Camping Out at Ponderosa State Park's Cabins 

Just minutes from McCall

For months, I had been creating my own little happy place--a mental escape of sorts where I could retreat whenever the stress of daily life threatened to overwhelm.

This happy place was a cabin perched on the shore of a beautiful lake surrounded by trees. It had a porch where I could lounge in an Adirondack chair, sipping my morning coffee and look out on the little dock jutting into the lake. Sometimes, there was a canoe in the picture, but there was always quiet.

Despite the sheer force of my imagination, budgetary restraints kept my happy place from becoming a reality--at least until I discovered the deluxe cabins at Ponderosa State Park in McCall.

OK, so the cabins aren't completely isolated and there is no Adirondack chair or charming little dock, but the cabins are both an incredible value when it comes to a lakeside retreat and filled with the kinds of conveniences that make getting away from it all far easier than pitching a tent.

Located just minutes from downtown McCall and next to the park's visitors center, the cabins are a collection of four modular units that leave the vague impression of wooden boxcars. Situated on the edge of Payette Lake, the cabins each boast a full wall of windows and glass doors that look out over a small covered porch and onto the lake.

The cabins are a study in efficient use of space: a small pull-out couch and a dining table fill the front of the cabin and flows into a full kitchen that includes all the major appliances. A walk-though vanity sink area is flanked by a shower and toilet area and leads into a bedroom in the back where there is a queen-sized bed. Above the kitchen (and up a very steep flight of stairs) is a small sleeping loft with two twin beds.

While there are some quirks (don't ever try to stand up in the sleeping loft), the cabins are cozy, yet modern and clean and filled with little details like quilts in the bedroom and dishes in the kitchen, although the assortment can be a little scattered.

A fifth cabin offers more room for visitors but does not have the lakefront location.

All of the cabins have electric heat, which makes them perfect for off-season exploration of the McCall area. The park has excellent access to a vast system of Nordic trails during the winter and hiking/biking trails at other times of the year. And while it's easy to cook meals in, restaurants are just minutes away.

Better yet, the cabins cost between $75 and $150 per night, depending on the time of year. Reservations can fill up fast for weekends and holidays, so it's best to plan ahead if you, too, need a lakeside happy place on a budget.

For more information and to make reservations, visit the Idaho State Parks and Recreation website at

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