But before we get into the specifics of each spot, let’s go over a few general notes about free camping in Idaho:
These sites are all primitive camping in Idaho, whether found on BLM land or in a national forest
This means you have to be set up to boondock or wild camp with no water hookups, no electric hookups, no trash service, and no shower houses. For tips, head over to this post next – Start Wild Camping Like a Pro
Become familiar with the 7 Leave No Trace Principles before embarking on any wild camping adventure
Always leave sites better than you found them, which sometimes means cleaning up other people’s garbage. Free camping sites are routinely shut down because they cost too much to maintain when people fail to treat these awesome shared resources with respect.. We recommend carrying a few kitchen sized trash bags and disposable gloves
Don’t count on consistent cell service throughout Idaho. If you’re dependent on service for work, check out our post with tips on getting better service, including an overview of our personal camping wifi setup.
17 Free Camping Spots in Idaho
1. Roman Nose Lakes in the Panhandle
GPS Coordinates: 48.634342, -116.568690
Cell Service: yes T-Mobile/Sprint/U.S. Cellular with Booster; spotty AT&T with Booster
Elevation: 6,007 feet
If you’re looking for national forest camping in Idaho, there are some great choices around Roman Nose Lakes! These dispersed camping sites are in a proposed wilderness area in the Kaniksu National Forest.
There are several smaller sites perfect for vehicle or tent camping, as well as one large group site. Each site has a leveled gravel pad, a fire ring, and there is a pit toilet available.
A trail system connects each campsite to the lowest of the 3 Roman Nose Lakes, and a boardwalk goes around a section of this lake. From there you can do the approximately 4 mile out and back trail up to visit the other two lakes.
The Roman Nose Trail is great for families. We hiked it in July and our daughter got to play in a little snow, the trail is well maintained and easy to follow, and each of the three lakes are crystal clear and the views are incredible!.
2. Finlay Flats Recreation Area in Montana
GPS Coordinates: 47.722139, -115.428278
Cell Service: none, but we were told other sites at the same campground do have service
Elevation: 2,335 ft
Although this free campsite is actually in Montana, we’re including it on this list because it’s on your likely route for your Idaho road trip if you avoid interstates like us and are trying to zig zag through the national forests of Idaho.
This dispersed camping area is found on national forest land along the Clark Fork River, just off Hwy 200 near the Idaho/Montana border. After turning north onto NF-2654/Finlay Flats Road, which is well maintained gravel, travel under 2 miles, cross the railroad tracks, and you’ll arrive at Finlay Flats.
The free camping spots are large enough for bigger RVs, level, and most of the 10-12 sites have a bit of shade. The spots are close enough together that you won’t have a lot of privacy or feel very secluded, but the views of the Clark Fork River and surrounding area more than make up for it.
You’ll need to be prepared to boondock while staying at this free campground. There is no potable water, trash, or electricity, however, there are pit toilets available.
3. Weir Creek Tent Camping
GPS Coordinates: 46.458306, -115.034889
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 2,700 ft
If you’re a tent camper, you’ll love this free Idaho hot springs camping area!
But if you camp from a vehicle like us, keep scrolling – no overnight parking is allowed at this location. Unless you want to take a quick dip in the hot springs like we did!
Weir Creek Hot Springs and these tent camping sites are located just off the north side of Idaho’s scenic Highway 12.
There’s a bathroom at the parking area, although we didn’t find it to be very well maintained. Of course, bathrooms are the only amenity you’ll find here, as this is free camping in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.
Start down the trailhead and you’ll soon see some sites off to your right, right along Weir Creek. There were several choices with ample space to set up a tent or hang a couple of hammocks. And if you come here to camp, you’ll definitely want to hike the short half-mile trail to visit the hot springs.
4. White Bird Gravel Pit (South of Grangeville, ID)
GPS Coordinates: 45.739458, -116.317634
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 1440 ft
This free BLM camping area in Idaho is good for a quick overnight stop. From 95, turn west onto Old Highway 95 and drive for a few hundred feet. You’ll see a large gravel parking lot on your left, right along the Salmon River. This is the free camping area.
