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Camping at Sawtooth National Forest

Sawtooth National Forest
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Sawtooth National Forest is a federally protected area that covers 2.1 million acres in the U.S. states of Idaho and Utah. Renowned for its scenic beauty, the forest features the Sawtooth, White Cloud, and Boulder mountain ranges, as well as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).

Location: Sawtooth National Forest is located in central Idaho, with a small portion in Utah.

Camping Information

Camping Options:

  • Developed Campgrounds: The forest offers several developed campgrounds with amenities like picnic tables, fire rings, toilets, and sometimes potable water.
  • Dispersed Camping: For those who prefer a more rustic experience, dispersed camping is allowed in many areas of the forest, but with no services.
  • Group Campsites: There are facilities designed for larger groups that can be reserved in advance.
  • Cabin Rentals: Historic cabins are available for rent in the forest.

Reservations and Fees:

  • Campgrounds may require a fee, and some take reservations which can be made through the Recreation.gov website or by phone.
  • Popular sites fill up quickly, so it's recommended to book well in advance during peak season.
  • Dispersed camping is typically free, but always check the latest regulations as policies can change.

Campfire Permits:

  • Campfires may be allowed in specified areas, but check for current fire restrictions due to changing conditions and wildfire risk.
  • Sometimes a campfire permit is required, which you can obtain from the local ranger station.

Wildlife Awareness:

  • The forest is home to a wide range of wildlife, including bears. Proper food storage and handling practices are essential to reduce the risk of attracting bears and other wildlife to your campsite.

Leave No Trace:

  • Follow the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the natural environment. This includes packing out all trash, being considerate of others, and respecting wildlife.

Permits and Regulations

Wilderness Permits:

  • Some wilderness areas within the forest may require permits for overnight stays. Check with the local ranger district office for information on permits and quotas.

Fishing and Hunting:

  • Valid Idaho fishing and hunting licenses are required for anglers and hunters. All state regulations apply.

Seasonal Accessibility

Weather Conditions:

  • The high elevation of the forest means that snow can linger well into late spring and arrive early in the fall, affecting accessibility and camping conditions.

Road Access:

  • Roads leading to trailheads and campgrounds may be closed or impassable due to snow. Always check current road conditions before traveling.

Best Time for Camping:

  • Summer and early fall are typically the best times for camping, as the weather is milder and most facilities and roads are open.

Additional Tips

Prepare for the Environment:

  • Weather can change rapidly in the mountains, so prepare for a range of conditions and pack appropriate gear.

Altitude Sickness:

  • Some visitors may experience altitude sickness. Acclimate gradually to higher elevations and stay hydrated.


  • Cellular service can be unreliable or unavailable in remote areas of the forest. Plan accordingly and inform someone about your travel itinerary.

Check Local Guidance:

  • Before heading out, check the U.S. Forest Service website or contact the local ranger district for the most recent information on conditions, restrictions, and closures.

Remember, information concerning national forests can change, so always do your due diligence before setting out to camp at the Sawtooth National Forest.

Map of Campgrounds in Sawtooth National Forest
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