Roadside campgrounds with views: Where to camp along Idaho 21 near Stanley

Campgrounds along Idaho 21 near Stanley can be uncrowded and offer some good scenery.

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comJune 26, 2014 

Despite it being prime camping season, Eliott Kroll and Lauren Trail relaxed in camp chairs in Banner Creek Campground and had the place all to themselves.

The small campground northwest of Stanley, has picture perfect campsites with a small creek, shade provided by trees and mountain meadow scenery.

"It's gorgeous up here," said Trail, who is from Phoenix, Ariz. "Our rivers don't have water."

The couple was enjoying a vacation in Idaho and planned to hike in the nearby Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

It's not very common to have empty campgrounds near one of Idaho's most popular tourist towns like Stanley.

But campgrounds along Idaho 21 between Banner Summit and Stanley don't get as much use as more popular ones along the Upper Salmon River or at Alturas, Redfish and Stanley lakes.

But, if you're in a pinch to find a campsite, and you don't have reservations elsewhere, these campgrounds are a good option.

They all offer beautiful scenery and activities like mountain biking, hiking, dirt biking and fishing. They have all the campground amenities, like picnic tables, toilets and fire rings. The major drawback - road noise from Idaho 21.

If you don't mind that, take a look at these campgrounds and enjoy the scenery:

BENCH CREEK

It's a small campground in the trees along the creek.

It's a great alternative if campgrounds around Bull Trout Lake are full. It's 2 miles to the lake, and you can still take advantage of the fishing there.

There's a trail next to the campground across Idaho 21 that makes a good hike.

Details: Five sites; $5 a night; no drinking water (but there is a stream nearby); suitable for tents, small trailers and motor homes.

Getting there: From Boise, it's about 108 miles northeast on Idaho 21. Look for campsite on left side of highway not too far past Banner Summit.

BANNER CREEK

This campground is also in the trees and near a small creek. It is close to the road going to Bear Valley for hiking, floating, fishing and exploring all the way to Dagger Falls on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Notes: Five sites; $5 a night; no drinking water is available, but there's a creek.

Getting there: From Boise, drive 111 miles northeast on Idaho 21. The campground is on the right.

THATCHER CREEK

The campground is tucked back in the trees in Capehorn Meadows along Idaho 21 with views of the Sawtooths.

You are camped overlooking marshes and wetlands and might see elk, sandhill cranes and a variety of birds.

Notes: Five sites; $10 a night; drinking water available.

Getting there: From Boise, drive about 117 miles northeast on Idaho 21. The campground is on the right.

TRAP CREEK

The campground has three campsites in the pines, and if you're a hiker, the Idaho Centennial Trail passes right by.

It can be reserved as a single group area for up to 40 people through recreation.gov. You must walk to your campsite from a general parking lot.

Note: Fee is $50 for group site for up to 40 people; $14 for single sites if a group doesn't have it reserved.

Getting there: Take Idaho 21 northeast of Boise to within 15 miles of Stanley. It's on the left.

SHEEP TRAIL

Here's another campground that can be reserved as a group area for 40 people.

It has campsites in lodgepole pines and also has the Idaho Centennial Trail nearby. There are great views of the surrounding mountains. This campground is a little farther from the highway than some of the others.

Notes: Eight single sites, $15 a night; group site is $50.

Getting there: Take Idaho 21 northeast of Boise. The campground is within 9 miles of Stanley.

ELK CREEK

The campground only has three sites, but it is located in lodgepole pine and has views of the meadows looking toward mountains to the north near the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

What's neat is it can be reserved as a single group area for up to 40 people. Elk Meadows is a good place for bird watching, and for catching a glimpse of elk, and maybe even a moose.

You have to walk a short ways to the sites from the parking area.

Notes: Fees are $14 a night for single sites; $50 a night for group sites.

Getting there: Take Idaho 21 northeast from Boise. The campground is within 8 miles of Stanley on the left.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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