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a VirtualTourist member from Canterbury


Exploring Boise and the Sawtooth : camping and hiking


Sam from England here! This summer we planning on driving up from Tahoe to the Boise/Sawtooth area. This will be part of a longer road trip (camping, hiking and sightseeing) starting in San Francisco and spending time in the Sierra Nevada (probably Mammoth Lakes Basin), Lake Tahoe etc. We want to spend a night in Boise and then up to four nights or so camping and day hiking in the Sawtooth. My question is: can anyone recommend a nice campground (we prefer quiet/non-commercial/scenic) which would A) make a good base for some of the best hikes in the area (we like to do long, serious hikes - up to 20 miles) and are very experienced) B) not be too far from civilization if we want a decent choise of groceries to stock up on, a coffee shop or even to eat out. I was thinking maybe somewhere near Ketchum as Stanley looks very small but I would love some advice from anyone who knows the area. Thanks, Sam

10 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Marina

I can't recommend a specific campground around Sun Valley or inside Sawtooth, but I wanted to emphasize that you shouldn't skimp on time in Boise. It's a really fantastic and interesting town with great restaurants and a ton of stuff to do. Summer is even better there: "Alive After 5" going on (free outdoor concerts), tubing in the Boise River, outdoor farmers markets, the Boise Basque Festival (largest Basque community in the country) and the traffic is lighter with the BSU students gone.

In a general level of advice, you sound you'd like the state park or developed (i.e. - pit toilets and a spigot of running water) forest service campgrounds. The latter are all over the place in Idaho.
State parks:
Forest campgrounds in the Boise NF:
Forest campgrounds in the Sawtooth NF:

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

If you are going to Boise, make sure you stop off in Twin Falls. The scenery of the falls and river are fantastic. See my VT tips: [original VT link]

Up the road a piece is Crater of the Moon National Monument over by Ketchum, that has a campground and hiking trails in this lava field where you will be amazed at the different types of lava you will be walking on, near and around.

The two areas are a triangle on the map with Boise. Besides Sawtooth in Idaho, the Bitterroot Valley in Montana is a great hiking area. From Ketchum get over to US-93 to go up the Bitterroot Valley. Follow the Lewis & Clark Trail for hiking in the area. Yes, it is further up from Sawtooth but great historic hiking trials. See:

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from San Diego

Just a general comment I would add is that you will find most of the campgrounds/towns in Idaho to be, "quiet/non-commercial/scenic."

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Stockton

Colin, Larry, and Linda all jumped on points I was about to make. My Idaho VT pages on Boise, as well as Cataldo and Wallace (which are in the Bitteroot Mtns near gorgeous Coeur d'Alene) can provide basic background imagery and historic facts to orient you before the hike because as Colin points out there is plenty to do in Boise. Idaho is basically one of the more remote states and so most camping shouldn't appear very "commercial", as Linda points out. Larry's point about the Snake River definitely can't be forgotten. This river is arguably as scenic as the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon! I'm a little less enthusiastic about Idaho Falls as a place to stay, but that area includes some really scenic rivers and mountains. Don't expect much urbane sophistication in most towns of Idaho, except for Boise.

I don't know why you want to go to Mammoth Lakes region as that is quite far south of San Francisco. I'd focus on Yosemite if you've never been there before. In fact, the alpine hiking in Yosemite will match much of what you'll find in Idaho, I expect.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Canterbury

Thanks to all, this is very helpful.

Just to clarify, we are well travelled in the US and have exhausted Yosemite. Last year we spent a couple of nights at Mammoth Lakes and loved the hiking (really excellent) so would like to do some more. As we have to cross the Sierra Nevada and want to spend more time on Tahoe it didn't seem too far out of the way. We have spent time in Montana too so really wanted to fill in the gap between North Eastern CA and Montana = Idaho. I shall follow up the suggestions, thank you very much! Sam

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Park City

Another off the wall suggestion would be on the way to Boise. There is a place called Saint Anthony and it is known for it's Four wheeling. You can rent them there and go out into the sand dunes. The kids can even try it out some and play. My brother almost lives in a campground over there on weekends in the summers. It is in southern Idaho. [original VT link]

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Stockton

Check out my Fort Rock and Christmas Valley tips in the eastern Oregon desert. This is the region were the oldest evidence of humans in the New World have been found. The sudden transition from the pine forests of the Cascades to the Great Basin desert is very abrupt and beautiful here. Climbing Fort Rock will be an easy stop on the way through OR31 and Silver Lake through to Boise via Burns on 395/20 junction. This is really out of the way. Most folks living in Oregon, California, and Idaho have never been to this area.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Sun Valley

Boise has some great shopping as does Ketchum before heading up into the Sawtooths. Forget Stanley for the shopping part of the deal. It's more of a small town with fantastic scenery around it. Redfish lake is the biggest of the lakes that you can drive up to with camping all around one end of the lake. There is also Petit Lake, Alturus Lake and Stanely lake of which also you can drive up to with camping around them. These are all up in the Sawtooth Mtn area. Of course from these 4 lakes, you can hike up to MANY other great mountain lakes and mountain peaks, both for day hikes and overnight camping. Don't forget Smiley Creek Lodge for their good milkshakes. Galena Summit is a FANTASTIC view of the Sawtooth Mtn. Range. You have to go over this summit on Highway 75 going from Ketchum to Stanley. Good highway, well maintained.

Ketchum/Sun Valley is the tourist town roughly 60 miles south of Stanely. Great restaurants, grocery stores, hotels to choose from. This is also the ski resort town. is a good website to start with. They operate a gandola and chairlift here in the summer with some great day hikes up on the ski hill from 5 miles long to 10 miles long. DEFINITLY worth doing. I live in Sun Valley and have for 20+ years. Give me a write if you want if you have any questions.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Boise

I would recommend Redfish Lake. There is a big lodge and camp grounds and it is a very beautiful place half way between the Sawtooths and Sun Valley Be sure to make reservations as the camp ground and lodge fill quickly. I hope this helps. Just google Redfish Lake lodge or campgrounds or just Redfish Lake It is one of my favorite places with my daughter.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Westlake Village

Michelle. Wow, I guess better late then never with a reply to a post. I don't know if it will help the poster, but hey, you answered. :-)

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