Starting Our Idaho Summer Off Right

After spending last summer on the east coast where planning and reservations are a must, this year we’re taking a completely opposite approach. Instead of planning out each stop and making reservations months in advance, we’re simply floating around and making it up as we go along. Sometimes we don’t even know where we’re going to stay until we get there. In other words…freedom! We basically went into the summer with one goal in mind — explore Idaho and find cool places to stay (preferably outside of campgrounds) Okay, I guess that’s two goals.

With no set route around Idaho, we began our summer tour of the Gem state (called that because it has both an abundance of natural resources and amazing scenery) along the Idaho/Wyoming border just outside the tiny town of Alpine. With two national forest campgrounds and several boondocking options, we figured our chances of finding a suitable spot were good. After driving through the Alpine North Campground on the western shore of Palisades Reservoir (a nice wooded campground) and checking out the Indian Creek Boondocking area (the reservoir water is really high right now making this spot tiny and muddy) we ventured down Forest Road 281 to see if we could find a spot with decent cell service.

Idaho Boondocking

There are about 20 boondocking spots scattered along the road. Many are big enough for more than one RV and most are situated alongside a fast moving creek. With the big holiday weekend looming, we made sure to choose a spot that could only fit one RV and was a good distance from other sites.


Cell service was spotty, to say the least. Without the booster we got nothing. No AT&T or Verizon. With the booster and our seldom used directional antenna pointed in just the right direction, we got 1 bar of Verizon LTE. For the first few days that was enough. As the area filled with more people, our speed slowed to frustration level. Fortunately, the last three days of our stay were part of the long weekend but trying to get work done before that was hard. Not impossible, just slow and requiring lots of patience.


As the weekend grew closer more and more people arrived until all the spots on the road were overflowing with RVs, truck campers, tents, and trailers piled high with ATVs. I am positive we were the only people on the road without some sort of dirt bike, 4-wheeler, Razor, or other noise spewing machine. I try hard to accept that different people enjoy different things. But I really don’t understand the ATV craze.

What happened to enjoying nature on foot? What’s wrong with getting some exercise? How about stopping to smell that flowers, or listing the birds? This obsession with speed and noise baffles me. The really weird part is that FS Road 281 is a dead end road with two trailheads. Both trails are single track only wide enough for a dirt bike. So all those people who loaded up their trailers with giant quads with roll cages were restricted to riding up and down the 3-mile dirt road. How is that even fun? I don’t get it.

Lots of the spots along the road had room for multiple RVs. Most people brought along an RV + a trailer full of noisy toys

Despite the crowds and slow internet, we loved it here. Our site was just secluded enough that we weren’t bothered much by all the noisy vehicles zooming past, and the nearly overflowing river (there was a LOT of snow this year) provided an excellent sound diversion. One of the markings of a good boondocking spot is when there are lots of things to explore right outside our door. Even though we have more time in the afternoon now that Tim is working 7-3 to keep in line with his east coast office, we still often prefer to not drive anywhere at the end of the work day. Which is exactly what we did for most of our stay. Most afternoons we hiked the trails, walked along the river and visited with our cow friends.

Near the end of the week, the slow internet was driving us crazy so we took a ride into Alpine to find a better signal. Alpine is a tiny little town across the border in Wyoming. There is no grocery store or laundromat, but there is a brewery!

Melvin Brewing
Melvin Brewing recently opened a giant new taproom (that they fondly refer to as a mega-church brewery) right on the southern edge of the Palisades Reservoir. Their beers come highly recommended and this new remote location seems to have people from all over making the drive to Alpine. Not sure if they had wifi, but we brought along our Verizon mifi device and happily picked up a fast signal. A few beers were sampled while we finished up the work week. In addition to delicious beer and a cool building, they also have a pretty sweet view from their outside patio.

Melvin Brewing
Palisades Reservoir
More about our extra awesome long holiday weekend next time…

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5 Responses to “Starting Our Idaho Summer Off Right”


  1. Kelvin

    I’m amazed all these out of the way dispersed camping sites are always so full. Are most of the other campers residents of the area? Guess its best to hit these during the week even on non holiday weekends.

    • Amanda

      I’m always amazed by how many people camp in remote forest locations. It did appear that most of these folks were locals. I bet it’s much quieter there on a non-holiday weekend.

  2. Metamorphosis Lisa

    Boy, Alpine has their priorities straight!

    Looks like a fab spot for a holiday despite the internet frustrations.

  3. Jodee Gravel

    Beautiful spot in the trees! I grew up with ATVs in the wide open desert where we took trash bags with us to clean up after the tent campers following winter weekends, but I definitely don’t get the appeal of taking them into the forests just to race up and down a dirt road. We avoid campgrounds that cater to them as unfortunately they are too often operated by those who prefer loud and fast :-( I agree that Alpine has it figured out!


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