I have fond memories of Meadow Lake Campground and the Gilmore area of south east Idaho all the way back to Boy Scouts in the early 70’s. It is a fantastic campground nestled into the west slope of the Lemhi mountains about 22 miles south of Leadore, Idaho on Idaho 28.
You’ll pass through Gilmore, Idaho know as a silver boom town whose last permanent resident Dick Moll died in 2002. It’s seen an influx of development with summer homes and ranchetts scattered among the historic buildings since I last visited many years ago.
Getting there – Length restriction
Beware that the road into the campground is steep and mountainous. There is a warning sign at the bottom of the first grade recommending a maximum trailer length of 24 feet. There are several sharp switchbacks on a pretty steep grade that will cause you trouble if you’re not careful. But when I was there I saw a truck towing a trailer that was 32 feet plus so you can get a larger trailer up there…Be careful
But the payoff is worth it. The campground is situated on the north shore of Meadow Lake at about 9150 feet in altitude. The lake sits at the base of the 10,700 foot Meadow Lake Peak. You’ll be surrounded by 11,000 foot mountains on all sides and the views are majestic.
Meadow Lake Campground
Meadow Lake Campground consists of 17 campsites and a day use area with picnic tables, fire rings and barbecue pedestals. The campground has 13 single campsites with a picnic table, tent pad, campfire ring, prep table, and parking for 1 vehicle. The campground has 2 pit toilets, drinking water and day use parking. 4 double campsites are available for larger groups. Each group site includes 2 picnic tables, 2 tent pads, a campfire ring, a prep table, and expanded parking for 2 vehicles.
Keep in mind that the ground is pretty rocky but you’ll find in the campsites it’s pretty smooth. Meadow Lake campground is located at the base of the 10,720-foot Meadow Lake Peak. The lake is a 13.3-acre glacial lake that is stocked with catchable trout. You can take non-motorized boats on Meadow Lake but there is no boat dock. Fishing is great! with lodge pole and white bark pine trees and is frequented by deer and mountain goats.
Also keep in mind that temperatures below freezing are possible through the summer season. At 9160 feet this campground can see some wild temperature swings day to night and some pretty intense thunderstorms! In the past I’ve stayed there when in late July when we had a dusting of snow. The campground is only open from July 1st, through Labor Day weekend because it usually takes that long for the snow to melt enough to open up the camping spaces. Reservations are available at Recreation.gov : Meadow Lake Campground Reservations
A mountain retreat awaits you
There is plenty to see and do in the area. There are many miles of backcountry hiking trails that take you into the rugged Lemhi mountains or to the top of Meadow Lake Peak.
This is rugged mountainous country and I highly recommend you be an experienced back country hiker and take appropriate precautions. Never hike alone in this area. Your cell phone won’t save you here, there is no cell signal for miles. Also Meadow Lake Peak trail is not maintained and you need some mountaineering skills make it to the top.
The Lemhi mountains have several of the highest peaks in Idaho and are the result of basin and range faulting. Just south of Gilmore on Idaho 28 is Mount Diamond at 12000+ feet. In fact Mount Borah the tallest mountain in Idaho is in the Lost River Range immediately to the west of Meadow Lake.
Gilmore & Birch Creek Charcoal Kilns
Gilmore is a former Silver boom town and there is plenty to explore along the road up from town. The old Gilmore cemetery is worth a visit but watch the road, it is very steep. Remember that there is a lot of private land in the area and to respect private landowners fences and postings.
Just about 15 miles south of Gilmore are the Birch Creek Charcoal Kilns. They were built to supply charcoal to the smelter at Nicholia. That smelter processed ore from Gilmore and the Viola mine. Both are interesting places to visit but again the much area around Nicholia is private land so tread lightly.
Beware of altitude sickness
Finally take it easy. At this altitude it is easy to get altitude sickness. Drink lots of water and plan shorter hikes until you get used to the altitude.
Most cases of altitude sickness are mild, but some may be life-threatening.Symptoms tend to occur within hours after arrival at high altitude and include headache, nausea, shortness of breath, and inability to exercise.Mild cases may resolve in one to three days. Severe cases may require oxygen, medications, and moving to a lower altitude. (Source Mayo Clinic and others)
Altitude Sickness : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness
Official Salmon National Forest Meadow Lake Site : https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/scnf/recarea/?recid=76072
Reservations.gov site : https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/260558