Reconnect with Mother Nature: Camping and Hiking in Southern Idaho
Pitch your tent on top of a mountain next to an alpine lake to feel like a true Idahoan outdoorsmen. The hiking trails are incredible and challenging, but you’re always guaranteed a jaw dropping view. Enjoy relaxing in National Parks while scouting for flowers and wildlife. Reconnecting with nature while camping and hiking has never been easier than in Southern Idaho.
Nestled in the Albion Mountains of the Sawtooth National Forest, 8,300 feet above sea level, is where you’ll find one of the reasons that Idaho is nicknamed the Gem State: Lake Cleveland. The Hidden gem is located just 15 miles south of Albion, Idaho. The drive to Lake Cleveland includes an astonishing 3,600 feet elevation change.
The elevation makes for breathtaking view but it also makes Lake Cleveland only accessible from July to October because the colder temperatures and snow drifts. Lake Cleveland’s campground is spotted with tents, RVS, kayaks and fishing poles in the summer months. The camping areas are broken up into two sides. The east side is equipped with seven reservable camp sites and 10 first-come, first-served sites. The west side has 9 first-come, first served sites, but is not recommended for RVs or trailers because of the steep terrain and tight turn around. Overnight use is $8-$10 per spot and certain spots can be reserved at recreation.gov.
The campground has 30 picnic tables, 25 grills, wheelchair-accessible pit toilets, beach views, and plenty of places to set in a small boat or kayak. Motorized vehicles are not permitted on the water. Hiking is available at the Twin Lakes trail head, or there are numerous short hikes around the lake area.
Lake Walcott State Park is located at the northwest end of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lake Walcott Project, a welcome refuge on the edge of Idaho’s high desert.
Water skiing, power boating, windsurfing, sailing and bird watching are only a few of the activities that will make your stay at Lake Walcott enjoyable. Camping areas with RV hookups are available. Picnic lovers and campers will enjoy the acres of grass beneath groves of stately eastern hardwoods. Nearby sites of interest include Minidoka Falls near the park, Rupert City Park, and the historic railroad community of Minidoka.
Castle Rocks, nestled in Big Cove, at the base of the 10,339-foot Cache Peak, offers diverse recreational opportunities in a magnificent setting.
It is a place where solitude, natural beauty, and ranching heritage combine to enrich the visitor’s experience. The park is located two miles northwest of the village of Almo in southern Cassia County, Idaho.
Evidence suggests that folks have been coming to Castle Rocks for nearly 9,000 years. Campsites are nestled among Idaho’s largest pinyon pine forest which are on the east slope of the 7,500-foot Smoky Mountain.
On his way to California in 1849, emigrant James F. Wilkens described the dramatic geological area he encountered as a “City of Rocks.” The name stuck, as did hundreds of pioneer inscriptions, wagon ruts, and journal accounts of the nearly quarter-million people who traveled through here on the California Trail from 1843 to 1859.
The City of Rocks is known worldwide for its excellent rock-climbing routes. There are nearly 700 in all! The City also sports fantastic mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and skiing. With nearly 14,407 acres of land, you’ll have plenty of room to roam — just like the pioneers.
This fascinating lunar landscape was created by eight major volcanic flows between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago. Hiking among the ancient topography really does feel like walking the surface of the moon.
Craters of the Moon became a national monument in 1924 after legendary Idaho explorer and author Robert “Two Gun Bob” Limbert championed the area in a National Geographic article. It also made history in 1970, when a portion of the park was classified as the first federally designated wilderness.
It’s a spelunkers paradise, so pick up your free cave permit! In the spring, thousands of wildflowers make their way through the craggy rocks to put on a show. Indian Paintbrush glow bright red and can be seen blooming from lava rock.
South Hills Campgrounds
The Forest Service maintains multiple campsites in the South Hills area. These include Schipper, Steer Basin, Upper and Lower Penstemon, Big Bluff, Third Fork, Porcupine Springs, Bear Gulch, Forest Service Flats, and the Harrington Picnic Area. For more information on camping fees or to reserve a spot, visit the Forest Service’s reservation website at recreation.gov.
Wilson Lake Reservoir is a 600-acre fishing spot with a boat ramp, parking, fuel and 40 camp sites. A record sized Perch was caught in 1976 at Wilson Lake, and anglers from all over love to come attempt the same catch. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has graciously improved Wilson Lake Reservoir since, and will be accessible for generations to come. The property includes a five-acre park, sandy beaches, boat docks, and plenty of places to picnic. Forty campsites are here, so take your pick to have the best view and night!
Lake Murtaugh – This low-elevation camping spot south of Murtaugh is on an irrigation reservoir. Because of this, it’s an excellent destination for boating, fishing, and swimming, although the water is pretty chilly. Twin Falls County manages Lake Murtaugh.
McClendon Spring Campground – This semi-developed campground south of Burley, close to Malta, is an off-the-beaten-track destination managed by the BLM. It has a long history, including the McClendon Spring which was a favorite resting place for emigrants along the California Trail.
The campgrounds at Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir are great for anglers: This 14-mile long reservoir that provides opportunities to catch nine species of game fish.
It is the premier walleye fishery in Idaho and trophy catches are a common occurrence. The reservoir has five recreation sites that provide primitive camping facilities, and one fully developed site at Salmon Dam. The developed site has picnic sites, recreational vehicle dump station and a boat ramp.
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