9 Fun and Scenic Idaho Lake Camping Destinations

by Arthur McMahon
Updated August 21, 2021

best lake camping idaho
Photo: Charles Knowles

Is your vacation calendar filling up? No matter what, try to make space to fit in at least one of these fantastic Idaho lake camping destinations.

Idaho’s glacial history makes it a topographically diverse state. Millennia of seasonal ice rivers have moved mountains and carved canyons deep into the earth, resulting in some of the deepest and most scenic lakes in the country.

From the tip of the northern panhandle to the Snake River in the south, Idaho is home to many jaw-dropping lakes both large and small.

The campgrounds listed below are on the shores of Idaho’s best lakes where water-bound recreation such as boating, fishing, and swimming are a given — the epic views are just the icing on the cake.

Related: 11 Secluded Idaho Cabin Rentals to Fall in Love With

1. Ponderosa State Park

ponderosa state park camping idaho
Photo: Michael Overstreet, Getty Images

Why you should camp here: Year-round recreation and camping at a gorgeous and accessible lake.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

There are four different camping areas in Ponderosa State Park that combined offer nearly every type of camping experience you prefer. Many of the reservable spots on the Payette Lake peninsula are available for tent, camper, and RV camping, and there are several reservable cabins as well.

Those seeking a more rustic experience can head out to the non-reservable Northwest Passage Campground on the north side of the lake.

There’s a host of activities to enjoy in the developed campground area including an informative visitor center, horseshoes, and volleyball. The state park has 12 miles of hiking trails as well as 3.4 miles of designated snowshoe trails for the winter months.

Related read: 12 Epic Airbnb Campsites Around the U.S.

2. Redfish Lake

redfish lake camping idaho
Photo: Charles Knowles, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: A wilderness escape with plenty of secluded campsites.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabins
  • RV hookups: No

Redfish Lake is an alpine lake in the Sawtooth National Forest far from the din and lights of civilization. Numerous small campgrounds including Glacier View Campground, Point Campground, and Mount Heyburn Campground border the northern half of the lake and each has direct access to the lake and area hiking trails.

Named for enormous salmon sockeye spawns so huge they were said to turn the lake red during spawning season, Redfish Lake is great for fishing (though you’re not allowed to keep the salmon.)

Redfish Lake Lodge offers its own lodging options on the lake and has amenities that all campers can use such as a marina, restaurants, and a convenience store.

3. Heyburn State Park

Heyburn State Park Idaho
Photo: Gregory Johnston, Getty Images

Why you should camp here: A full-service marina with three large lakes and multiple waterways.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall,
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabins
  • RV hookups: No

Heyburn State Park has not one but three fantastic lakes that are great for boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and all sorts of other activities. There are three campgrounds, two reservable in advance and one first-come-first-served.

Bring your own watercraft or rent one for the day at the full-service marina. Many miles of interconnecting waterways are yours to explore, all the way from Coeur d’Alene to St. Maries and beyond if you’re feeling adventurous enough.

This park is also home to one of America’s most popular biking trails: the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Landlubbers can also spend their time out in the wildflower-strewn meadows and miles of hiking trails. It’s a great spot for lake camping in Idaho if you have a group of people interested in different activities.

4. Sam Owen Campground

Lake Pend Oreille idaho
Photo: Ethan Quin, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Camp on a scenic peninsula on Lake Pend Oreille.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

Lake Pend Oreille is a lake formed by glaciers in Idaho’s northern panhandle. With a depth of 1150 feet, it’s the fifth-deepest lake in the nation, and it is the largest body of water in all of Idaho.

The Sam Owen Campground sits on a heavily forested peninsula on the lake’s eastern side between the gentle waters of Ellisport Bay and the picturesque views at Owens Bay. Expect views for miles.

This is a popular campground where you can catch frequent educational presentations showcased at the campground’s amphitheater. The sandy beach attracts swimmers and sunbathers and experienced fishers use this as a spot to launch their boats and kayaks.

