Both summer and winter RV campers enjoy Ponderosa State Park for the serenity and abundance of year-round activities found here. This 1,000-acre park in central Idaho lies on the shores of Payette Lake, most of it within the city limits of McCall. The park gets its name from the preponderance of Ponderosa pines found within it, many of which are over 300 years old. Idahoans have long visited this area for recreation, and in 1905, the state legislature was pushed to set aside the land as a state park. The bill was passed in no time, and Ponderosa State Park was created.
Ponderosa State Park is popular for boating, fishing, and hiking through the various landscapes found in this small peninsula. A North Beach Unit on the other side of the lake offers more primitive RV camping and kayaking, with the main state park RV campground on the south side of the lake. Other park residents include bald eagles, osprey, beaver, and moose. You can book an RV in Valley County year-round, as this area is just as popular in the winter as it is in the summer, offering exceptional snowshoe and Nordic skiing opportunities.
Ponderosa State Park manages to squeeze some great trails on the peninsula. One of the easiest, more scenic hikes is the Meadow Marsh, a flat path around a serene meadow shaded by pines. If you're feeling up to it, you can try the more difficult one-mile Ridgeline Trail, which takes you through the forest, next to a meadow, across lava rock, and eventually to the Osprey Cliffs Overlook. The overlook, which has excellent views of the lake and park, is also accessible to mountain bikers. There are a few miles of bicycling trails also open to hikers. The most popular is the easy Peninsula Biking Trail, a one-mile flat trail that follows the lakeshore most of the way. A more difficult but short trail is the one-mile Huckleberry Bay Trail, a fast singletrack trail to Osprey Cliffs Overlook.
The trails are open in the winter as well, despite the 15 feet of average annual snowfall. Cross-country skiers will find 12 miles of groomed track for all skill levels through the meadows and forests. The Easy Does It trail is a popular trail for beginners, and the scenic Lakeside Trail is a favorite for more skilled skiers. Snowshoers will also find some great snowshoe trails in the winter, at the same Meadow Marsh Trail and Ridgeline Trail that are so popular in the summer.
Payette Lake also offers some excellent watersports. Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the park, and there are beaches for swimming, though there are no lifeguards on duty. If you do have a canoe or kayak, you'll have to save time for the canoe trail that follows the Payette River through the North Beach Unit. This peaceful, slow paddle follows the winding river through marsh and wetlands where you can find numerous species of birds. Lake trout, rainbow trout, and kokanee salmon also swim in the waters of Payette Lake, and anglers have caught some massive fish in past years.
Camping at Ponderosa State Park
There are three campgrounds at Ponderosa State Park, all of them situated under the tall trees that give the park its name, offering both shade and privacy. Pets are allowed in all of the campgrounds as long as they're attended and kept on a leash, but they're not permitted on the beaches. Campsites at all of the state park RV campgrounds are open year-round and have fire rings, picnic tables, and potable water.
The main campground at Ponderosa State Park is the Peninsula Campground near the visitors' center and amphitheater. This campground has 113 sites, all with 30-amp electrical and water hookups. Campers will also be able to enjoy hot showers and flushing toilets at Peninsula Campground. The RV Group Campground is a smaller campground near the main entrance of the park. This campground has 50 sites with both 30-amp and 50-amp electric, water, and sewer hookups. For a little more adventure, try the Northwest Passage Campground in the North Beach Unit. This campground has 22 sites, and the only additional amenities are pit toilets.
Exploring the Area
Ponderosa State Park organizes many activities throughout the year for the whole family. You can join a guided walk through the park with rangers and naturalists, participate in evening fireside talks at the amphitheater, and the kids can participate in their Junior Ranger program. Ponderosa State Park also has a visitors' center with volleyball nets and horseshoe pits.
McCall is a lovely resort town year-round. In the summer months, you can go boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. It’s also one of Idaho’s favorite winter destinations with great skiing at Brundage Mountain. McCall also hosts the exciting week-long Winter Carnival with ice sculptures, parades, concerts, and more. Summer events include concerts, arts and crafts fairs, and boat shows. Attractions within the town include the fish hatchery and the Central Idaho Historical Museum. In exploring McCall, you'll also come across numerous delightful restaurants with American comfort food, pubs, and cafes.
You can find gas stations and most provisions in McCall. If you need what only a city could offer, Boise is just 100 miles to the south. From Boise, you can explore in your rental RV in any direction. The famous Snake River isn't too far to the south, with even more boating and fishing opportunities. If you're heading southeast to Yellowstone or Utah’s “big five” national parks, save some time for Craters of the Moon National Monument near Pocatello. Hiking on these unique, massive lava fields will make you feel as if you were on another planet.