However, if you’re in a truck bed camper or other small camping setup, go to the back of the parking lot and you’ll find a small trail leading to a more secluded spot overlooking the river. Now it’s not so bad!
Although Highway 95 is nearby and you’ll be able to see houses in the hillsides, pulling as far back as possible does help create the feeling that you have a private campsite right along the Salmon River.
Pit toilets are provided, but other than that, there are no other amenities at this free camping spot in Idaho.
5. Riggins, Idaho Beach Day on the Salmon River
GPS Coordinates: 45.401471, -116.224190
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 1745 ft
We really enjoyed this free camping area in Idaho!
From Riggins, leave US Rte 95/Main Street, and head east on NF-1614/Salmon River Road, which parallels the Salmon River.
If you have a bigger RV, you might want to stop at the free camping area you’ll soon see on your left. It’s a very large gravel parking lot with provided pit toilets, right between the road and the river. Although it does seem to be a pretty popular place for RVers to land, there should be enough room to spread out.
If you’re in a truck bed camper, car, suv, or van of some kind, keep going! Cross the steel bridge ahead, and immediately hang a left onto the dirt road. Follow this until you get to the GPS coordinates given above.
This site is shaded, it’s easy enough to get level, and it’s right next to a gorgeous sand bar – along with wild huckleberries if you’re there during the right season! Needless to say, our daughter loved this place, and so did we!
Between the views of the river, the backdrop of the mountains, the sounds of the water, the seclusion, and the beach, your family will love this free camping spot too!
6. Free Camping in Seven Devils Mountain Range
GPS Coordinates: 45.346694, -116.492306
Cell Service: Yes (T-mobile/Sprint on Booster)
Elevation: 7408 ft
If you’re headed up to the Heaven’s Gate area to take in the expansive views and hike a bit, this free Idaho campsite in the national forest should be right in route.
Roughly, it’s about half way between Hwy 95 and the Snake River, in the Seven Devils Mountain Range. It’s near the developed pay-for Seven Devils Campground, just off NF-517/Squaw Creek Road/7 Devil’s Road (gotta love how each road has at least 2 or 3 names!).
This site is just a large cleared area with a fire ring, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, and expansive views of Idaho. It’s in full sun, and although near the road, we saw only a few vehicles drive by.
7. East Fork Weiser River (Glendale, ID)
GPS Coordinates: 44.802417, -116.361778
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 4305 ft
We were relieved to have found this free dispersed camping spot in Idaho’s Payette National Forest! Fully shaded and with the East Fork Weiser River running along the side of the site, we really enjoyed staying here and relaxing near the water.
Much like other Idaho national forest camping sites, there aren’t amenities here so be prepared to boondock for the duration of your stay.
When you leave Highway 95, turn east onto NF-172, following along the East Fork Weiser River. Pretty quickly, you’ll come to a big open site on your left, and if you’re in a larger RV, you might want to snag that site.
As you continue down the road, you’ll see a couple more free camping options, but the one we stayed at is at the GPS coordinates listed above, and we were very happy with that spot.
8. Hell’s Canyon Overlook
GPS Coordinates: 45.061111, -116.779722
Cell Service: Yes (Sprint)
Elevation: 3218 ft
The views from this site! Unbeatable.
And because we enjoy long drives through unknown areas and over unmarked roads, we took the scenic route through the Payette National Forest. Be warned! Google maps failed to be accurate many, many times during this drive. So you’ll need some basic navigational skills as well as some paper or downloaded maps. And this route is not for those with Longer RVs as some of the switchbacks are tight and the road is narrow in spots.
If you aren’t looking for that kind of adventure but do want to get to this campsite, we recommend traveling north out of Copperfield, ID on…wait for it…Hwy 71/Brownlee Oxbow Highway/NF-454/Hells Canyon Road, which snakes along the Snake River (haha), weaving across the Idaho and Oregon border. Hint: just put “Hells Canyon Adventure Lodge” into your GPS. Shortly before arriving at the Adventure Lodge, turn right Kleinschmidt Grde/NF Dev Rd 050 and take the switchbacks up to the site.
Phew! Now that you’ve arrived, enjoy! The site is in full sun, the views are breathtaking, and most likely, you’ll see very few passers-by during your stay.
