Traveler Tales: Sawtooth National Forest

Exploring our Nation's National Forests
The Chelsea Day family standing in front of their toy hauler at Sawtooth National Forest

Five years ago our family moved from Southern California to Boise, Idaho, to be closer to mountains, lakes and streams. We spent our first year in Idaho exploring the wilderness and traveling in our Highland Ridge Highlander RV. Since then, we’ve learned a thing or two about finding the best camping spots off the beaten path. So, we’re spilling our secrets and sharing tips, highlights and takeaways from our first-hand experiences boondocking in one of our favorite places, the Sawtooth National Forest—and how you can, too.

What to Expect when Boondocking in the Sawtooth National Forest


Idaho is known for having the most rugged and unchanged wildlands in the continental United States. The terrain in the Sawtooth National Forest is an alpine lake environment, full of lush forest and grassland spanning over two million acres with over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks over 10,000 feet, 300—plus lakes, and more than 1,500 heritage sites.

A lake overlooking the mountains at Sawtooth National Forest, captured by Chelsea Day


Wildlife in the region tends to shy away from people, but it’s not uncommon to see deer, black bears and even the occasional moose. Proper preparation and a healthy respect for nature is crucial to enjoy this region and stay safe. Don’t leave food out in the open in your campsite, carry bear spray, and remain calm and keep your distance if you do encounter a wild animal. If you’re hiking with dogs, they must be on leash from July 1 through Labor Day and are not allowed on certain posted trails including the tributary of the South Fork of the Payette River.


Reservable campgrounds and cabins can be found at, but our favorite way to camp in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is to choose boondocking locations on the Forest Service site. Self-contained dispersed camping is allowed in the National Forest outside of developed recreation areas, at least 100 feet away from water sources, for up to 14 days. There are miles and miles of spots to explore near rivers and at the base of towering mountains. 

Chelsea Day reading a book in her toy hauler at Sawtooth National Forest

Recreation Opportunities

Available recreation opportunities include whitewater rafting, hiking, shooting arrows, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, collecting morel mushrooms, gathering huckleberries and more. There are incredible guides in the region who can supply equipment and provide tours to introduce you to all sorts of sporting activities.

Start Simply and Take Your Time

It’s easy to be immersed in nature in the Sawtooth National Forest. That said, don’t feel the need to plan and do everything all at once! One of our favorite things to do after all this time camping in the Sawtooth is to just relax in nature! We love to pack up our books, s’mores gear and board games, and take time to connect as a family away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Thank you for taking time to learn about the national forest that is nearest and dearest to our family’s heart here in Idaho. Now get out there and explore the national forest closest to you!

Toy Haulers

Many people think of toy haulers as the wild-child of the RV world.  Sometimes that’s true. While the toy hauler originated as a mobile man-cave complete with diamond plate walls, this popular RV type has evolved into much more. Today you might want to think of toy haulers as open-concept living spaces with multi-purpose utility.

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