Pick Your Pleasure: Ten Ways to Fill Your Summer Days in McCall
Ten Ways to Fill Your Summer Days in McCall
Whether a trip to McCall is an annual tradition for you, or you’re visiting this area for the very first time, there is no end to the adventures and experiences to be had in this quaint mountain paradise. Part of the appeal is how much enjoyment you can have simply hanging out in McCall. But when you find yourself ready to do some more serious exploring, here are Ten Ways to Fill Your Summer Days:
#1. Take a Hike
The McCall area has more than 500 miles of hiking trails, so there is no shortage of options for a foray into the woods. If you’re new to hiking or packing along the kiddos, you’ll find some of the most high-reward/low-effort hikes at the summit of Brundage Mountain. Take a scenic chairlift ride on the BlueBird Express to quickly and easily reach 7,640 feet in elevation. From the summit, you can head north on the Hidden Valley Overlook Trail (1/2 mile out and back) or stroll south on the Lookout Trail (1/2 mile out and back). Either way, you’ll be treated to some of the finest birds-eye-views of the Payette Lakes and surrounding mountains.
If you want to get a little more mileage under your feet, head down the multi-use Rock Garden Trail to the Lakeview Vista Trail, and then take the Cat Track trail back to the base area. That’s about 8 miles of mostly-downhill hiking that gives you spectacular views and garden-like surroundings in wildflower meadows.
Another favorite hike is located a few miles up Goose Lake Road from Brundage. The Granite Mountain Lookout trail is a stout 5.6 miles up and back but your effort will be rewarded with stunning views of Meadows Valley and the Seven Devils. Twin Lakes is a shorter hike from the same trailhead and is a good choice for those with kiddos or anyone looking for something less strenuous.
Not all the great local treks involve mountain tops. Goose Creek Falls is another popular choice. It’s mostly shaded and a bridge crossing provides a gorgeous view of Goose Creek before the trail jogs left for another ¼ mile to the falls. The hike is 3 miles out and back so it won’t eat up too much of your day.
That’s just a small sampling of the hiking in the area. You can sign up for a free All Trails account to view more hiking options and search for the perfect length/difficulty for your group.
Level Up, Like a Local: Those looking to truly immerse themselves will want to try a multi-day backpacking trip or head farther into the hills to avoid crowds. A great trip planning resource is Scott Marchant’s book, Hiking McCall.
#2. Ride a Bike
Whether you’re looking for a high-octane ride or just want to pedal around and explore, the McCall area offers TONS of ways to enjoy adventure on two wheels. Those hungry for an adventure can rent a Downhill or XC (cross-country) bike and explore more than 30 miles of trails at Brundage Mountain. Jug Mountain Ranch and Tamarack Resort also offer bike rentals and have expansive trail systems.
Bear Basin and Ponderosa State Park are also popular places to explore, you will need to rent a bike in town to hit those trails. Gravity Sports, McCall Sports and Hometown Sports offer a variety of mountain bike rentals. If cruising the paved trails and boardwalks around town is more your speed, those shops are also great spots to find cruisers, tandem bikes, hybrid bikes and kid trailers.
For a look at some self-guided bike tours through town, check out this handy guide from the McCall Chamber of Commerce.
Level Up: While some people debate whether this is ‘leveling up’ or ‘leveling down’, there’s no question that E-bikes are rising in popularity. These bikes, which feature an electric assist, are not allowed on all trail systems, but there are plenty of trails in this area where they are welcome, and the helpful folks that rent e-bikes at Apex will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Like a Local: To bike like a local, you’ll want to invest in a good set of wheels of your own. This year, mountain bike shoppers can browse a nice selection of NEW Kona bikes for sale at the Brundage Bike Shop, along with meticulously maintained bikes used in our rental fleet. Check out the deals here and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or to schedule a test ride!
#3. Swing a Club
Avid golfers could spend a whole week exploring the five courses within striking distance of McCall, but you don’t need to be an afficionado to appreciate the natural beauty you’ll find on the area’s fairways. To get a feel for the local courses, you can check out this guide to the Top 5 Scenic Golf Holes, which offer dramatic views and challenging play.