9. Big Bar Dispersed Camping in Hell’s Canyon
GPS Coordinates: 45.125389, -116.740861
Cell Service: Yes (Sprint)
Elevation: 1739 ft
If you’re in the Hell’s Canyon area and are looking for some free camping in this part of Idaho, but aren’t up for tackling the wild camping option given above, this one’s for you.
Also very beautiful, but with views from inside the canyon looking up. All paved roads and very easy to find, these sites are divided into “Areas 1-4” and are right along the Snake River.
The sites are larger and it’s possible to find some shade. You’ll find fire rings and one shared pit toilet for the dispersed camping area.
Downtown Council, ID Respite
GPS Coordinates: 44.728959, -116.438399
Cell Service: Yes
Elevation: 2920 ft
If you’ve been taking advantage of free camping in Idaho during your road trip, it might be time for a nice restock.
This spot in downtown Council, ID is a great place to stop for a few hours, especially if you’re traveling with your family and/or need to get some work done. There’s a couple huge steam engine tractors for kids to explore, picnic tables in the shade, and power outlets on a post available if you need to work and charge for a bit.
There’s a small grocery store across the street to the north and a clean public bathroom across the street to the south. If you need to refill your fresh water tank, there’s a spigot to the left of the bathroom. A true wild camper’s jackpot.
10. Trail Creek Hot Springs Hideaway
GPS Coordinates: 44.608639, -115.837778
Cell Service: Yes (T-Mobile/Sprint/At&t)
Elevation: 5909 ft
If you’re looking for some free camping near Idaho’s Trail Creek Hot Springs (aka Samuel’s Hot Springs), check this one out.
From NF-22/Warm Lake Road, head south on 425. You’ll soon see a free camping spot on your left.
There are no amenities here, but if you work while on the road, you’ll like this spot! We both had great cell service here.
There were plenty of trees to provide shade and hang a hammock, as well as an open space for a larger RV. There were no other campsites within eyeshot.
11. Powerhouse Gulch Payette River
GPS Coordinates: 44.223564, -115.913492
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 3140 ft
Here’s another great free campsite in Idaho near another incredible (and free) Idaho hot spring!
The GPS coordinates above are to a small sized site about 10 minutes south of Rocky Canyon Hot Spring. It sits between Middlefork Road/695 and the Middle Fork Payette River. This particular site would not be a great fit for a larger RV, but there are lots of free camping choices along this route.
Rattlesnake Campground is a forest service campground located a little further north, and they do have potable drinking water and vault toilets if you’re looking for a budget camping option with just a few basic amenities.
12. Free Camping near Sacajawea Hot Springs (NF-525)
GPS Coordinates: 44.162785, -115.199420
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 5016 ft
Though we only stopped for dinner at a riverside pull-off where camping was prohibited (GPS coordinates: 44.162056, -115.188722), there are several free national forest camping spots further down NF-525 as you follow it further west, along the southern side of the Payette River.
The surrounding area offers spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains, and further down Grandjean Rd you can access the Sacajawea Hot Springs as well as some incredible hiking trails in the Boise National Forest.
13. Cauldron Linn on the Snake River
GPS Coordinates: 42.496089, -114.132214
Cell Service: none, but available above the gorge as you drive in
Elevation: 3910 ft
Everyone taking an Idaho road trip has heard about visiting Shoshone Falls. But have you heard of Cauldron Linn?
Cauldron Linn is a waterfall on the Snake River, and the surrounding area is completely untamed and natural. We very much appreciated that there aren’t guardrails, paved paths, or any other man-made features.
Some GPS programs will route you to the south side of the Snake River if you search for Cauldron Linn. Don’t follow those directions! You want to come in on the north side of the river to arrive at the coordinates given above.
This free camping area near Twin Falls, Idaho doesn’t have any amenities, so be prepared to wild camp and pack it out.
Steer clear of this free camping area during any torrential downpour or if heavy rain is in the forecast, as it is in a flood zone along the Snake River. Lots of people enjoy fly fishing upstream from the falls and kayaking downstream, so bring along your gear!
