Featuring ample recreational opportunities in a delightful setting, Ponderosa State Park is a perfect RV camping destination. Tucked beneath a canopy of 150-foot ponderosa pines in the Payette National Forest, Ponderosa State Park borders a pristine mountain lake on the northeastern edge of McCall, Valley County. It’s an outdoor lover’s dream with hiking and biking paths, fantastic boating opportunities, and 12 miles of ski trails to look forward to in the wintertime.
Once you’ve set up camp, a host of activities await in Ponderosa State Park. Explore 1,515 acres of sagebrush flatlands, springy marshland, and gorgeous lake views. The park also has an impressive network of hiking and biking routes, and you can also enjoy evening campfire programs and guided walks with park naturalists. During the summer, warm days are ideal for picnics and lazy beach days, while in the snowy winter months, day visitors are encouraged to enjoy Nordic skiing or snowshoeing along the park’s well-marked winter trails.
Perfect for RV vacations, the fully serviced campgrounds are paved and have water and electricity at every site. Camping loops are built for large vehicles, and you’ll have your pick of 50 back-in or pull-through sites in one of the most tranquil settings in the state. As Ponderosa State Park is one of Idaho's most popular year-round destinations for RV holidaymakers, weekend reservations are a must. Ponderosa State Park is open all year round.
Located in western Idaho, Ponderosa State Park can be found along Highway 55 near the town of McCall. The park is in a remote area of the state, and there are no major cities under a two-hour drive away. For RVers who want to pick up some supplies for their camping trip, there are a few small towns along the way that you can visit. These include New Meadows (around 14 miles), Cascade (about 30 miles away), and Council (approximately 39 miles away).
Once inside the park, you won’t have trouble getting around, provided you keep to the RV Campground where there is space for larger vehicles. Smaller campgrounds, such as the Peninsula Campground, are better suited for small rigs as there are sharp bends that make maneuvering an RV tricky. You’ll find that there are plenty of spots available for you to park your RV at the campsites, and you’ll also be able to find parking at the Visitor Center and other areas of the park. You can leave your vehicle at your campsite though and travel by foot or by bike along the many different nature trails and gravel roads available.
During the wintertime, there can be significant snowfall in the area, so we recommend you call ahead to the park office before you begin your journey to make sure that the roads will be open.
In the central unit of the park, you’ll find the Peninsula Campground. Here, they have 113 total campsites to choose from, and 23 of these are companion campsites. You’ll be able to find 30-amp electric hookups and water available at the sites, and you’ll have access to a dump station. There are also three different bathhouses at this campground, all with hot showers and flush toilets. For fire-making and places to sit and eat, you’ll have access to fire pits with picnic tables nearby. Each site is different, though, so be sure to check the vehicle length requirements online when you go to make your reservation. Like all the campgrounds at Ponderosa State Park, Peninsula Campground closes in the fall and winter for the cold weather. This can be a great campground to stay at in the summer and warmer months though, especially considering its convenient location of being in the center of the park.
The area known as the RV Campground is located near the main entrance of Ponderosa State Park and has 50 campsites to choose from, including 10 that are companion sites. This campground is perfect for every RV camper, as each site has available water, 30 and 50 amp electric hookups, and sewer hookups, all ready to use for your convenience. You’ll also be able to find a fire ring and picnic table for all of your cooking and eating needs. There is also a bathhouse located at the center of the campground. This campground is the perfect place to be if you’ve brought your RV along with you. Remember, because of the freezing winters, the campground is only open during the spring and summer. The park, however, remains open all year long.
The only strictly first-come, first-served camping available inside Ponderosa State Park is Northwest Passage Campground. However, these campsites are not RV friendly, so this may not be the best place to visit if you’ve brought your RV along with you. The camping here is a bit more primitive, with only vault toilets being available. This campground does have water onsite, though, and you can find a fire ring and picnic tables at each of the tent sites.
If you wish to visit the park during the off-season during the winter when it’s too cold to camp, you can stay at one of the park’s deluxe cabins. You’ll find these near the Visitor Center, on the shore of Payette Lake. The cabins are a great option to choose, and they have everything you could need inside. Each cabin can hold five to eight people, making it a perfect place for family vacations. When you stay at one of these cabins during the winter, you can feel good going out in the cold winter snow, knowing you have a warm and cozy cabin to come back to when you are done with the day’s activities.
