A longtime camper, Dan has experience with tents, pop-up trailers, camp trailers, and motorhomes.
Ponderosa State Park - Getting There
Ponderosa State Park is located about 108 miles north of Boise, Idaho in McCall, Idaho. It takes about 2 hours to make the beautiful drive up from Boise along the winding Payette river as much of the road winds right along with the river. Should you wish, there are many smaller campgrounds and pull off areas along the road to spend an hour for lunch, a little fishing or a nights stay.
Ponderosa state park may also be reached from Lewiston and Coeur D'Alene, Idaho via highway 95 to New Meadows and highway 55 on to McCall. From the west on I-84, head for Weiser, Idaho and highway 95 to New Meadows.
Once in McCall, the road is well marked and the park is only a few blocks from downtown McCall. Ponderosa State Park is on a peninsula projecting into Payette Lake and occupies nearly the entire peninsula - it would be difficult to miss - and the main entrance to the park is on the only road in the area.
The Boise Airport handles flights from all over the country and has recently been remodeled for even more flights for those that wish to fly into the area. A visit to McCall and Ponderosa State Park would be a very nice day trip for you should you fly in and have an extra day in the area.
Camping at Ponderosa State Park
There are two main campgrounds at Ponderosa State Park, both on the peninsula. In addition there is a smaller campground located at the north end of the lake for those wishing a little more remote area and fewer amenities.
Of the two main campgrounds, Peninsula Campground is intended more for tent camping although there are many smaller RV's to be found there. All campsites offer a fire ring, picnic table and water and electric hook-ups. The campground also provides a dump station and 3 bath houses with hot showers and flush toilets. There is a covered picnic shelter in the day use area that may be reserved, and horseshoes and volleyballs are available at the visitor's center. A deep draft boat ramp is located in the day use area, and a small outdoor amphitheater for the park initiated interpretative and Jr. Ranger programs is located just outside the campground proper.
The area is heavily wooded, with large (you guessed it!) ponderosa pine trees common. Underbrush is kept under control very well, making walking to showers and such easy while maintaining the forest feel of the area. The day use area and large sandy beach are within easy walking distance, as is the amphitheater.
Camping at Pensinula Campground
The second main camping area in Ponderosa State Park is the RV campground, intended primarily for RV's although there were lots of tents to be seen. Each site is allowed one RV and one tent and many people bring both.
Each site has water, electricity and sewer available, as well as a blocked off sandy area for tents or activities such as playing laddergolf (our small children camping with us loved it!) and has a fire ring and picnic table. As with the peninsula campground it is heavily wooded with mostly large ponderosa trees and the underbrush is well taken care of. Indeed, there was a pile of small limbs and brush in the process of being cleaned up at our site - it made great firewood. Some of the sites are also set up as pull-through sites for large RV's.
The campground features heated showers and rest rooms and again has a covered pavilion on each half. The peninsula campground, along with the day use area, beach, boat ramps and amphitheater are a short walk - perhaps 1/2 mile. Our large group of 85 people made good use of the pavilion, which has electricity and is lighted for evening use.
The entire area was kept very neat and clean, with particular attention to the shower/rest room buildings. The pavilion is also kept clean with no trash accumulating. Trash cans were available every few campsites down the main road and were emptied daily.
Quiet hours were from 10 PM to 7 AM and, at least on the nights I visited, were well received. Even during the day the area was quiet and peaceful with only the laughter of children and the call of the crows and chipmunks to break the silence.
We held our family reunion at the RV campground with excellent results. The campground is large enough that our 85 people only used about 1/4 of the area, and yet we were clustered together without bothering other campers there (at least I don't think we did). We had a wide range of ages from great grandparents on down, and all had a great time and managed to keep themselves entertained quite easily.
Other Activities at Ponderosa State Park
Ponderosa State Park has many other activities, either at the park or nearby, to fill your time schedule to overflowing. There are 6.5 miles of trails, with 3 miles of them open to bicycles. All of the trails are easy to medium difficulty and cover a wide range of habitats. You will see lots of wildlife such as birds, foxes, deer and other creatures of the wild, along with some great scenic views of both the lake and of the area mountains. Horseshoes and volleyball are available, along with park initiated interpretative discussions and programs for the younger children. We saw lots of children on scooters zipping around the campground roads. At the north end of the peninsula is osprey point, with a superb view of Payette Lake. With all the varied activities possible, it is a great place to take the the kids camping.
McCall, Idaho is a small town, oriented on tourism. Lots of small shops with souvenirs and other trinkets to buy, along with lots of goodies to eat. McCall also contains several motels and other lodging for those that don't wish to camp but still want to experience the area.
Hot spring pools are common to this part of Idaho, and there are several within 25 miles or so of Ponderosa. Zims, at about 10 miles away in New Meadows, is popular, as is the Warm Springs area at about 25 miles. Horseback riding is available in McCall, as are rental boats and four-wheelers. Payette Lake has great fishing, boating, and water skiing to offer.
No discussion of this general area would be complete without mentioning white water rafting - Idaho has some of the best in the world, and a good deal of it is within an hour or so of Ponderosa State Park. A rafting trip can be anything from a gentle float down the river to a white knuckle ride that will wake the most jaded traveler.
Ponderosa State Park is home to some great winter activities as well, including nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Snow mobiling is common in the area, and there are two downhill skiing locations within a few miles. All in all, the area makes a great place to visit, either as a destination in itself or for a night or two if just passing through. Hope to see you there!
© 2010 Dan Harmon
Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 06, 2010:
Thank you for the comment. It really is a nice place, and I've tried to convey that with the pictures and description.
nifty@50 on July 06, 2010:
Very nice hub! I have a picture in my mind of what the park looks like and I want to see more!