Memorial Day camping: Where to go and where to avoid

Plenty of places will be available for camping over the holiday, but higher elevations still have lots of snow

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comMay 22, 2014 

  • WANT TO GO CAMPING?

    For reservations and cabin rentals at Forest Service and BLM campgrounds, call the National Recreation Reservation System at (877) 444-6777, or go to recreation.gov.

Most campgrounds in Southwest and south-central Idaho will be open for the Memorial Day weekend, but snow is deeper in the high country than during previous years, Forest Service officials said.

Campgrounds near Stanley at around 6,000 and 7,000 feet that are accessible from major highways will be open. But those higher than 6,000 feet in the Boise and Payette national forests and accessible by back roads probably won't be.

Late storms dumped a lot of snow in Idaho's mountains, and the cool spring prolonged melting.

Secesh Summit, northeast of McCall, still had around 33 inches of snow Tuesday. Deadwood Summit between Garden Valley and Lowman had more than 70 inches of snow this week.

Having 60-degree temperatures in the high country can melt up to 10 inches a day, but there will still be snowbanks and soggy areas.

Several people who risked driving through snow over the past few weeks have gotten stuck, said David Olson, a spokesman for the Boise National Forest.

"It is easy to think you can keep driving once you reach the snow line, but that snow typically just gets deeper," he said. "Forest roads are not plowed, and persons getting stuck have the strong potential for expensive tows or long walks to get help."

With warmer temperatures, rivers and streams are rising, and campers might take that into consideration when choosing a campground, especially when camping with kids.

Boaters will also find ample water at local reservoirs. Most boat ramps will be available at Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, Mann Creek, Brownlee, Cascade and Anderson Ranch reservoirs and also at Lake Lowell.

Here's a recreation update for the holiday weekend from the U.S. Forest Service:

LOWMAN AREA

Note: About 35 inches of snow remained on Banner Summit between Lowman and Stanley as of Tuesday.

Open

• Most campgrounds and trails at lower elevations including those along the South Fork of the Payette River.

• Park Creek Campground, up the Clear Creek Road.

• The road to Grandjean.

Closed

• The road to Bull Trout Campground

• Roads to Deadwood Reservoir

• Scott Mountain Road 555

• Clear Creek Road 582 at the 10-mile marker from Idaho 21

• The Stanley/Landmark Road 579 from Idaho 21 to the Elk Creek Guard Station

Information: Lowman Ranger District, 259-3361.

SAGEHEN/GARDEN VALLEY

Open

• All Payette River recreation sites.

• All campgrounds along Idaho 55 and the North Fork of the Payette River between Banks and Smith Ferry. Cold Springs Campground is open for group reservations only. Contact recreation.gov to reserve it for groups up to 50 people.

• Campgrounds along the Middle Fork of the Payette River Road 698 including Boiling Springs, Hardscrabble, Rattlesnake, Trail Creek and Tie Creek.

• Hot Springs campground along the Banks to Lowman Highway.

• Third Fork cabin near Ola. Boiling Springs Cabin, north of Crouch, opens May 23. Cabin reservations are made through recreation.gov.

• Forest Roads 671 and 698 with access to the Silver Creek Plunge area.

• Peace Valley Group Campground opens May 23.

• Silver Creek Campground.

• Sagehen area campgrounds. Access is from the Ola route; access from Smiths Ferry is closed due to snow.

• Deadwood Lookout cabin rental is closed until July 27.

Information: Emmett Ranger District, 365-7000; Garden Valley Guard Station, 462-3241.

PINE/FEATHERVILLE

Note: Road 217 (Rattlesnake) is washed out and not accessible.

Roads 166B3 and 166T typically have a May 1 opening date for the gates, but the area is snowed in.

From the junction of the Road 268 road (Middle Fork) and Road 255 (Roaring River) up to the Lower Roaring River Trailhead, there are lots of rocks on the road.

Open

• Elks Flat with services and fees.

• Curlew and Pine with services and fees.

• Troutdale, Badger Creek, Willow Creek, Cottonwood and Ice Springs.

• Dispersed camping around Little Camas Reservoir.

• Fall Creek and Deer Creek (day use).

Closed

• Big Trinity, Little Trinity, Big Roaring, Little Roaring and Shafer Butte.

Fire Area Closures: Dog Creek, Castle Creek, Evans Creek and Green Creek Trail No. 270.

• The area closure for the Elk/Pony Complex Fire is still in effect.

• The Danskin and Wilson OHV and ATV trail systems are closed.

