that range from forest to land and sea, it easily attracts an array of visitors who want to enjoy nature.
Although Idaho attracts tons of people with different interests like mountain bikers looking to explore the terrains, tourist hikers and campers remain a significant percentage of the visitors. Idaho is made of approximately 62 percent of public land, making it a great place to practice dispersed camping. Legal dispersed camping sites on both national forests and BLM land isn’t uncommon. Below, we provide a list of the 20 best spots for boondocks in Idaho.
While all these dispersed camping sites are free, not all must contain free amenities you will usually encounter in designated campsites. This means you might have to figure out your water hookups, electricity, and be your trash service.
What To Know About Dispersed Camping In Idaho
Before you pack up your gear in search of the closest dispersed campsite in Idaho, there are some tips to help you enjoy your boondocking experience.
- Familiarize yourself with the terrain. You can check out the location you wish to set up camp ahead so you can prepare yourself for the experience
- Pack the essentials. You do not want to be stuck while missing an important tool or gear.
- While a large percentage of the land in Idaho is free, you might want to cross-check with local authorities.
- Familiarize yourself with and practice the Leave No Trace Principles: Plan ahead & prepare, travel & camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.
20 Best Dispersed Camping Spots
1. Roman Nose Lakes, Panhandle
Roman Nose Lakes is a National Forest with dispersed camping sites in the Kaniksu National Forest area. It comprises three lakes with a trailhead connecting the lowest of the three Roman Nose Lakes. Roman Nose Lakes contains a system of well-traveled trails, a boardwalk (wheelchair accessible) that leads to the main lake, a footbridge to the upper two lakes, and a spectacular view that lies in wait. While there is camping with amenities available at the trailhead facilities in designated areas near the main lake, there are other smaller sites perfect for dispersed camping.
2. Weir Creek
If you will be camping in your truck, you should skip this option. Weir Creek is a free dispersed camping spot for tent campers, and overnight parking is not allowed in the area. Weir Creek hot springs is located in Clearwater National Forest, just off the north side of Highway 12. It features an easily accessible parking area and steep trails but is relatively easy to hike. Weir creek is open year-round, with foot traffic especially heavy in the summer. It features free hot springs, a soaking area, ample space for campers, and a bathroom. Dogs are allowed, but they have to be put on a leash.
3. White Bird Gravel Pit
White Bird Gravel Pit is a BLM free camping site located along the Salmon River. It is accessible by turning west onto Old Highway 95 and driving for a few hundred feet. If you wish for a more secluded spot away from the main camping area, there is a small trail behind the parking lot leading to a secluded spot. The camping site provides a pit toilet, but that’s about it. There are no other amenities, and campers will have to figure out other essentials themselves.
4. Seven Devils Mountain Range
This is a primitive campground nestled in the Seen Devils mountain. This campsite offers a quiet camping enclosure with breathtaking views of mountains and forests. With an elevation of about 7408ft, the road to the Seven Devils campground can be rough but exceptionally fun for hikers. There are about ten free campsites with a picnic table and firepit at each one. There are two vault toilets, but other than that, there are no other amenities. All in all, the Seven Devils Mountain Range, located in west-central Idaho in the Hells Canyon Wilderness, provides the right amount of solitude and fun any camper wants.
5. East Fork Weiser River Camping Spot
The East Fork Weiser River camping spot is located in the Payette National Forest, accessible from the roads on Highway 95. The campground is fully shaded with the alluring East Fork Weiser River running alongside the site. With little to no amenities, you have to boondock while out camping in East Fork Weiser. You can quickly locate the site by turning East onto NF-172 from Highway 95 and following the River. The site can be accessed by smaller trucks, but RVs might need to stick farther behind. There are several camping site options, and you simply have to pick the one you consider best for you.
6. Hell’s Canyon
Hell’s Canyon Overlook undoubtedly has one of the most breathtaking sights from the camping sites. While this is great, it is not easily accessible and not an excellent option for larger trucks like RVs, as the switchbacks can be challenging to navigate. It is a long drive through unmarked roads, but you do not want to rely on your Google Maps. An easy way to access the site is by turning right into Kleinschmidt Grde/NF Dev Rd 050 before arriving at Hells Canyon Adventure Lodge and following the switchbacks.
7. Big Bar
So are you in the Hell’s Canyon vicinity looking for free dispersed camping but are in no mood to navigate the treacherous-looking roads? Big Bar is an excellent solution for you. Big Bar is a more easily accessible dispersed camping ground in the Hell’s Canyon with equally fantastic views of the peaks. Most of the roads are paved and easy to find with the camping sites by the Snake River. Big Bar’s camping areas are more extensive and feature fire rings and a shared pit toilet.
8. Trail Creek Hot Springs
The grounds near Trail Creek Hot Springs, also known as Samuel’s Hot Springs, provide great camping spots for campers. It can easily be accessed by heading south on 425 from NF-22/Warm Lake Road. There are no amenities at the campground, but it is incredibly comfortable if you know how to make the most out of your environment. Trail Creek Hot Springs is more of a pull-off as no other campsites are around. The ground can be accessed by all types of vehicles, including larger RVs.
9. Little City of Rocks
Little Rocks is a small dispersed camping spot north of Gooding. It can be accessed by small trucks with GPS by following road 46. Little City of Rocks is more of a parking area than a campsite, but it serves its purpose regardless. There are no amenities, excluding a firepit made of rocks. Because there isn't much to explore, Little City of Rocks is a lesser-known getaway without many campers.
