While campgrounds fill up fast at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, it’s not really that hard to find available free camping. You just have to know where to look. Sash and I pulled into Portneuf Lower, a free campground run by Idaho Department of Fish & Game, located only two miles away from downtown Lava Hot Springs. Most people don’t know about this place. I’d argue that it’s a better place to camp than the handful of “proper” campgrounds located in town.
I did some resesarch on other free camping located near Lava Hot Springs, and put together this guide…
Located about two miles north of Lava Hot Springs, along S. Blaser Highway, this is a designated campground intended for hunters, fishermen, and bird watchers. It’s located right on the Portneuf River. In fact, you can park your RV or pitch a tent just inches from the water if you want.
The Idaho Department of Fish & Game says there is a 10-day camping limit here. However, as I write this blog post, we’ve been camped here for 14 days, and have not seen a Fish & Game officer yet. In fact, there are a couple of trailers that were already here when we arrived, and are still here.
By Friday and Saturday, this place fills up with campers. You’re best to get here between and Monday through Thursday.
There are a number of low waterfalls along the Portneuf River at this campground, and there are well-used campsites right at these waterfalls. We’re actually camping next to one right now, and can enjoy the sound of rushing water at night. Access road into this area is all hard packed dirt, though bumpy and rutted in many places. Four wheel drive is not necessary. It’s passable for most RVs, even those with low-ground clearance.
- Authority: Idaho Department of Fish & Game
- GPS Coordinates: 42.642307, -112.004471
- Amenities: Pit toilet
- Verizon 4G coverage: 2-3 bars
- Website: https://www.boondockersbible.com/camping/portneuf-lower-sportsmens-access-lava-hot-springs-idaho/
Pebble Creek Campground
Also referred to as, “Pebble Area”, this is a tiny clearing with enough size to accommodate 10-15 large RVs. It’s just a pull-out from Forest Road 036, about one mile west of the tiny hamlet of Pebble. This little community lies along S. Blaser Highway, about 11 miles north of Lava Hot Springs.
Technically located inside Caribou-Targhee National Forest, Pebble Creek Campground is supervised by Westside Ranger District out of Curlew National Grasslands. It’s actually located about 6 miles from a larger, more developed campground, “Big Springs Campground”, also inside the national forest. But, Pebble Creek Campground remains a smaller, free option.
- Authority: Caribou-Targhee National Forest
- GPS Coordinates: 42.740223, -112.017859
- Amenities: None
- Verizon 4G coverage: Very weak, almost none
- Website: https://www.campendium.com/pebble-creek
Goodenough Creek Campground
Run by the Bureau of Land Management, out of their Pocatello Field Office, this a developed campground with five spaces for RVs, and five more for tents. It’s completely free.
It’s located about five miles west of McCammon, ID, along Green Rd, and sits on the banks of Goodenough Creek. Much of the road in is paved, but the last 2.2 miles is hard packed gravel, and easily accessed by any size RV. The campground is about 16 miles west of Lava Hot Springs.
- Authority: Bureau of Land Management
- GPS Coordinates: 42.654379, -112.278966
- Amenities: Pit toilets, picnic tables, firerings
- Verizon 4G coverage: Weak, 1-2 bars
- Website: https://freeroam.app/campground/goodenough-creek-campground-pocatello
Abandoned Indian Rocks State Park Campground
This used to be a State Park campground that opened up in the 1960s. It was closed down in the 1980s. The land is now overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
The old campground is still there, though most of the original back-in campsites have grown over. But, there are still a few back-ins that are still visible and can still accommodate RVs. There are no fences or gates keeping you out. The only signage is a warning to not remove any native artifacts. Otherwise, it’s free camping on BLM land.
It’s located on the west side of I-15, about a mile north of McCammon, ID. The access road is hard-packed gravel, but heavily pot-holed. You’re about 14 miles from Lava Hot Springs.
- Authority: Bureau of Land Management
- GPS Coordinates: 42.678381, -112.220232
- Amenities: None
- Verizon 4G coverage: Good, 3-4 bars
- Website: https://freeroam.app/campground/abandoned-state-park-campgroubd
Where to Find Dump Stations and Propane Tank Refills near Lava Hot Springs
Lava Hot Springs East KOA Holiday – Located on the east end of town, this KOA has an RV dump station for $10.00. The station itself does not offer drinkable water. However, if you ask at the front office, they will let you pull into an open campsite and refill there. They also have propane tank refills.
Sinclair Fuel Station – Located on the west side of town, along Highway 30, the Sinclair station has propane tank refills. There is no dump station. This place does, however, have RV fuel lanes.
Flying J Travel Center – Located in McCammon, right where Highway 30 intersects with I-15, this truck stop has an RV dump station for $10.00. Unfortunately, the dump station does not have any water at all. They have spigots, but they don’t pump water. However, they do have propane tank refills, and they have RV fuel lanes.
Soda Springs Dump Station – Located about 22 miles east of Lava Hot Springs in the town of Soda Springs, is this city-owned RV dump with potable water. Best of all, it’s totally free. You can find in town at the corner of E 1st St. S and S 2nd E.