Ponderosa State Park, Idaho -
Gets My Vote

Ponderosa State Park - McCall Idaho

Ponderosa State Park located in the Idaho mountains of McCall, Idaho, is one of the best state parks around and would make a fabulous family reunion location or family vacation spot.

McCall sits on the shore of Payette Lake in the Payette National Forest, just 100 miles north of Boise, Idaho. It is a popular all-season tourist and outdoor recreation destination. In addition to a variety of terrain, abundant wildlife, casual atmosphere, vacation rentals and friendly folks, you can also find natural hot springs, snow shoe golf, ice fishing, boating, hiking, camping, Brundage Mountain skiing and biking, and more.

McCall, Idaho - Brown's Park near Ponderosa State ParkBrown's Park sits right on the lake and is absolutely beautiful. This picture hardly does it justice. No wonder it's a popular wedding location.

Check the McCall Chamber of Commerce for a calendar of events, weather outlook, lodging options, area history, real estate agents and area contact information.

One of McCall’s treasures is Ponderosa State Park, a 1,000 acre peninsula that juts into Payette Lake. This state park accommodates over 200,000 visitors annually and it’s no wonder – the place is nothing short of amazing.

Ponderosa State Park, Payette Lake Osprey LookoutOsprey Cliff Overlook offers a beautiful view of Payette Lake and surrounding area.

We recently returned from a very enjoyable 3-day, 3-night camping trip. In addition to cold nights, warm days, crisp air, plentiful wildlife and beautiful scenery (should I go on?), we enjoyed hiking, exploring, biking, geocaching… we could have easily stayed several more days.

Ponderosa State Park - family at Osprey LookoutThis is us at Osprey Point.

The park’s diverse topography, ranging from sagebrush flats to lakeside trail, from flat ground to steep cliffs, from dense forest to spongy marsh, contributes to the wide variety of animals and diverse scenery.

Ponderosa State Park gets my vote for family reunions and large group gatherings because...

  • Lodging options. Choose between tent camping, RV spaces, yurts, cabins. Individual families can choose the accommodations that best fit their current circumstances, lifestyle and budget.

  • Variety of activities. Send the teenagers mountain biking, set up the elderly to watch the adults play horseshoes, explore the nature trail with the younger kids and let the toddlers play games and eat dirt. All while the babies sleep.

  • Spaces for groups. At a designated time, meet at the picnic shelter for dinner or at the amphitheater for skits and a family meeting.

  • Low budget. Even if you don’t have to worry about how much money you spend to attend a family reunion, chances are that someone in your family will have to worry about it and budgeting for any vacation can be very stressful. The amount of money you spend, once you get to the park and pay for your lodging, are entirely up to you. Rent a boat, skis, mountain bike. Or not. While it is an option, there is no need to spend additional money on entertainment to be fully entertained.

Group Campground

The Ponderosa RV Group Campground offers 2 separate loops with a total of 50 campsites (many of them have tent pads in addition to RV hookups). Each site has picnic tables, grills and water. There are 2 large picnic shelters, one located within each campground loop, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The group campground also offers a central, ADA accessible restroom and shower facility.

Ponderosa State Park Group PavilionCan you imagine a more perfect location for a group picnic?

Group reservations of 7 or more campsites can be made 9 months in advance of your intended stay. (Individual campsite reservations can be made only 3 months in advance, so groups get priority.) Reserve online at: www.parksandrecreation.idaho.gov or call 1-866-634-3246.

Peninsula Campground
(2 yurts, 1 cabin and many other amenities)

Ponderosa State Park Camping Map

The Peninsula Campground offers 113 campsites, bath houses with hot showers and flush toilets, horseshoe pit, sand volleyball court, amphitheater and covered picnic shelter.

Wondering where the best campsites are? The Aspen loop has the most undergrowth, which means it offers the most shade and privacy. The Chokecherry loop is the most open (less undergrowth, less shade) and is the first to close for the season (early September). The Blackberry Loop sits in the middle and is all-around average on all points.

Ponderosa State Park - Deer in Campground

I know this isn't the greatest picture - it was getting dark - but I took this picture of this deer in our campground and was standing only 5 feet away. We also had red tail fox, blue jays and a host of other wildlife visit us daily.

Are there members in your group that don’t have an RV and/or are not up to sleeping in a tent? That’s the beauty of overnight accommodations for family reunions in places like Ponderosa State Park – you have options. The park offers 2 yurts (located in Aspen loop, closest to the lake) and 1 very small cabin (no bathroom facilities, sleeps a maximum of 4, located across the street from the Peninsula Campground).

Non-reservable Campsites & Day Use Options

Ponderosa State Park also offers a 630-acre North Beach Area with 22 non-reservable campsites, grills, tables, central water and vault toilets. This area offers excellent canoeing and canoe rental is available at the west side day use area.

A beautiful grassy area among ponderosa pines and overlooking the lake surrounds the newly built Visitor’s Center and group pavilion. This pavilion is available for rent for just $25 per day (from sun up to sun down).

New Cabins Coming Soon

The park is also just putting the finishing touches on 2 brand new cabins located near the Visitor’s Center. These cabins will sleep 4-6 (2 twin beds, 1 queen and 1 hide-a-bed couch), have great views of the lake (the southern-most cabin will have the better view), and rent for $125-$150 per night.

Ponderosa State Park - New CabinThis cabin in Ponderosa State Park, surrounded by grass and pine trees with a view of Lake Payette, will soon be available for reservations.

UPDATE: The cabins are finished and available for rent. They are beautiful! Call the park for more info and/or to make a reservation.

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