Mining isn’t the only reason why Idaho is nicknamed the gem state. With over 12 million acres of public land, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and camp, fish, hike, and just about any other outdoor recreational activity, you can think of. But where should you start?
A tricky part about Idaho is that there are a lot of private lands that are set aside for agriculture, making it necessary to know where to plan your outdoor adventures before you go. For that reason, some of the best places to camp and fish in Idaho are in the central and northern parts of the state. This region is known as the panhandle and is rich with areas to camp, fish, and do just about everything else! Listed below are the very best places to tent camp, RV camp, and fish in Idaho. Details of each location can easily be found in this article!
- Spring Valley Reservoir
- McCroskey State Park
- Town of Riggins, Idaho
- Coeur d’Alene
- Town of McCall, Idaho
Does Idaho offer free places to tent camp?
Most of the camping that you’ll find that is free in Idaho will reside on either the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management Land (BLM). These campsites are first-come, first-served since they are free and not able to be reserved. So be sure to plan ahead to get your tent set up in one of these excellent spots!
• 4-wheeling/dirt biking
• Fishing at Spring Valley Reservoir
• Hunting for deer, turkey, and other small game
Located just 30 minutes east of Moscow, Idaho and the University of Idaho is Spring Valley Reservoir. There are a handful of places to pitch your tent and cast a line out here. What’s even better is that you don’t need to pay a dime to camp here!
It’s easy to get to as all you need to do is follow highway 8 east out of Moscow. When you hit Troy, turn left to continue on highway 8 and the turn-off will be on your left. There is limited garbage service out here, so be sure to pack along ways to bring home your garbage!
The reservoir allows boats on it, so you’ll be able to get off of the shoreline if you so desire. But be sure that you have a canoe, kayak, or electric trolling motor as gas-powered motors are not allowed on the reservoir.
• 4-wheeling/dirt biking
• Hunting for deer and other small game
Moving north of Moscow, you’ll find more free camping at McCroskey State Park. The park allows you to climb up a dirt road to the top of the wooded hill to be able to look out east to see the Bitterroot Mountains spanning the distance between Moscow and Coeur d’Alene.
The closest town is Plumber, ID which has a gas station and convenience store for you to be able to fuel up on gas and snacks before you drive up the dirt forest service road to access the park.
After you have enjoyed hiking, riding dirt bikes, or hunting in this area, take a drive due northeast to visit Heyburn State Park and Chatcolet Lake. This spot does offer camping, but it is paid camping, so if you’re trying to save some money, be sure to just visit during the day. There are plenty of areas to set up along the lake for a peaceful day of fishing or just observing the wildlife around the lake.
• Salmon river fishing and rafting
• 4-wheeling and dirt biking
Traveling down the panhandle along Highway 95 will bring you to the river town of Riggins, ID. Riggins is the gateway to not only one, but two spectacular rivers: the Snake and the Salmon. Both are fantastic for all sorts of adventure, from fishing and rafting to being able to book a jet boat tour to explore areas that don’t have access to boat launches, deep inside of Hells Canyon.
A great way to get a free camping spot near Riggins is to drive east on National Forest Road 1614. There are tons of free campgrounds that are managed by the BLM, so you can basically set up wherever you see a free spot. Campgrounds are easy to find as they are small loops that open up along the side of the road.
While you can definitely bring your own boat and raft the river yourself, it’s highly recommended to book a half-day or full-day tour with one of the rafting companies in town.
Mountain River Outfitters is a great company to book with, as they offer a great rafting experience with their highly trained guide staff. The full-day tour is amazing because you get to get out of the raft after crushing some rapids to enjoy a fully catered lunch on an island in the middle of the Salmon River!
What places in Idaho offer RV camping?
If tent camping is not in the cards this time, you might prefer to visit the great state of Idaho in an RV, you’ll be happy to know that there are tons of areas to bring your RV all over the state. Most established campgrounds around Idaho have designated RV spots to camp at, so the best thing to do before you go is to identify which ones have vacancies and reserve a spot for your stay.
