Today we will travel to Kirkham and Bull Trout
Campgrounds within the Lowman Ranger District of the Boise National Forest. Both campgrounds
are available by reservation at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
We will head about 35 miles north from Boise, Idaho, along State Highway 55 to Banks. Turn
east onto the Banks-Lowman Highway 17, also known as the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway.
This scenic drive provides year-round opportunities to see wildlife and rugged canyon views of
the South Fork of the Payette River. This stretch of the river is world renowned for
rafting and kayaking. After traveling about 40 minutes, we arrive at the intersection
with State Highway 21, turn left and proceed east 5 miles, arriving at Kirkham Campground. Kirkham Campground has 16 sites located on
the South Fork Payette River’s edge at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Visitors enjoy soaking
in the popular Kirkham Hot Springs and exploring the nearby scenic Kirkham Ridge Trail. A trail
with staircases leads down to the soaking pools and small steaming waterfalls.
The campground was burned over in the late 1980’s by the intense Lowman wildfire, so
only a few Ponderosa pines are scattered throughout the sites providing partial shade. The campground
contains single use campsites and one double site, all of which are accessible. Each site
is equipped with a picnic table and campfire ring with grill. Some have small picnic shelters
for shade. Vault toilets, drinking water and trash collection are provided. A campground
host is on-site and the roads and parking spurs are paved.
Continuing 30 miles north along State Highway 21, you will reach the turnoff to Bull Trout
Campground. Turn left onto Forest Road 520, and go about 2 miles along the dirt road.
Bull Trout Campground, located on the shores of beautiful Bull Trout Lake at an elevation
of 6,900 feet, is a favorite vacation destination. Situated in a beautiful forest setting the
campground has 38 sites and offers group, equestrian and single and double campsites,
many of which are accessible. The group sites can accommodate up to 50 people
each. Equestrian sites each contain a corral and large parking spur. Some campground sites
are on the waterfront and have direct lake access, while others have lake views. Vault toilets, drinking water and trash collection
are provided. Roads and parking spurs are dirt and a campground host is on-site.
The lake is open to non-motorized boating and there is a primitive boat ramp to unload
canoes or kayaks. Anglers will enjoy fishing for trout.
There are nearby trails for hiking, biking, horseback and off-road vehicle riding. The
11-mile Warm Springs Trail is great for hikers and the 35-mile Kirkham Ridge Trail is open
to hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and dirt biking.
Near Bull Trout Lake, the beautiful Martin Lake also offers canoeing, fishing and scenic
views. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout – a favorite for kids to catch. For reservations,
Martin Lake campsites are listed within the Bull Trout Campground.
Both campsites are popular, and will provide a visitor with a wonderful mountain recreational
experience. “It’s just perfect for kids and families — there’s
a bathroom, there’s water to drink, lots of space on the sites to fit in your tent and
your trailer. We loved it, we’ll be back.” In late spring, the access road may be blocked
due to snow until plowed. Visitors are encouraged to contact the Lowman
Ranger District about road conditions at 208-259-3361. Both campgrounds are available by reservation
at www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Further information is also available by calling
the Forest Service at 208-373-4007.