The cool retreat provided by central Idaho campgrounds is inviting when our valley towns are baking in mid-summer heat. State Highway 21 makes a path to Idaho’s refreshing high country for residents of the southwest corner of the state.
Close to Boise are two campgrounds that are about 9 miles east of Idaho City: Tenmile and Bad Bear. A third, Edna Creek, is east of Mores Creek Summit. All are in the Boise National Forest and are good for pure camping. These spots excel for relaxing in the shade, watching chipmunks and enjoying flapjacks for breakfast. Flapjacks are pancakes that got a little black on the edges as they cooked.
Beyond Edna Creek, State 21 crosses another summit, then drops 2200 feet in seven miles to reach Lowman and the South Fork of the Payette. If your planned destination is Lowman or points east, it may be easier to skip the Boise-to-Lowman portion of Hwy 21 and go north on Hwy 55 to Banks instead. The Banks-Lowman road puts the traveler in Lowman with less driving on narrow steep roads.
The South Fork of the Payette has several campgrounds but these tend to be pretty warm. Follow State 21 over Banner Summit to reach junctions of roads going to Bull Trout Lake and campgrounds in Bear Valley. All of these campgrounds offer fishing and some allow boating. They are in the Boise National Forest.
Idaho 21 beyond Banner Summit enters the Sawtooth National Forest, making a beeline for its terminus at Stanley. Campgrounds at Bench Creek, Banner Creek, Marsh Creek, Lola Creek, Beaver Creek, Thatcher Creek and Vader Creek are all close to the paved road. The highway then enters the famous Sawtooth National Recreation Area, passing campgrounds at Trap Creek, Sheep Trail and Elk Creek. The elevation in this area is over 6000 feet.
The Boise traveler who drives into Stanley has covered about 135 miles and is entitled to have a look around. The stunning peaks that overlook the city can be seen close up by driving to Stanley Lake. The junction for Stanley Lake and its campgrounds is 4½ miles west of town on Hwy 21. Eight miles south of Stanley on State Hwy 75 is the turn for Redfish Lake. Redfish Lake is the site of a resort with a lodge and countless activities. City slickers who lack enthusiasm for tents and chipmunks will find a civilized welcome there. Stanley and Lower Stanley are the starting point for float trips on the Salmon River. The Stanley Museum and highway historical markers tell the stories of miners and early settlers. State 75 leaves the Stanley Basin at Sawtooth City, about 36 miles south of Stanley. This is near the headwaters of the mighty Salmon, River of No Return, which rolls proud and untamed through the Gem State.