Lake Cascade State Park is a large park located on a large lake. If you want to camp and/or get out on the water, this park is a good option for you. If you want to be able to find things easily, this park is not for you.

Lake Cascade State Park welcome sign
Welcome to Lake Cascade State Park.

State Park Overview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Lake Cascade State Park is a really good option if you own a boat and/or like to camp. Lake Cascade has a surface area of 47 square miles. It is the fourth largest lake or reservoir in Idaho. The 500 acre state park surrounds the lake and provides a plethora of options for camping and recreating. To be honest, we found this park a little overwhelming. 

Pros:

  • Lots and lots of camping options
  • A large lake with plenty of room
  • Great spot for water sports and fishing

Cons:

  • Very busy in the summer. Reserving a camping spot can sometimes be tough.
  • Spread out. It can be hard to find certain areas.
Lake Cascade State Park marsh with birdhouse
Pretty views around the lake.

What To Do

  • Camp. So. Many. Campgrounds.
  • Kayak or paddleboard. Both can be rented at the park.
  • Take the boat out…if you are lucky enough to have one.
  • Windsurf or sail. The winds on the water make for good conditions to do both.
  • Fish. Year round you can catch rainbow trout, coho salmon, or small-mouth bass.
  • Snowshoe or nordic ski in the winter.
  • A picnic beside the lake is always a good idea.

Amenities

They have toilets (mostly of the vault variety) and the usual picnic tables and such. For all of the specifics, check out the parks and rec’s website for Lake Cascade State Park.

Crowd situation

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This park is big and spread out. That means you will be able to find a corner for yourself. However, it can be tough to reserve a camping spot on summer weekends. So reserve early.

East side of Lake Cascade State Park
Summer is lovely to time to be on the lake.

Unique to Lake Cascade State Park

Did you know that at one point in time, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game considered draining Lake Cascade? There are some pesky fish living in the lake known as pikeminnows. Don’t let the name fool you. These “minnows” are predators that compete for food. And they can live up to 15 years! The cost to drain the lake, combined with issues involving irrigation, power generation, salmon flow augmentation, etc., proved to be too much. So the pikeminnows live on.

A little history about Lake Cascade State Park

The name “Lake Cascade” is fairly new. This lake is actually a reservoir and it was originally called Cascade Reservoir after the earthen dam was built in 1948. It wasn’t until the 1990s that people started calling it Lake Cascade. A federal name change was officially made in 1999.

Explore nearby

  • Cascade, Idaho, is ground zero. The park touches the town, which is also home to the visitor center. You can also pick up supplies and find lodging here.
  • Donnelly, Idaho, is very close to the lake. You can pick up supplies here as well, but it is smaller than Cascade.
  • Tamarack Ski Resort is minutes from the lake on the west side.
  • McCall, Idaho, and Ponderosa State Park are about 30 minutes to the north. McCall is a good place to explore, shop, and dine.
  • Boise, Idaho, has the closest airport and is about two hours away (depending on traffic, which can get pretty bad on highway 55).
  • Eagle Island State Park is 1.5 hours away.
cow on the road in Idaho
Watch out for cows!

Our experience at Lake Cascade State Park

Picnicking at Lake Cascade State Park

Our stop at Lake Cascade State Park was right at lunch time. Good thing we packed a picnic! We were not sure where the best place to picnic is, so we just picked a campground (Sugarloaf) and headed out. It was a pretty drive with only a slight delay to avoid some cows in the middle of the road. We were the only car in the parking lot and we had our pick of picnic tables. However, it smelled a bit like cows and shade was limited. It was not a bad experience, per say, it just wasn’t as lovely as I was hoping. There are perhaps other places in the park that are better for picnicking.

Picnicking near Lake Cascade
A picnic is our usual go-to at state parks.

Horseshoes

So…we didn’t actually play horseshoes at Lake Cascade State Park. We attempted to, but we couldn’t find the horseshoe pits and we couldn’t find anyone who could direct us to the horseshoe pits. That experience hammered home just how big this park is and the challenges that come with that.

Huckleberry picking near Lake Cascade State Park

Technically, we did not go huckleberry picking in the park. However, we went huckleberry picking near the park. Idaho is well-known for its huckleberries and in fact, the huckleberry is our official state fruit. You can find these delicious berries near Lake Cascade. I’m not going to give you an exact location because hunting for them is half the fun. But if you find a batch, enjoy!

Huckleberries in Idaho
Huckleberries near Cascade.

Conclusion

I don’t want to rag on Lake Cascade State Park too much because we did not do any of the activities one typically does when one visits Lake Cascade (e.g. boating, fishing and camping). But the size of this park presented some challenges that we did not face at most of the other parks we visited. If you visit, I suggest you start at the visitor center. I really wish we had done that. Then maybe we would have been able to find the horseshoe pits.

Note: we visited Lake Cascade State Park as part of our Idaho State Parks Challenge. The challenge consists of visiting all of Idaho’s state parks in one year. We made up this challenge to see a bit more of our beautiful state and help alleviate the restlessness caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions. Feel free to join the challenge!

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