Ponderosa State Park
Guide

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Introduction

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. Discover 1,515 acres of sagebrush flatlands, springy marshland and lake views along the impressive network of hiking and biking routes, and 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 and 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.

RV Rentals in Ponderosa State Park

Transportation in Ponderosa State Park

Driving

Ponderosa State Park is well signposted along Highway 55 from the town of McCall. 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 vehicles as there are sharp bends that make maneuvering an RV tricky.

Parking

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 at 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.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Ponderosa State Park

Campsites in Ponderosa State Park

Reservations camping

Peninsula Campground

In the main unit of the park, you’ll find 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 bath houses 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 and picnic tables around. 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 freezing 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.

RV Group Campground

RV Group Campground is located near the main entrance of Ponderosa State Park and has 50 campsites to choose from. 10 of these 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. Get to have a nice grill out and eat with the people you’ve brought along with you. If you prefer a toilet, there is a bath house 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 though that due to extremely cold winters, the campground is only open during the spring and summer. The park however, remains open all year long.

First-come first-served

Northwest Passage Campground

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 vault toilets only. They do have water available though, and you can find a fire ring and picnic tables at the sites.

Alternate camping

Cabin Camping

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 possibly need included inside. Each cabin can hold 5 to 8 people, making it a perfect place for family vacationing. When you stay at one of these cabins during your winter stay, 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 done with the day’s activities.

Seasonal activities in Ponderosa State Park

In-Season

Hiking

There are six hiking trails to choose from at Ponderosa State Park. Each one averages about a 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 hiking trail, you’ll get the opportunity to look out over two of the best overlooks in the park.

Biking

Out of all the trails in the park, half of them are open to bicyclers. Peninsula Biking Trail is an easy ride where you can go slow and take in all the scenery. Fox Run Mt. Biking Trial and Huckleberry Bay Mt. Biking Trail on the other hand are intermediate level trails that may require a little more attention when riding on them.

Boating

Being located on a peninsula, Ponderosa State Park is a great place to go boating. Bring your own boat if you wish, or you can choose to rent a canoe or kayak in the park. Fishing is a good reason to take the boat out on the water, as there’s nothing quite like taking a few hours to relax.

The deep 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 the lake’s scenic shoreline.

Swimming

Don’t forget your swimsuit when you visit Ponderosa State Park in the summer. You may want to take up the opportunity to go swimming before it begins to get cold again Summer doesn’t last too long in Idaho and you don’t want to miss out on a great time, so get out there and soak up the sun.

Other Fun Activities

At this park, you’ll also find some other fun recreational activities such as volleyball and horseshoe toss. Get competitive with your family and friends with one of these intriguing games. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills and share some laughter with those closest to you. These games have the ability to keep the whole group entertained.

Off-Season

Cross-country and Nordic Skiing

Many other trails open up for skiing opportunities in the winter when snow is heavy. In fact, there are more trails open in the winter than in the summer, just for skiing. These trails range in difficulty level and can be a really fun 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.

Snowshoeing

There are three trails open and available for snowshoeing in the snowy months. These are the 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. This is a great activity to do in the winter - just be sure to bundle up to stay warm.

Education Programs

There are many different programs to try out when you stay or visit the park. There are education programs that vary in subjects that are talked about, and you can also choose to take a guided tour to learn as you hike. Your child can even become a Junior Ranger through the Junior Ranger Program here.

Visiting the Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is the place to go to get any information that you’ll need while you’re here. There is also free WiFi available inside, so you might find yourself hanging out here more often than you want to admit. If you have any questions or concerns during your stay here, you can find the answers or someone willing to help you right here at the Visitor Center.

Photographing

The winter time is a beautiful time of the year. 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.

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