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Exploring the Best of Idaho: Unforgettable Camping Destinations in 2023

While it seems to those of us who have known and loved Idaho for decades that it needs no introduction, we are often reminded (whether by commuting traffic, another Trader Joe’s or the In-N-Outs going up) that for many the Gem State is new territory (CA plates: dead giveaway, OR plates: we’re not sure if you’re a refugee from Portland or our neighbor from Nyssa, UT plates: slow down, but we know you’re just visiting). There was a time, not long ago, when people from the coasts would confine themselves to Sun Valley and short stays, but it feels like word is out that Idaho is awesome. At Cordova Outdoors, we like to think of ourselves as Americans first, last, and always. We all came from somewhere; we love it here and hope you do too. Come visit or set down roots – we’ll do our best to help you feel at home. Don’t mind that truck with the “we’re full” sticker on it – that guy is working through his feels.

Idaho is a large state, bigger than New England and you can drive 800 miles in one direction without leaving the state, blessed with diverse breathtaking landscapes and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. From majestic mountains to pristine lakes to picturesque national parks, this corner of the Great Pacific Northwest offers a diverse range of camping destinations that will drop your jaw and leave you in awe. With sensitivity towards the fact that no one loves an overcrowded campground, here are some places we feel confident recommending for recreating in Idaho.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area:

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. With over 700 miles of trails and 40 peaks over 10,000 feet this vast wilderness offers opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and camping. Pitch your tent near the sparkling Sawtooth Lake, or one of the 300+ other lakes, surrounded by jagged peaks and alpine meadows. Be sure to explore the breathtaking views at Redfish Lake and experience the serenity of the Sawtooth Valley.

Craters of the Moon National Monument:

The terrain at Craters of the Moon National Monument looks – wait for it – out of this world. This surreal volcanic preserve offers unique camping experiences amidst lava fields (LAVA! In Idaho! Crazy, right?), caves, and rugged terrain. Explore vast lava tube caves and embark on guided ranger hikes to learn about the volcanic history of the area. At night, witness a mesmerizing star (and maybe moon)-filled sky while camping at the Lava Flow Campground.

City of Rocks National Reserve:

For climbers and outdoor enthusiasts, the City of Rocks National Reserve is a can’t-miss destination. This awe-inspiring granite wonderland is renowned for its unique rock formations and world-class climbing opportunities. Whether you're an experienced or novice climber, you'll find routes suited to your skill level. Camping at one of the reserve's scenic campgrounds allows you to fully immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of this natural treasure.

Shoshone Falls:

The "Niagara of the West," especially with this year’s snowmelt flowing, Shoshone Falls is a spectacular natural gem (don’t forget, we’re the Gem State!) located on the Snake River. With a height exceeding that of Niagara Falls (it ain’t bragging if it’s true), Shoshone Falls will leave you awestruck by its grandeur. Enjoy a picnic by the falls, go fishing along the Snake River, or set up camp at nearby scenic campgrounds.

Sawtooth Wilderness:

For those seeking solitude and pristine wilderness, the Sawtooth Wilderness is a true gem (in the Gem State…). This rugged and untouched landscape offers endless opportunities for backpacking and camping while surrounded by alpine lakes and serene valleys. Hike through stunning wildflower meadows, encounter wildlife (respectfully!), and enjoy the tranquility that only an untouched wilderness can offer. With over 200,000 acres to explore, the Sawtooth Wilderness promises an unforgettable camping adventure. Recommend this place to that guy with the “we’re full” sticker – it’ll help him see things in a whole new light.

Idaho's natural beauty and diverse landscapes make it a dream destination for campers. Immerse yourself in the serenity of nature, embark on thrilling outdoor adventures, and create lasting memories as you explore what Idaho has to offer. Whether you’re a first-time visitor, a recent transplant, born here, descended from Pioneers or your ties to the area predated recorded history, please do tread lightly. Take only memories, leave only footprints. Keep the Gem State beautiful.

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