What does your dream RV camping trip look like? If it includes beautiful scenery, unique history, and diverse activities during each season, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests may be the perfect destination for you and your family.
With parts of the forests in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, the total area of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is an impressive 2.5 million acres. Parts of the forests even border Canada. The winter can be just as thrilling as the summer with activities like skiing, hunting, and snowmobiling, so feel free to hook up the trailer to the back of the rig. Popular peak season activities include wildlife watching, hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming.
The Idaho Panhandle National Forests are rich with history, and the learning opportunities are endless. Native Americans once called this area home, including the Coeur d’Alene, Kalispell, and Kootenai people. Early settlements still remain from miners, loggers, and the military and can be explored along trails, visitor’s centers, and campgrounds.
With 19 RV-friendly campgrounds within the forests, we’ve taken the stress out of the decision-making process and have highlighted the top three campgrounds for you. So, pack the RV, don’t forget the camera, and prepare for a fun-filled getaway.
The Idaho Panhandle National Forests span across three states and borders Canada. The most accessible way into the forests is from Interstate 90. The freeway stretches from the border of Washington near Spokane through northern Idaho and into Montana. Main roads off of I-90 lead into the forests near RV campgrounds and other areas of interest, including Highway 95 and Highway 200. Other scenic routes within the forest include Forest Highway 50, Forest Highway 9, and State Highway 57. You’ll see countless rivers, lakes, and mountains all from the comfort of your campervan. The forest is full of wildlife to see as well, as over 400 species call this place home! These are all paved routes and fairly easy for large vehicles to navigate.
Although these routes are paved, driving in some areas can be difficult for large vehicles due to steep inclines. Wildfires, heavy rainfall, ice, snow, and avalanches may cause further issues with some roads within the forest. Certain routes may be inaccessible or dangerous depending on weather and road conditions, so make sure to check your course ahead of time. Some of the smaller roads within the forests are not paved and are therefore not recommended for large vehicles such as RVs and trailers.
Sam Owen Campground is one of the largest in the forest and is situated on a peninsula on the east side of Lake Pend Oreille. Out of the 80 sites in the campground, 59 are available for RV and trailer camping. Each site has its own fire pit. Flush toilets, drinking water, and a dump station are available for use. The campground is open from May through September, and spaces go quick at this well-loved area. Maximum RV and trailer lengths vary between 20 to 60 feet here, so make sure to check the site before reserving. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. With numerous activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking, it’s easy to see why Sam Owen Campground is so popular. Feel free to bring your furry friends along in the RV as this is a pet-friendly campground.
Located on the west bank of the Priest Lake, Luby Bay is a densely-wooded campground with endless recreational opportunities nearby. The campground is open from May to September, and 24 of the 52 sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. Maximum RV and trailer length varies from 22 to 65 feet depending on the site. Each campsite has an established fire ring, and some sites are equipped with electrical hookups. Drinking water, flush toilets, and a dump station are located on-site. Kayaking, canoeing, and powerful boating are popular activities on this lake, so don’t hesitate to connect a boat trailer to the back of your rig. Other well-liked activities in the area include fishing, swimming, and wildlife viewing. If you’re up for a hike, the scenic Beach Trail #48 can be accessed from the campsite. This is a pet-friendly campground.
Copper Creek Campground is located along the picturesque Moyie River. Sixteen sites are available on a first-come-first-served basis. All the sites are RV and trailer friendly with a maximum length between 35 and 40 feet, depending on the site. Vault toilets and potable water are available at the campground. Popular activities in this area include hiking, fishing, and nature viewing. Copper Falls Viewpoint Trail is worth the hike and offers scenic views along the way to the falls, so don’t forget to pack the camera in your campervan. Not only known for its beauty, Moyie River is also a quiet fishing spot if you’re looking to beat the crowds during peak season. Kokanee salmon, giant lake trout, paddlefish, and sturgeon are common species in this river, making it a fisherman’s paradise.
Whether you’re a cycling fanatic, or just looking for a unique way to explore the forest, attach your bike to the back of the rig and prepare for an exciting journey. The Idaho Panhandle National Forests have miles of historic trails for every skill level. Cyclists should not miss the Route of the Hiawatha, a scenic stretch of old railroad that extends across the Idaho-Montana border. This 15-mile trail burrows through nine tunnels and is open from late May through October.
If biking isn’t your style, pack your hiking boots in the RV and take the trails on foot! Hundreds of miles of trails within the Idaho Panhandle National Forests lead you to serene lakes, historical and cultural sites, and ancient cedar groves. For a picturesque view and access to a mountain lake, check out Lookout Mountain Trail #52. Part of the Marble Creek trail system, this moderate route will guide you to an abandoned lookout tower with a stunning view of the entire Marble Creek area.
From mountain lakes to rivers and streams, the fishing opportunities in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are numerous. Most campgrounds are nestled near fishable lakes and streams, so fishing near the comfort of your RV is easy. Pend Orielle is Idaho’s biggest lake and anglers can try their luck at catching cutthroat, lake trout, kokanee, bass, crappie, and perch. Fly-fishing is popular in St. Joe River during the summer when the mayflies draw copious amounts of fish to the surface.
Miles of trails are groomed and maintained for snowmobiling during the winter season at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Both the St. Joe Area and Coeur d’Alene River Area are popular snowmobiling areas during the off-season. For a warm-up take a break from the trail and head to Roundtop snow hut near the St. Joe Area. Avalanches are common and advisories are updated weekly during the winter, so be sure to check your route before setting out.
You can find a diverse range of species when hunting in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Big game such as elk, deer, and moose can be found around the Coeur d’Alene River area and the St. Joe River Area. Big Creek Campground is a popular base camp for big game hunters and is easily accessible for RVs and Trailers. The Brush Lake Picnic Area is also popular amongst hunters, especially if you’re looking for smaller game or waterfowl such as grouse, quale, and pheasant.
Pack your skis or snowboard in the rig this winter because the Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area inside the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is right around the corner. Located on the Idaho/Montana state line, Lookout Pass has a range of different level slopes suited for anyone that comes this way. If you’re new to the game, they offer lessons and rentals on-site. When you need a warm-up, there’s a base lodge with a restaurant, bar, and gift shop for visitors to enjoy.