5. Priest Lake State Park

priest lake camping idaho
Photo: Getty Images

Why you should camp here: From amenity-rich to rugged and remote, there’s a campsite for everyone at Priest Lake.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

Priest Lake State Park is divided into three units around Priest Lake with four separate campgrounds to choose from. Visitors can reserve tent sites, full hook-up RV sites, and cabins at the Lionhead, Indian Creek, and Dickensheet campgrounds. Reservable boat slips are also available at these locations.

Priest Lake offers every type of outdoor recreation and relaxation you can imagine. There are sandy beaches, full-service marinas, hiking trails, and miles of crystal clear lake.

What’s more, Upper Priest Lake is two miles upstream from the main lake and is accessible only by boat or by foot, making it the ideal backcountry escape if you want to get away from the crowds.

6. Willow Bay Resort

american falls reservoir idaho
Photo: Ken Lund

Why you should camp here: A convenient lakefront camping spot for weekends from Idaho Falls and Twin Falls.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

Willow Bay Resort and the American Falls Reservoir make for the perfect weekend getaway for residents of and visitors to Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. This outdoor recreation area is between the two cities, about an hour away from both, and the resort’s campground and marina set the stage for an awesome weekend of fun on the lake.

The resort is a family-owned and operated business that provides multiple camping options across its manicured campground. There’s also a well-equipped marina on site where you can rent various motorized boats, paddleboards, canoes, kayaks, and much more. There’s a marina cafe too in case you need a quick bite or drink.

7. Blackfoot Reservoir Campground

Blackfoot Reservoir Campground Idaho
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: A remote but well-maintained campground full of wildlife.

  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No (RV parks nearby)

Peace and tranquility are the hallmarks of the Blackfoot Reservoir Campground. This out-of-the-way reservoir is an oasis of recreation, relaxation, and wildlife-viewing in the middle of both mountainous and agricultural landscapes.

The reservoir is regularly stocked with fish, and its waters irrigate the farmlands of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. You’ll likely spot various waterfowl and shorebirds along the lake’s edge and islands, and moose are known to roam the surrounding land. Bring binoculars if birding is your thing.

Though well kept, the campground is rather rustic. You’ll find amenities nearby at the China Hat RV Park and the Cedar Bay Marina RV Park.

8. Lake Cascade State Park

lake cascade state park idaho
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Huge Idaho lakeside camping spot for a Boise escape.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Year-round
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Yurt
  • RV hookups: Yes

Lake Cascade State Park is the place where folks from Boise go to get out of the city. This massive lake is like the Lake Tahoe of Idaho, though fortunately, it’s far less developed.

However, Lake Cascade is surrounded by campgrounds and resorts with every amenity and convenience you could ask for, and the state park itself is home to hundreds of camping opportunities across 10 developed campgrounds and two backcountry dispersed camping areas.

The park has 86 miles of shoreline with numerous boat launches, beaches, and equipment rental locations. Wherever you decide to camp, you’ll find ample lakeside activities plus nearby mountain trails and whitewater river adventures to add to your day planner.

9. Dworshak State Park

Dworshak Lake Camping Idaho
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Fishing aplenty, a breathtaking waterfall, and an archery range.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs, Cabin
  • RV hookups: Yes

Are you an experienced archer, or have you maybe always wanted to try your hand at the sport? Then Dworshak State Park will certainly make for a fun getaway for you. There’s an onsite archery course and a separate archery range where you can launch arrows all day long.

But it’s not just the best Idaho lake camping spot for Robin Hood wannabes. Multiple fish hatcheries in the vicinity produce ocean-run steelhead and Chinook salmon, and the state park has a convenient fish cleaning station where you can prepare your day’s catch. The park is also home to 12 miles of hiking trails, an interpretive visitors center, and a calendar full of events that take place at the park amphitheater.

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