With that said, here are some great places to RV camp in Idaho!
• Lake Coeur d’Alene
• Downtown Coeur d’Alene
• Hiking at Tubbs Hill
Coeur d’Alene is one of the most beautiful towns in Idaho. Located near the Washington-Idaho border along I-90, Coeur d’Alene is pretty easy to get to and has tons of great things to see and do.
From renting a boat to cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene to walking around the historic downtown and taking in the nightlife, there is something for just about everyone to enjoy in this great north Idaho town.
RV camping is a cinch to reserve, as there are several areas that take RV campers. Here are a few recommendations:
• Blackwell Island RV Park
• Tamarack RV Park and Vacation Cabins
• Kootenai County Fairgrounds RV park
• Coeur d’Alene RV Resort
• Mountain biking
• Boating on Payette Lake
Another gorgeous mountain town in Idaho is McCall. Home to one of the first ski resorts in the country, McCall also is home to tons of RV camping opportunities.
Mountain lovers can all get behind visiting McCall as there are tons of things to do around here. During the summer months, Brundage Mountain offers tons of fun things for the entire family to do. From downhill mountain biking to disc golf, there is sure to be something that everyone will enjoy doing here.
A few great places to book an RV spot in McCall are:
• Northfork Lodge and Cabins
• Black Bear RV Park
• Ponderosa State Park
• Payette River RV park
What are the best places to fish in Idaho?
Idaho is world-famous for its fishing opportunities. From clear mountain streams to seemingly endless lakes, there are plenty of areas to cast your line and land the fish of your dreams here.
With a large number of areas to fish, it’s important to be clear on the style of fishing that you want to pursue, as well as the species of fish you want to catch. Keep in mind that you must get an Idaho fishing license before you go fishing anywhere in the state and be sure to pay attention to the local regulations in regard to the number of fish you can catch as well as any other additional fees you need to pay before hitting the water.
Here are a few great places to go fishing in Idaho!
Lake Coeur d’Alene
Fishing along the shore and by boat is permitted here. Shoreline fishing gives anglers plenty of opportunity for catching sunfish like Bluegill and Yellow Perch. Take a boat out on the lake to get to deeper water and access to Kokanee and Chinook Salmon, Largemouth Bass, and Northern Pike.
Dworshak Reservoir is another great place to get on a boat and fish. There are tons of opportunities to catch smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, Kokanee Salmon, and even Steelhead!
Located just outside of the small town of Orofino, Dworshak Reservoir is enormous, covering 16,500 acres of area. It’s easy to get your own little spot to fish from out here!
For an unforgettable fishing experience, check out the Salmon River. There are so many different fish species that call the Salmon River home that you’ll have endless hours of fun trying to catch every fish!
From small brook trout to the gargantuan Sturgeon, there are tons of opportunities to catch a wide variety of fish here.
A great idea for fishing on the Salmon River is to charter a rafting fishing guide. They’ll take you out on the river in their raft or drift boat and guide you to the best spots they know. Tell them exactly what you’re looking to catch, and they’ll put you in the best position to land your dream fish!
For more helpful hints on the best tents to purchase for your adventures in Idaho, please visit our article on Biggest Camping Tent For Your Family!
As a bonus, I am including a very helpful video from expert tent campers. Cody and Kellie have made tent camping an actual part of their daily lives and they love to share their adventures with everyone on YouTube!
With the pandemic drawing to a close, it is still not a good excuse for everyone to scamper back indoors and not experience the great outdoors! Idaho is a magical place for experiencing the outdoors. There are tons of places to camp, fish, raft, hike, and bike the only thing that is a limiting factor is your own time!
Whether you’re on a budget and you’re in need of some free camping to set up a tent, or you want to tow along your RV to camp in style, there are plenty of spots to accommodate just about every style of camper.
Book a trip or two in advance of your visit, especially for rafting! And be sure to put in some research for which fish you want to focus on catching and consider chartering a guide service to help you land “the big one!”
Where will you go first this summer?