#4. Grab Some Grub
If all this outdoor activity has your stomach growling, we don’t blame you! While there’s no true “fast food” in McCall, there’s also no shortage of great restaurants. For dinner, you’ll want to plan ahead by making a reservation at lakefront favorites like Rupert’s at Hotel McCall or The Cutwater at Shore Lodge.
For more casual fare that still gives off a strong “McCall Vibe”, we recommend Salmon River Brewery, Bistro 45 or the Sushi Bar. If you’re craving a burger, you can’t beat Frenchie’s on Third (open Monday – Friday) or My Father’s Place, a classic McCall haunt with a throw-back diner vibe.
For a satisfying sandwich, head to Stax, which is stone’s throw away from another convenient lunch spot, KB’s Burritos. Favorite breakfast/lunch joints include Fogglifter and Café 6-Three-4. If you don’t have time to sit, grab a delicious cup of ethically sourced organic craft coffee from North Fork Coffee Roasters, which also offers tasty grab-n-go breakfast items.
Like a Local: If your schedule allows for a visit to Brundage Mountain during lunchtime, Smoky’s Bar & Grill can’t be beat. Elevated pub food, with a fresh-air view of the park-like base area is available Fridays through Sundays in June and Wednesdays through Sundays in July and August. Operating Hours? Link to Smoky’s Page?
#5. Chill by the Lake
This one might seem obvious, but no list of things to do during a McCall summer would be complete without mentioning the star of the show, beautiful Payette Lake. There are so many ways to enjoy the lake in the summer, from picnicking or digging your toes in the sand at one of the beautiful downtown park, to throwing a stick for your dog at the off-leash area between the Marina and Brown’s Park, to immersing yourself in the cool alpine waters in one of the swimming zones at Rotary or Ponderosa State Park. Any time spent lake-side is time well spent.
For those who have a hard time sitting still, watercraft can turn the lake into an adventure-lover’s playground. Rent a paddleboard or kayak to explore the shoreline or the meanders at the north end of the lake. Rentals are available at the shops mentioned above in Tip #2 or at Backwoods Adventures at the North Beach boat ramp. Closer to town, check out the new Payette Pedal Party Boat, which offers daily public tours along with private outings for a group of your choosing.
Level Up: If motor-powered boating sounds more like your jam, you can rent a pontoon boat, waverunner or ski boat from Cheap Thrills, which delivers right to the lake.
Like a Local: Lake time can become even more relaxing when you visit one of the lesser-known lakes in the area. Little Payette or Upper Payette Lake are both close by and worth a visit. Another option is to head up Goose Lake Road to Brundage Reservoir, Goose Lake or Hazard Lake for a lower-key, closer-to-nature experience. Before hitting the water, be sure to review your boating safety and wake restrictions.
#6. Take a Cruise
Covering nearly 8 square miles and boasting 22 miles of shoreline, Payette Lake is as expansive as it is beautiful. One of the best ways to explore the vastness of the lake is by taking a chartered ride with McCall Lake Cruises. The 90-minute daytime cruises are great for families and are offered most afternoons at 1 pm. Check availability and purchase in advance on the website to secure your spot.
Level Up: McCall Lake Cruises also offers 2-hour Sunset and Cocktail Cruises that depart at 8 pm.
Like a Local: Fully embrace the romance of the open water with a Thursday evening cocktail cruise. The Thursday evening voyages are for adults only and they feature live performances from talented local pianist, Jamie Cope.
#7. Hit the Ice
When the crew needs to escape the heat but take a break from the sun, look no further than the giant glass-front structure in the heart of downtown McCall. The Manchester Ice and Event Center not only offers public skate sessions, but the ice bumper cars will keep the kids entertained for hours.
Level Up: Stick n’ Puck sessions are offered regularly and geared toward families who want to give hockey a shot. Manchester also offers several summer hockey camps that could be a good fit for kids spending extended periods in town.
Like a Local: This is truly a local’s secret, but one that’s likely to get out soon. Big Country Sports Pub is tucked into the corner of the rink and offers a solid selection of specialty sandwiches, 5” and 16” pizzas and a hefty draft beer selection. Keep an eye on the Big Country Sports Pub Facebook Page for news about pop-up brunches, waffle & mimosa bars and updates on its late-night hours. Big Country has been known to sling its almost-famous biscuits and gravy until 4 am when town is hoppin’.