14. Lake Creek at the Southern Base of the Sawtooth Mountains
GPS Coordinates: 43.758694, -114.341583
Cell Service: Yes (T-mobile/Sprint, AT&T)
Elevation: 6381 ft
A road trip through Idaho isn’t complete without a visit to the Sawtooth Mountains!
There are gobs and gobs of free camping areas throughout the Sawtooth National Forest, but in most of the Sawtooth area, each individual campsite is marked with a number, and you aren’t allowed to camp anywhere without a designated number. This regulation is wonderful and helps minimize human impact on the land, but it does make securing a spot a little trickier.
The free dispersed camping area at the given coordinates, however, is less regulated, less popular, and very beautiful. There are no shade trees, which opens up the views of the surrounding hills and mountains.
It’s found off Highway 75 in the southern part of the Sawtooth National Forest. After turning east onto Lake Creek Road/142, you’ll go through a neighborhood before the road turns to well maintained gravel.
You’ll start seeing cleared spots meant for free camping on your left and right. Some are larger than others and there are certainly choices for even the largest RVs. The spots are spaced out about ¼ mile and the terrain is flat and wide open. So you’ll be able to see other campers but you’ll still have some privacy.
15. Rough Creek Spots (Stanley, ID)
GPS Coordinates: 44.261917, -114.793444
Cell Service: none
Elevation: 6105 ft
This free camping spot in Idaho is to the east of Stanley, near Boat Box Hot Spring. So if you’re having a tough time finding an available place to camp right in the middle of the Sawtooth National Forest, this would be a good spot to check out.
From Highway 75, head south on NF-626, crossing the Salmon River right away. The road is gravel and parallels Rough Creek. The GPS coordinates above lead to the free camping spot in the photo.
However, we soon realized tents were set up over the ridge and continued up the mountainside until we found a large pull out near the top. Although not technically a campsite (GPS Coordinates: 44.232972, -114.795861), the existing fire ring in the pull out let us know that many before us found themselves with nowhere to sleep in the this part of the Sawtooth Mountains and took advantage of this off-the-beaten-path spot.
We felt comfortable staying here, and pulled in late and left early after breakfast, only seeing one or two vehicles the entire time. There were several other spots along NF-626 so keep just your eyes peeled as you drive up the mountain.
16. Deer Gulch on the Salmon River
GPS Coordinates: 44.700000, -114.043889
Cell Service: Yes (T-Mobile/Sprint)
Elevation: 4636 ft
This free campground is 15 minutes south of Goldbug Hot Springs, so if you’re on the hunt for free camping near one of the top Idaho hot springs, this is your spot!
From Highway 93, cross Dry Gulch Bridge over the Salmon River. Right away, you’ll have a choice between going left or right. Both are loops that have many free dispersed campsites to choose from.
There are enough trees to provide some shade and to feel like you can tuck yourself away in a smaller rig. We snagged a spot right along the river, and although Highway 93 was right across the river, the low amount of traffic didn’t bother us.
There are fire rings and vault toilets.
In the evening we saw a bit of wildlife, from geese swimming up the river to either mountain goats or pronghorn (a great debate between us) scaling the hillside.
We left first thing in the morning to get an early start at the hike to Goldbug Hot Springs, which ended up being a highlight of our trip!
17. Last Stop in Idaho
GPS Coordinates: 43.555083, -111.075111
Cell Service: Yes (Sprint/US Cellular) on booster
Elevation: 6614 ft
If you’re leaving Idaho and heading into Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming, you might find yourself near this free Idaho campsite in the Caribou Targhee National Forest.
It’s right off Highway 33 near the state’s border. Turn south onto USF FR 239. A left turn would take you to the pay-for Mike Harris Campground, so continue straight. You’ll soon see free camping spots along Mike Harris Creek.
This free forest service campground has no amenities other than a fire ring, and during our visit the sites were well maintained. They are spaced far enough apart with enough plant growth to provide privacy.
We hope you find and enjoy some free camping during your Idaho road trip! And don’t forget to read about these 5 Must-Visit Natural Hot Springs in Idaho before you start planning.
If you’re a fan of free camping, be sure to check out our post that’ll teach you how to Become a Pro at Finding Free Camping so that you can find camping for free wherever your adventure takes you!
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