10. Sacajawea Hot Springs
There is a free camping ground near Sacajawea Hot Springs down NF-525 and along the southern side of the Payette River. From this site, campers are treated to a magnificent view of the Sawtooth Mountains. Although the Sacajawea Hot Springs campsite lacks basic amenities, it makes up for this with easy access to the Sacajawea Hot Springs and some hiking trails for campers who are up for an adventure.
11. St. Joe River Road
St. Joe River Road is located in the Idaho Panhandle Forest Area and features an 89-mile stretch of road that stretches from St. Marie’s and twists East to the Montana border. The road is surrounded by the National Forest and features multiple free and semi-developed campsites. With multiple dispersed campsites slated on the side roads, you can choose where you want to settle your camp. All options are open to both truck and tent campers.
12. Lightning Creek Road
Located in the Kaniksu National Forest near Lake Pend Oreille, Lightning Creek Road is a half-hour from Clark Fork and an hour from Sandpoint and Ponderay. There are many dispersed campsites along Lightning Creek Road, with some having more minor roads that might restrict the movement of larger vehicles.
13. Powerhouse Gulch Payette River
Powerhouse Gulch Payette River campsite is another free camping ground with a free hot spring. It is not fit for a large RV but can accommodate up to twelve tent campers. It is located between Middlefork Road/695 and the Middle Fork Payette River. Like many other dispersed camping sites, Powerhouse Gulch Payette River campgrounds lack many basic amenities, including a cell phone network. If you require drinking water and vault toilets, you might want to check the budget-friendly designated camping a little up north.
14. Rough Creek Spots
Rough Creek Spots is a free campground east of Stanley near Boat Box Hot Spring. If you find yourself in need of a place to settle in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest, Rough Creek Spots is one of the best choices you can make. The road leading to the campground is easily accessible as it is made of gravel. The campsite can be easily found as the road is parallel to Rough Creek. Because Rough Creek spots are easily accessible, you might find many campers already setting up tents in the ridges. Regardless, the campground is significant, and you can easily find a spot for you to settle.
15. Deer Gulch on the Salmon River
Deer Gulch is located just 15 minutes away from one of Idaho’s most famous hot springs, Goldbug Hot Springs. Because the campsites near Goldbug Hot Springs are on BLM land, Deer Gulch is absolutely free. To get to Deer Gulch, cross the Dry Gulch Bridge of the Salmon River. You’ll arrive at a road that splits left and right. You can take either road as both have dispersed campsites you can choose from. The campground has trees to provide shade, fire rings, vault toilets, and a bit of wildlife to contribute to the already breathtaking scenery.
16. Lake Creek
Lake Creek dispersed campsites are located at the southern base of the famous Sawtooth Mountains. The Sawtooth Mountains are especially popular for their tons of free dispersed camping areas. Lake Creek dispersed camping area is one of the lesser popular campsites, but it is just as comfortable and beautiful as the others. To locate the campgrounds, turn East on Lake Creek Road/142 and follow the gravel road. Lake Creek camping area is large with an open view of the hills and mountains, accommodates large RVs, and provides privacy for those who seek it.
17. Balanced Rock County Park
The Balanced Rock County Park lays snugly in between Canyon walls and the Salmon Falls Creek. It is large enough that campers can set up tents in the farthest areas for privacy. RVs will find it difficult to pull into the site, so only tent campers are encouraged to stay. The creek is open to campers who wish to swim, and adventurous campers can also explore the boulders. Each camping area has a picnic table, garbage can, fire pit, grill, and pit toilets.
18. Cauldron Linn
Cauldron Linn is a waterfall on the Snake River. To access Cauldron Linn, simply come in on the north side of the Snake River, and you will arrive at the free camping area. Cauldron Linn's camping grounds lack basic amenities like toilets and trash collectors. If you choose to camp here, prepare to boondock wildly.
19. Black Canyon Recreation Site
Black Canyon Recreation Site is more like a gravel parking ground located in the mountains above Pocatello. However, it is on BLM land and still accommodates campers for free. Black Canyon Recreation Site features a pit toilet, tent sites, picnic tables, fire pits, and excellent views of the mountainous terrains. It is a perfect option for campers looking for a quick night stop before packing up tomorrow. Black Canyon is accessible through the gravelly and bumpy Old Hwy 91. The road is suitable for various types of vehicles but not large RVs. Black Canyon Recreation Site is only open from April 14 - to November 16.
20. Warm Slough Campsite
Warm Slough Campsite is an excellent dispersed camping ground for families. It is surrounded on three sides by a tributary of the Snake River named Henry’s Fork. Warm Slough Campsite features basic amenities like pit toilets, fire pits, some picnic tables, but no trash service. There are a variety of campsite sizes easily accessible by vehicle in different sizes. The campsite is large, and campers can easily find a spot to settle. The river provides an exciting form of recreation for campers who dare.
Choosing Where To Camp In Idaho
There are tons of free dispersed camping sites you can find when camping in Idaho. Some provide views of sparkling rivers, some offer captivating yet intimidating mountainous terrains, while offer the grand view of forests and wildlife. Regardless of which free dispersed Idaho campsite you choose, it is essential to play by the site's rules. Stay safe, pack essential gears fit for the weather, and remember to leave each site as you find it.