#8. Soak Your Cares Away
Taking a soothing soak in one of the area’s popular hot springs can be an adventure in itself, and the three different relaxation destinations each have their own unique character. Zims, conveniently located in New Meadows has a hot pool and a super family-friendly less-hot pool. Gold Fork, outside Donnelly, has five different pools, all different temperatures. For a truly memorable experience, head north 30.8 miles from McCall on Warren Wagon Road to Burgdorf Hot Springs. You’ll want to reserve a two-hour soaking session in advance to access this historic site that features three log-sided pools set among a charming collection of historic cabins dating back to 1870.
Level up: If you’d rather skip the exploring and get straight to the pampering, you can’t beat The Cove Spa at Shore Lodge. The saltwater immersion pools (both indoor and outdoor) are available for two hours post-massage or facial for those who book a 60 minute service.
Like a Local: Those who never shy away from an adventure will probably want to explore one of the many primitive hot springs that nature has so generously provided this area. But, like the locals do, you’ve got to earn this adventure. Please read up on hot springs etiquette while you do your google search for primitive hot springs near McCall.
#9. Grab a Sweet Treat
We’re happy to let the cat out of the bag on this one, not that these sweet spots are much of a secret. If your sweet tooth wakes up early, head to Stacey Cakes for handcrafted sweet-and-savory pastries, cakes and what are arguably the best gingersnaps in the entire world. In addition to a full suite of breakfast options, Café 6-Three-4 offers friendly counter service and house-made pastries that are worth the trip all on their own. My Father’s Place has already hit this list for its burgers and hearty lunch fare, but it’s also a popular spot to skip the meal and go straight for dessert, offering malts, cones, shakes and sundaes. (The selection is large, but you can’t go wrong if you skip the menu entirely and just order the fresh Huckleberry Milkshake).
Squatch Sweets is fairly new on the sweets scene but quickly earning a place in the hearts of kids in search of candy, gourmet popcorn and “extreme ice cream”.
Level Up Like a Local: The OG McCall source for ice cream is the legendary Ice Cream Alley, tucked away in an alley off the main drag and offering mountain-sized scoops for more than 40 years, a visit to Ice Cream Alley is part of any respectable visit to McCall. Lines can swell during peak times, so pack some patience – and go ahead and take a selfie with that giant cone. We won’t judge.
#10. Sleep Beneath the Stars
Camping is a super fun way to enjoy the outdoor experience in and around McCall, and there is a camping ‘method’ to fit nearly every camper. Camping Resorts & RV Parks offer a more structured experience, many of them have small cabins for rent. State Parks and developed Forest Service campgrounds offer different levels of bathroom/shower facilities and other amenities like picnic tables (and day use areas). Dispersed camping is also popular around McCall, this helpful guide can point you toward the perfect spot for your next McCall camping adventure.
While most people choose to camp with SOME sort of covering overhead, others have experienced how magical it can be to sleep out in the open air. Obviously, this is more fun when conditions are right (temperature, cloud cover, presence of insects). Make sure you have a comfortable sleeping pad, a warm sleeping bag (and maybe a beanie) and if you’re camping out in the first half of summer, you may even want to buy a mosquito net (there are lots of affordable options). It does take a little extra planning, but you can’t help but feel a deeper connection to nature – and your place in the universe – when you sleep with the Milky Way overhead.
Like a Local: The farther you are from ‘civilization’ when you camp out, the more intense the sense of wonder. You’ll catch amazing views of the Milky Way when you’re away from city lights.
Level Up: Choose a campsite by a remote river where the song of rushing water adds to the sense of escape. For those less-experienced with backcountry camping but in search of a truly memorable experience, consider a guided overnight river tour where the outfitters take care of logistics, gear and safety and the guests can experience the beautiful simplicity of the outdoors. Pro Tip: Mosquitos are rare in nearby Hells Canyon, so you can ditch the tent and sleep outside, under the stars, lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of a river.
(Photo Courtesy Hells Canyon Raft)