SOAK IT ALL IN

Camping is a great escape from the everyday, the city, the noise, the … well, you know. You just have to get away and where better than to the woods?

There's more to it than that.

Camping holds a little secret - health benefits.

Well-Being Secrets lists 15 big bonuses you'll gain from camping, but you can really distill them all down to a couple.

  1. You're improving your overall health. Combine fresh air, exercise, increased sunshine and a good night's sleep and what do you have? Yup. Good health.
  1. You're improving your mental health. You're away from work, you're away from "life" and you're out in nature, likely listening to birds or the wind whistling in the trees. You're reducing your stress levels, decreasing your risk of depression, eliminating distractions and recharging your battery. Your mood is improving and maybe you find yourself feeling a bit more inspired for life.
  1. You're improving your relationships. Most of us go camping with friends or family. We're sharing a lot of the tasks, like putting up the tent, collecting firewood or circling around the campfire and roasting S'mores. Combine that familial experience with all the goodness in points 1 and 2, subtract the distraction of all your devices pinging because you might be lucky enough to be out of service, and now you have closer bonds with your spouse, your kids and/or your buddies.

Now doesn't it sound like people who don't go camping are a little bit nutty?

WHERE TO GO

We've determined one must camp. One question remains: where do you go?

We're so fortunate in southern Idaho to have great camping spots within just a few hours’ drive.

Let's start with some of the paid, serviced spots in state parks near Boise.

Bruneau Dunes

Less than two hours away, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America. It rises to 470 feet above the lakes just south of Mountain Home.

The state park includes desert, dune, prairie, lake and marsh habitat. You can go fishing, birdwatching, hiking or swimming. The park also has one of only two public observatories in Idaho, so you can take the family stargazing.

The camping area has two cabins for rent, plus 82 serviced sites with water and electricity and 16 standard sites.

Book your spot.

Three Island Crossing

Head a little further down I-84 to Glenns Ferry and the Three Island Crossing State Park.

This is a great spot for history buffs. Three Island Crossing was the most important but most difficult crossing on the Snake River in Idaho. When the river was too high, travelers on the Oregon Trail were forced onto a dry, dusty hot trail along the South Alternate route.

The river crossing was used until 1869 when Gus Glenn built a ferry, thus "Glenns Ferry."

Visit the interpretive center and immerse yourself in pioneer times.

The park has eight camper sites and 63 serviced campsites.

Book your spot.

City of Rocks

Now this is a cool spot.

Just a bit south of Twin Falls, the City of Rocks got its name from emigrant James F. Wilkens on his way to California in good ole '49. 1849, of course. The Gold Rush year.

You'll be camping among granite spires and monoliths reaching 60 stories tall. Geologists estimate the oldest granite to be as aged as 2.5 billion years.

It's a national reserve and you can make your way through the rocks, reading inscriptions from the almost 250,000 people who traveled through the area between 1843 and 1869.

Rock climbers find paradise here and it's also a great spot for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.

In addition to serviced campsites, this park has three group sites that can accommodate between 12 and 25 people a night. The Juniper group site is designed for equestrian camping. It's remote and primitive but features a corral and a vault toilet.

Book your spot.

Bear Lake

Got a water sports fan in the group? This is where you need to go.

The state park is located on the north and east shores of Bear Lake, a 20-mile long waterway shared by Idaho and Utah. Yeah, it's a longer drive (five hours!) but if you're up for it, you can't miss the Caribbean of the Rockies.

The lake is an exciting spot for swimming, jet skiing, water-skiing, boating, sailing and wakeboarding.

It has easy access to the Cache National Forest for hiking and Minnetonka Cave for spelunking.

The area is home to more than 800 camping and picnic sites on private RV park properties and more than 500 developed campsites offering full hook-up sites and tent sites. There are more than 300 additional campsites through the scenic canyons.

Pick your adventure.

Farragut

Speaking of a long drive that's worth it, if you're willing to head north -way north!- you're going to head up the 84 and past Coeur d'Alene to get to Farragut State Park.

It's almost eight hours of driving without a break but, boy oh boy, is it worth it.

This park has 4,000 acres of paradise in the wild. You're on Lake Pend Oreille, where you can enjoy boating and swimming, or you can head into the woods for a hike. Don't miss the chance to bring your mountain bike! The trails are well maintained and family friendly.

It's another cool history park. The area was used as a World War II naval training station. There's a museum where you can check out naval and war memorabilia. 

The park hosts 217 individual campsites, 10 cabins for rent, seven group camp areas and several large group areas.

Book your spot.


FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE

Reserving a spot is always a good way to make sure you have a spot. Trouble is, the state park campgrounds often book quickly.

For example, just try finding an open spot anywhere in the state for Memorial Day weekend. It's already next to impossible.

If you're willing to take your chance, we are surrounded by lots of other opportunities, but you have to get there before anyone else does.

Craters of the Moon National Monument

This is a bucket-list site for a lot of campers. Over near Arco, if you get one of the first-come, first-served spots at Craters of the Moon, you'll be nestling your tent next to collections of lava rock.

This is a national monument and preserve, a protected area with volcanic features. It's one of the best preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

You can take a guided tour with a ranger and learn about wildlife, flowers, plants and geology.

The campground has 52 sites and, at the risk of being repetitive, you can't reserve them. No wood fires are permitted in the Lava Flow campground but you can use charcoal in the provided camp grills.

Plan your visit.

Now here are some of the free campgrounds that are close to Boise. Because who doesn't love free?

Evans Creek

Take your fishing gear! Evans Creek Campground has 18 sites along the Anderson Ranch Reservoir that's stocked with smallmouth bass and kokanee. Just below the dam, fly fishers often find luck with trout.

Sites are equipped with campfire rings and picnic tables. The area has a vault toilet.

Get directions.

Martin Landing

Part of the Idaho State Fish and Game and Canyon County Parks Partnership, Martin Landing is a birdwatching, fishing and swimming spot. It encompasses 60 acres at the confluence of the Boise, Owyhee and Snake rivers.

The campground, staffed with a camp host from spring to fall, has 10 vehicle-accessible sites with grills and picnic tables. Five additional hike-in tent sites are available along the river.

Note: there is no potable drinking water.

Get directions.


GET OUT THERE

That's a pretty good roundup of some of the top campsites near Boise, don't you think?

Now it's just time to make sure the ketchup bottle is topped off, the hotdog buns are fresh and the cooler is filled with ice.

Get out there and enjoy some fresh air. If you hit some of these top spots, make sure you come back to this post on our Facebook page and tell us about your experience.