There are six hiking trails to choose from at Ponderosa State Park. Each one averages about one mile—the perfect distance for those that want to feel accomplished but don’t want to do too much walking. By hiking Meadow Marsh, you’ll get to see the wonderful and abundant wildflowers in the area. If you take the Ridgeline Trail, you’ll get the opportunity to look out over two of the best overlooks in the park. It is well worth packing your hiking boots!
Out of all the trails in the park, half of them are also open to bike riders. The Peninsula Biking Trail is an easy ride where you can go slow and take in all the scenery. Fox Run Mountain Biking Trail and Huckleberry Bay Mountain Biking Trail, on the other hand, are intermediate level trails that may require a little more attention when riding on them. If you plan on riding during your visit to Ponderosa State Park, you will need to bring your own bike as there are none available for rent.
Ponderosa State Park is a great place to go boating because the park is located on a peninsula. The deep waters at the North Beach boat ramp and docks make launching a breeze, and you can spend your days cruising the shores of the lake, towing the kids on a tube, fishing, and swimming in the crisp waters off the beach. If you don’t have a boat of your own, you can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle along the lake’s scenic shoreline.
Don’t forget your swimsuit when you visit Ponderosa State Park in the summer. For those who want to take up the opportunity to go swimming before it begins to get cold again, there are numerous swimming areas open for public use on the shores of Payette Lake. The areas are marked by floating buoys so that they are easy to find and to make watercraft aware of their existence. There are no lifeguards on duty at any of the swimming areas, so you will have to make sure you swim to your ability.
At Ponderosa State Park, you’ll also find some other fun recreational activities in different areas of the park, such as volleyball and a horseshoe toss. Get competitive with your family and friends with some classic vacation games whenever you decide to visit. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills and share some laughter with those closest to you. These games can keep the whole group entertained.
Whether you want to have an old-school picnic with just a blanket and a packed lunch or something more suitable for a large group of people, there are plenty of options available. The park is home to two reservable shelters (one on the peninsula and one in a forested area) that can accommodate 112 and 80 people respectively. Both of the shelters are pet-friendly and come with access to running water and picnic tables for you to enjoy. They can be reserved online before your arrival, so you can guarantee a location if you are traveling with a large group.
Are you feeling adventurous? Visitors to Ponderosa State Park in the winter will have the chance to go skiing when the snow is heavy. In fact, there are more trails open for skiing during the winter than there are open for hiking during the summer. These trails range in difficulty level and can be an enjoyable outdoor winter activity for the whole family. Take advantage of some of the park’s free events such as the Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Day or the family Trek to the North Pole to see Santa Claus. Keep in mind that all campgrounds are closed during winter, but the trails can easily be enjoyed with a day pass.
If you are interested in a less adrenaline-inducing winter activity, you also have the option to go snowshoeing in the snowy months near the park. There are three trails for you to choose for your snowshoeing adventure: Meadow Marsh Trail, Lily Marsh Trail, and the Ridgeline Trail. Each trail falls into a different level of difficulty, so it might be fun to get around to trying all three. Snowshoeing is a great activity to do in the winter—be sure to bundle up to stay warm.
There are many different programs to try out when you stay at or visit Ponderosa State Park. Most of the educational programs will occur during the summer months, such as guided tours, hiking expeditions, and kids' activities. One of the best activities for kids visiting the park is the Junior Ranger program that educates the little ones on the importance of nature and the role it plays in the world. To find out what programs are happening during your visit, check out the park website.
The Visitor Center at Ponderosa State Park is the place to go to learn about the park and its surrounding area or to get any information that you’ll need while you’re visiting Ponderosa State Park. The Visitor Center also has free Wi-Fi available inside, so you might find yourself hanging out there more often than you want to admit. If you have any questions or concerns during your stay, you can find the answers or someone willing to help you right at the Visitor Center.
The wintertime is a wonderful time of the year to get out your camera and snap some memories that will last a lifetime. While the temperature may not be the most pleasant, the views will be. With the glistening white snow covering everything in its path, you’ll want to capture it in all its stunning perfection. Some of the best photographic views can be achieved at the overlooks inside the park, but in reality, there will be great locations everywhere you turn, thanks to the natural beauty of the area.
For RV lovers who want to get out and do some fishing, you should do so. The Northwest Passage Pond is the perfect spot for anglers to cast out a line and try to catch a fish, no matter what their age is. The pond is stocked during the summer months with rainbow trout and even has a fishing pier that you can use! Anyone over the age of 14 must have an Idaho fishing license if they wish to cast out a line.