May 17--Kids love to have water to splash around. They like to catch fish, too. Then there's climbing on rocks and walking through the woods.
Those are the attributes of the ultimate campground and Idaho has plenty of them.
Let's say there are hundreds of ultimate campgrounds in Idaho that are ideal for family camping. Picking out a half-dozen is pretty easy.
We've whittled down the list to some in southwest and south-central Idaho so you can put them on your gotta-do list for the summer.
Warning: They're popular and we're not giving away any secret places. Getting a campsite in one of these campgrounds isn't easy during the height of the season.
But if you want to experience Idaho and its mountains then head out and pitch a tent or set up the RV.
What: It's a U.S. Forest Service campground complete with a developed hot-springs pool and set along the South Fork of the Boise River, east of Featherville.
What sets it apart: You can't ask for more in a campground.
It has all the amenities like developed campsites, drinking water, toilets, an interpretive trail, developed hot pool, and a host.
You'll find trout fishing in the South Fork, and when the river goes down in mid summer, it turns into a good swimming hole.
Notes: It's handy because it's close to Pine and Featherville for supplies.
At an elevation of 4,900 feet, the season is May through fall.
Fees: $10 a night; group areas, $40. Reserve at reserveamerica.com.
Information: (208) 764-3202.
How to get there: Drive east on I-84 to the second Mountain Home exit. Go north on U.S. 20 for about 32 miles to the Pine/Featherville turnoff. It's 18 miles to Pine. Keep going through Featherville. The campground is another 12 miles east.
PONDEROSA STATE PARK
What: Ponderosa State Park is one of Idaho's most popular state parks, and it's also a good place to cut your teeth camping because it offers so many amenities.
What sets it apart: It's family oriented with easy hiking and biking trails. It has hot showers, too, so you can clean up the kids. It also has hookups for RVs.
It's right on Payette Lake for swimming and boating.
The park is walking distance to McCall so you can grab a burger at a cafe instead of cooking over the campfire.
Notes: Ponderosa State Park is very busy during the summer and usually gets booked early in the year. You've got to plan ahead and reservations are recommended. Go to parksandrecreation.idaho.gov for reservations.
The elevation is 5,050 feet and the season is May into fall, but May can be chilly and wet so watch the weather forecast.
Fees: Standard campsites are $14, if central water is turned on. RV hookups are only available on the main peninsula of the park. Expect to pay $24 a night.
Getting there: Drive about 102 miles north of Boise on Idaho 55 to McCall. Turn east on Railroad Avenue, then north on Davis Street to the park. It's about a two-hour drive.
Information: (208) 634-2164.
UPPER PAYETTE LAKE
What: The U.S. Forest Service campground is on Upper Payette Lake, which is one of the most scenic areas in the Payette National Forest.
What sets it apart: You can fish for trout, or paddle a canoe or kayak. There's also a boat ramp.
The campground has hiking and mountain biking trails nearby or you can take scenic drives or ATV rides on forest roads in the area.
Check out the trailhead near the campground to Granite Lake. It's a steep, 3.5-mile hike, but worth it. If that's a little too much, try the mile-long paved Shoreline Trail for a hike. Twentymile Trail across from the lake from the campground is popular with mountain bikers.
Scenic and historic Burgdorf Hot Springs is a short drive away. It's a private pool, but open to the public for a fee.
Notes: Upper Payette Lake is at 5,900 feet in elevation and depending on snow conditions, could open in June with the season going into fall.
It has all the amenities you need for camping -- toilets, drinking water, picnic tables and grills.
Fees: $10 (single) to $15 (double) a night; reserve at reserveamerica.com. Group sites available, from $20 to $30.
Getting there: Head 16 miles north of McCall on the Warren Wagon Road and look for the campground on the left.
Information: (208) 634-0400.
What: This is the Hilton of full-service campgrounds on the banks of Brownlee Reservoir, which is full of bass, trout, catfish and crappie.
What sets it apart: Hot showers. Well, that's a biggie because it is a great campground for families to start out camping.
There is water and electricity RV hookups too. You'll find a pay phone and WiFi.
It is on a grassy peninsula overlooking Brownlee Reservoir and boating and fishing is the highlight of this area. There's a large, paved boat ramp at the campground.
You can take scenic drives to Hells Canyon Dam and into Oregon's Wallowa Mountains.
Notes: Woodhead Park is the largest Idaho Power park in the Hells Canyon area, covering 65 acres. It offers 124 RV sites with electricity, water, picnic tables and fire rings.
Nearest place to get supplies is Gateway Store, but you also can stock up in Cambridge on the way in.
The elevation is 2,208 feet and the season is year around.
Fees: $16 for RVs and $10 for tents. No reservations.
How to get there: From Cambridge, take Idaho 71 west to Woodhead Park along Brownlee Reservoir. It takes about two and a half to three hours from the Treasure Valley.
Information: idahopower.com (Click on "Our Environment" or call (541) 540-7209.
What: Sagehen Reservoirs has several campgrounds on or near the reservoir, and it's popular for fishing and canoeing.
What sets it apart: It is situated in tall ponderosa pine, spruce and fir trees. It doesn't get anymore scenic with the reservoir, mountains and trees. It is popular with mushroom and berry pickers, too.
Notes: It's a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and ATVers.
There's also the Sagehen Reservoir Trail that is 4 miles long and goes around the reservoir.
The elevation is 4,954 feet and the season is mid-May into fall.
Fees: $13.89 a night. Group campsites from $55.56. Reserve at reserveamerica.com. Look for Sagehen Creek or Antelope campgrounds.
Getting there: From Horseshoe Bend, take Idaho 52 west 9 miles to the junction with the Sweet/Ola Highway. Turn north and go 16 miles to Ola. Continue north and follow the signs to Sagehen Reservoir about 18 miles.
Information: (208) 365-7004.
What: Campgrounds at Stanley Lake are at the base of the 10,000-foot Sawtooth Mountains and on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness.
What sets it apart: The lake is one of the most popular places in the Stanley area for paddling canoes or flatwater kayaks in Idaho's high mountains.
It is a postcard of mountain camping in Idaho. There's trout fishing in the lake and a wilderness trail nearby.
Notes: It's busy in the summer and late fall is an excellent time to experience the area. It's a little less crowded, but a little more chilly.
The campgrounds around the lake make a good base for doing the tourist things in nearby Stanley, where you can shop for groceries, outdoor clothing and gear, or book a float trip on the Salmon River.
The elevation is 6,500 feet and the typical season June into fall.
Fees: $13.89 to $27.79. Go to reserveamerica.com for reservations.
Getting there: The campground is reached by driving 4.5 miles west of Stanley on Idaho 21 and turning on the Stanley Lake Road. It's 3 miles to the campground.
Information: Call (208) 774-3000.