U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Sawtooth National Forest


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Forest Information

The Sawtooth National Forest is divided into five distinct sections located in south-central Idaho and northern Utah. The Forest is comprised of 1,732,458 acres - 92,404 acres of which are located in Utah. There are 62 developed campgrounds of which 29 campgrounds meet the selection criteria. None of the selected campgrounds are located in Utah.

The Sawtooth National Forest has two very different landscapes. Along Idaho's southern boundary with Utah and Nevada, the Forest is composed of gentle mountains rising up from rolling landscape. In the heart of Idaho, the second portion of the Sawtooth, sometimes called the "Swiss Alps of Idaho," is dominated by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). Here visitors find a land of glacier carved valleys, more than 967 miles of cold rushing streams, a thousand gem-like lakes, lush mountain meadows, and jagged peaked mountains. This is the land seen in advertisements for snowmobiles to bottled water. But the photographs simply do not do it justice. A brief trip to Sawtooth National Forest has most visitors planning a longer stay - soon.

While words, such as beautiful, magnificent, and spectacular, are used to describe the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) portion of the Sawtooth National Forest, they aren't really adequate. The rugged and towering Sawtooth Mountains provide a fabulous backdrop to SNRA's four lakes, Redfish, Alturas, Pettit, and Stanley, and the developed campgrounds found along their shores. Fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking are the main attractions at Alturas, Pettit, and Stanley lakes. While there are camping locations throughout the Sawtooth National Forest, those around Redfish Lake are far more developed. (Note: dispersed camping locations are available but not included in this campground review. Contact the Sawtooth National Forest directly for information.)

Once, the magnificent splendor and beauty of Redfish Lake were known to just a few, but today Redfish Lake is known far and wide, attracting visitors from everywhere. Along the shores of Redfish Lake visitors find a full service hotel with a restaurant for a cook's night out, pleasant swimming beaches, trail-rides and shuttle boats providing access to the Sawtooth Wilderness, laundromat, public phones, and hot showers, along with seven developed campgrounds. Of special interest are the wide range of family-focused activities, such as guided walks, and discussions ranging from fire to wolves, and an active Junior Ranger program. Check with Redfish Visitor Center or at a ranger district office about self-guided auto tours and things to do around the SNRA. Don't forget to ask about the Junior Ranger's Program and Newspaper. And the Fishhook Nature Trail, adjacent to the Redfish Visitor Center, is an outstanding trail for the whole family, providing a comprehensive overview of the environment. With so much to do and so many services available, the Redfish Lake complex is more like camping at a resort than in a national forest. Reservations are definitely recommended.

The many lakes and rivers of clear water found in the Sawtooth National Forest provide important habitat for a robust native fish population. The Salmon River, which winds through the SNRA, is an ancient spawning ground for Steelhead trout and Chinook and Sockeye salmon an amazing 800 miles from the Pacific Ocean. A visit to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, south of the Redfish Lake complex, is a pleasant day trip where visitors learn about the life-cycle of these amazing anadromous fish and the efforts to re-establish a robust population once found in the area. Directly across from Holman Creek campground, in a pool carved into the Salmon River, visitors can see these fish in their natural habitat. A quick glimpse of passing salmon and trout can be seen from the campgrounds adjacent to the Salmon River, such as Riverside and Mormon Bend.. To preserve and protect the habitat, camp sites along the river are closed by mid-August.

Another interesting day trip is to Pole Creek Ranger Station. Built in 1909, Ranger Bill Horton fenced off a pasture for his horses next to the station. He had no idea this necessary act would provide an important area for the scientific study of native plant species. It is a beautiful place.

South of Redfish Lake and Stanley Basin, on the other side of Galena Summit, and just above Ketchum, Idaho, are a series of campgrounds hugging the Big Wood River. Here, the camp sites offer dappled shade of aspen groves and soothing sounds of rushing water. Parallel to the Big Wood River is the paved 22- mile Harriman bike/cross country ski trail. This trail links the North Fork, Wood River, and Easley campgrounds to Galena Lodge and provides a delightful way to enjoy the scenic wonder of this part of the SNRA.

Visitors to the SNRA need not go far from their campground to explore the scenic Sawtooth National Forest. Alpine Way and Stanley Lake trails start at the Stanley Lake Inlet campground and provide access to the Sawtooth Wilderness. Tin Cup trail, at Pettit Lake campground, is probably the most popular hike in the SNRA. Trails to Alpine, Cramer and Baron lakes start near the Redfish Visitor Center. They are challenging and feature solitude and outstanding vistas.

To the south, where Idaho meets Nevada and Utah, the Sawtooth National Forest offers a very different environment for forest visitors. Here the rolling landscape of farms and ranches surround the "South Hills." A campground, such as Thompson Flat, is rustic but the trails are delightful.

Every forest has its well-kept secrets and so does Sawtooth. Baumgartner campground, near the community of Featherville, Idaho, is one such place. With large, fragrant Ponderosa pines, a hot spring, and one of the best swimming holes in the state, folks who discover Baumgartner return time after time. Another special place is Grandjean campground, located on the western edge of the Sawthooth Wilderness. Away from crowds, Grandjean is an older campground with all the character that comes with age. Campers with horses, tent and recreation vehicle enjoy this scenic campground along the Payette River. This campground also features immediate access to the Sawtooth Wilderness and a network of delightful trails plus the nearby Sawtooth Lodge, which offers trail rides, a swimming pool and dining for a cook's night out.

Looking for beautiful country, clean air, friendly people, and a variety of things to do, visit the Sawtooth National Forest for it all. Recreation opportunities include camping locations for car, tent, recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome users, picnicking, backpacking, photography, kayaking, boating, fishing, hot springs, biking both on hard roadways and dirt trails through forest, horseback riding, and more. All this is ready and waiting for you.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 2647 Kimberly Rd. East Twin Falls, Idaho 83301 208-737-3200 RANGER DISTRICT/STATION ADDRESSES Fairfield 102 East First St. POB 189 Fairfield, Idaho 83327 208-764-3202 Ketchum 206 Sun Valley Rd. P.O.B. 2356 Ketchum, Idaho 83340 208-622-5371 Minidoka 2306 Hiland Ave. Burley, Idaho 83318 208-678-0430 Sawtooth National Recreation Area - Headquarters Star Rt. (Hwy. 75) Ketchum, Idaho 83340 208-727-5000 Sawtooth National Recreation Area - Stanley Ranger Station HC 64, Box 9900 Stanley, Idaho 83278 208-774-3000

Fred and Suzi Dow