We stayed at Forest Road 281 in May 2020.
Our Previous Stop: Welcome Station RV Park Wells Nevada Camping Review & Info
Our Next Stop: Island Park Idaho
Location: 43.26, -111.0674
Camping Limit: 5 Day From May 1-September 1 & A 16 Day Limit the Rest of the Year.
Amenities: Vault Toilet
Town: Alpine, WY – 10 miles
Gas Station: K.J’s Alpine – 9 miles
Dump Station & Potable Water: K.J’s Alpine – 9 miles (Pay by Donation: Potable Water & Dumpster)
Grocery Store: Alpine Market – 10 miles
Cell Phone Service
Verizon – One Bar
AT&T – No Service
North Indian Creek Trailhead – 0 miles
South Indian Creek Trailhead – 0 miles
Palisades Reservoir, ID – 1 mile
Jackson Wyoming – 45 miles
Grand Teton National Park, WY – 50 miles
Yellowstone National Park – 103 miles
Heise Hot Springs, ID – 50 miles
St. Anthony Sand Dunes, ID – 81 miles
Blackfoot Reservoir, ID – 63 miles
Forest Road 281 Campground Near The Palisades Reservoir Idaho
The Palisades Reservoir located on the Idaho, Wyoming border is a part of the snake river and a popular place for boating, swimming, and fishing. The reservoir is more than 25 miles long and there is free camping in many places on the beach. The free camping along Forest Road 281 is on a public road about 1 mile off the highway, east of the reservoir. It’s a great place to camp by the peaceful Indian Creek and escape the activity of the reservoir shore.
When you first turn off the highway onto Forest Road 281 also known as Indian Creek Road you are technically driving through private land. The first cattle guard you drive over has signs that inform you of this and there are lots of signs along the way saying “keep out” and “stay off the grass.” This only goes on for about a half-mile and you will soon cross over another cattle guard that marks the start of the public lands and free camping.
The road is well maintained and they were even grating it when we left in May of 2020. The road you can camp along is almost exactly 3 miles long and there are large amazing campsites the entire way. You don’t need to worry about turning around before you reach the end because there’s a huge parking area with a vault toilet you can easily turn any size of rig around in.
There’s a lot of large trees and plenty of shade for summer camping and pretty much every campsite we saw was large enough for any size of rig.
There’s a 5 day camping limit from May 1-September 1 and a 16 day camping limit the rest of the year.
We got to the Palisades Reservoir on a Wednesday and there was hardly anyone camping. Just a few trailers here and there. We found the most amazing campsite exactly 2 miles from the main highway. It was below the main dirt road right next to the creek. We had our own area and were within walking distance of the North Indian Creek Loop Trailhead which is a hiking, mountain biking, dirt biking trail.
On Thursday the area started to fill up with campers and by Friday night there wasn’t a single open site to be found. If you’re going to camp on Forest Road 281 make sure you show up well before the weekend.
What It’s Like Camping On Forest Road 281
We arrived in the middle of May on a cold day. The creek was crystal clear and just a good steady stream. It started to warm up as soon as the weekend hit and the creek soon became a muddy roaring river as the snow in the mountains started to melt. If you camp there in the spring expect a lot more noise from the creek than if you camp there in the fall.
You are surrounded by beautiful tree covered hills and mountains which is wonderful but it means there isn’t much cell phone service. We had one bar on the Verizon phone but little to no data and even with our signal booster we were only able to make phone calls.
A very common thing with BLM and public forest land is a lot of ATV’s driving around. The nice thing about Forest Road 281 is most of the campsites are off the road and the sound of the creek drowns out the noise of people driving around. There is also a very popular motorcycle trail in the area which takes a lot of the traffic away from the main dirt road.
You aren’t far from the Palisades Reservoir and just across the highway is a large water access area where you can swim and even camp for free if you prefer to be right next to the water. The town of Alpine, WY is only 10 miles away and while it’s small there is still a decent-sized grocery store, restaurants, a hardware store, and a gas station with a dump station, pubic dumpsters, and potable water.
In May, the mosquitoes weren’t that bad but they did start to show up in large numbers after the warm weekend.
There are signs near the trailheads warning of bears so make sure you keep food and garbage inside and hike in large groups or carry bear spray.
My Camping Review Of Forest Road 281
We weren’t expecting to find such an amazing free camping area by the Palisades Reservoir. Forest Road 281 has to be one of the nicest free campgrounds in Idaho. There was hardly any garbage anywhere, it was close to a town, and the road was in excellent shape.
The area is beautiful and it’s not every day you get to camp so close to a creek. If you are a fisherman the Palisades Reservoir has some great trout fishing even from the shore. We had a fish fry 3 times during our visit we were catching so many beautiful trout.
Another nice thing about camping in the mountains instead of on the beach is you are away from the noise of the semi-trucks that frequent the highway and you don’t get the strong afternoon winds that blow over the Palisades Reservoir almost daily.
We will definitely be camping on Forest Road 281 again someday and it has become our new favorite campground to stay at any time we visit Jackson, WY, or are headed up to Yellowstone National Park.
Have any questions about camping on Forest Road 281 or the area around the Palisades Reservoir in Idaho? Leave a comment below.