Ponderosa State Park is named for the prominent and beautiful pine trees of the same name that can be found throughout the area. It is located in western Idaho, situated in the Salmon River Mountains, close to the Oregon border. The park itself is established on a 1,000 acre piece of land on the tip of the Payette peninsula. The closest town is McCall, which is conveniently only two miles away. The park is situated on the edge of Payette Lake, which offers some spectacular views as well as opportunities for kayaking, boating, fishing, and swimming. The park also has camping facilities, biking and hiking trails, and nature walks with experienced guides. It offers plenty of fun and exciting outdoor activities during all times of the year; any outdoor enthusiast will definitely not run out of things to do.
Visitors to Ponderosa State Park can take advantage of campgrounds, cabins, or lodgings in the nearby town. The main camping area is the Peninsula Campground, which has 23 camp sites for rent that include water, sewer, electrical hook-ups, and shower facilities. RV travelers have accommodations in the RV Group Campground near the main park entrance, which offers 50 RV campsites. On the north end of Payette Lake is the Northwest Passage Campground, which has 22 campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis that include fire pits, picnic tables, central water, and bathroom facilities. Near the park visitor center are reservable cabins that offer all the same comforts as a hotel and can sleep up to eight guests. Each companion campsite has a use fee of between $16 and $22, and reservations can be made online at http://idahostateparks.reserveamerica.com. The town of McCall also has several motels that still offer easy daily access to the park.
Hikers have plenty of trails to choose from at Ponderosa State Park. Popular trails include the Louie Creek Trail, the Box Creek Trail, the Crestline Trail, and the Fall Creek Trail. Each hiking spot is well-maintained and offers breath-taking views of the surrounding wilderness. The park is known for its wildflowers along many of the hiking trails in the spring and early summer, a recommended photo opportunity. Summer kayakers have the perfect spot for white-water paddling at the North Fork of the Payette River, another easy-access spot in the park. Temperatures reach into the 90’s in the summer months, and the crystal-clear Payette Lake offers ideal swimming in the great outdoors. A favorite swimming spot is the sandy shore of North Beach. Golf enthusiasts who visit Ponderosa State Park have the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery while playing a round at the nearby City of McCall Golf Course.
Many day hikes in the park offer chances for wildlife viewing and bird watching; reservations to head out with a nature guide can be made at the visitor center. Guests have often spotted deer, moose, and bald eagles, just to name a few species of native wildlife. Other summer activities include horseshoes, volleyball, and boat rental. Ponderosa State Park has a centrally-located boat launch near the main campground, and visitors can reserve horseshoe pits and volleyball courts near the visitor center. The Loop Mountain Bike Trail is highly recommended for bike riding while enjoying a lakeside view. Fishing opportunities are plentiful in both Payette Lake and nearby Sylvan Creek as well.
Locals and repeat guests at Ponderosa State Park claim that there is no scenic view in the park that is not spectacular, and this is definitely not confined to the summer months. Idaho is known for its winter activities, and Ponderosa offers plenty of them. The park has some of the best stretches of snow-covered trails for Nordic cross-country skiing along groomed trails, and winter visitors can also enjoy the outdoors while snowshoeing or dogsledding, a must-try for first-timers. Ski and snowshoe trails are designated from “Easy” to “Not So Easy”, and equipment can be rented from several places throughout the area. There is also a hill for inner-tubing in the snow, located at the park’s Activity Barn. The park offers discounted rates on the five deluxe lakeside cabins between October and February, so visitors are encouraged to take advantage of these for a fun winter getaway.