Information: Mountain Home Ranger District, 587-7961.

CASCADE AREA

Open

• Generally, all campgrounds by May 23, except those at 6,000 feet and higher.

• Campgrounds along the west side of Cascade Lake.

• Shoreline Campground, Picnic Point Campground and Warm Lake Campground.

• Stolle Meadows Road 474 into the meadows, but not to Rice Peak.

• The South Fork Salmon River Road 474 to Yellow Pine.

Closed

• Summit Lake Campground and Pen Basin campgrounds.

• The Johnson Creek Corridor campgrounds.

• The road from Warm Lake to Landmark and down Johnson Creek.

• The Landmark – Stanley Road 579 to Deadwood Summit.

• Snowbank Mountain Road 446 is gated and closed until May 31.

• High mountain lakes and trails above 6,000 feet.

Information: Cascade Ranger District, 382-7400.

IDAHO CITY AREA

Note: There is about 2 feet of snow at Mores Creek Summit. Roads and trails above 6,000 feet may be inaccessible due to snow.

Open

• Edna Creek, Ten Mile, Willow Creek, Whoop-Um-Up, Grayback Gulch, Bad Bear, Black Rock, Hayfork campgrounds and Deer Park and Barber Flats cabins.

Graham and Atlanta cabins are not open. Graham Cabin opens for reservations June 27, and Atlanta opens June 1. Graham Cabin is inaccessible because of snow.

Closed

• Campgrounds near Atlanta will open June 1, including Queens River, Atlanta, Power Plant and Riverside.

Information: Idaho City Ranger District, 392-6681.

Boise National Forest website: fs.usda.gov/boise.

MCCALL AREA

Most campgrounds around the Brundage Mountain, Lick Creek, Warren Wagon and Paddy Flat areas still have snow and are not expected to be open for Memorial Day Weekend.

Information: McCall Ranger District, 634-0400.

COUNCIL AREA

The following campgrounds are open: Big Flat, Evergreen, and Lafferty.

Huckleberry Campground still had patches of snow last week and may open depending on current conditions. Call 253-0100.

WEISER AREA

The following campgrounds are open: Mann Creek, Spring Creek, Brownlee and Just Right.

Idaho Power's campgrounds in Hells Canyon are open year around.

Information: Weiser Ranger District, 549-4200.

NEW MEADOWS AREA

Cold Springs at Lost Valley Reservoir and Last Chance near New Meadows are open.

Information: New Meadows Ranger District, 347-0300.

SOUTH FORK SALMON

U.S. Forest Service campgrounds are open along the river and access is from the Warm Lake Highway from Cascade.

Information: Krassel Ranger District, 634-0600.

STANLEY AREA

Open

• Alturas Lake - Smokey Bear Campground and boat ramp.

• Pettit Lake.

• Redfish Lake - All campgrounds except Mt. Heyburn and Redfish Inlet.

• Salmon River campgrounds - Sunny Gulch, Casino Creek, Riverside, Mormon Bend, Upper and Lower O'Brien, Whiskey Flats and Holman.

• Stanley Lake - Stanley Lake and Stanley Lake Inlet.

• Idaho 21 (northwest of Stanley) - Sheep Trail, Trap Creek, Elk Creek and Grandjean.

Information: Sawtooth National Recreation Area, 727-5013, or go to fs.usda.gov/Sawtooth.

KETCHUM

• Boundary Campground, located on Trail Creek about 2 miles northeast of the Sun Valley Resort Village, is open with full services and fees in effect.

• Current trail conditions for the Ketchum Ranger District can be found at: summertrailink.bcrd.org.

• The following campgrounds north of Ketchum off Idaho 75 are open: North Fork, Murdock, Caribou, Wood River and Easley.

Information: Ketchum Ranger District, 622-5371.

FAIRFIELD AREA

Note: Baumgartner Campground remains closed.

Roads over Couch and Wells summits are open. Trails are snow covered and impassable at the higher elevations.

The following campgrounds are open: Chaparral, Abbot, Bird, Canyon, Bowns, Willow Creek, Five Points, Bear Creek, Pioneer, Willow Creek and Hunter Transfer Camp.

Trails:

• Currently the Kelley Creek ATV trail (aka Iron Mountain Trail), West Fork of Kelley Creek, Gardner Gulch, East and West Fork of Kelley Creek, East and West Forks of Beaver, Virginia/Kelley Connector, Deadwood Creek and Kelley Creek closed.

Information: Fairfield Ranger District, 764-3202.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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