Thursday, July 25, 2013

Five easy-to-access kid-friendly high mountain lakes in McCall to keep you cool, plus 4 Summit Challenge

Starting area, 4 Summit Challenge in Cascade 
Four Summit Challenge, riders heading to Warm Lake Road 
Trail to Josephine Lake ... hiker friendly 
Wendy at Josephine Lake. The water was refreshing, but not freezing cold.  
The wildflowers are happening in the alpine zone.
Louie Lake (courtesy Mike Huston)
Boulder Lake 
Duck Lake (courtesy Mike Huston)
Hi all,

OK, it's been hot, it's July in Idaho, so we all know what that means, especially in the low-elevation valleys like Boise and the Treasure Valley -- temperatures hovering near 100 degrees practically every day! This week's outdoor tip is tailored for families with young kids who might be interested in getting out of town, and heading to a cool high mountain lake near McCall for a day trip, fishing, camping or whatever.

Below, I've got 5 great options that feature close access by vehicle and short hikes to the lakes ...

But first, I want to remind the road cyclists out there -- and even cross-bikers and mountain bikers -- that the Four Summit Challenge is happening Saturday in Cascade. This is a super-cool event that's been growing in popularity since it started several years ago. It's organized by Mike Cooley of George's and the community of Cascade; everyone raves about the hospitality provided by the good folks in Valley County.

The Four Summit Challenge is open to 750 riders. I've heard from the organizers that they're over 500 right now, but there's room for more, if you want to go at the last minute. The courses are set up for variable distances to accommodate just about any age and ability. There's an 8.5-mile course for families, a 30-mile course (1 summit), a 50-mile course (2 summits), a 60-mile course (3 summits) and a 75-mile course (4 summits and 7,500 verts). A scrumptious BBQ, beer garden and live music follow the ride. For more information, go here.

Now, about those lakes ...

1. Boulder Lake - This is an easy hike to a pretty lake in the Payette Crest. You take Idaho 55 almost to McCall. Watch for a right-hand turn on Elo Road before town. Take Elo to Boulder Lake Road and follow that to the trailhead by Boulder Meadows Reservoir. It's a short hike, about 1.5 miles, to Boulder Lake from there. Once at the lake, if you want to hike farther, you can continue on the trail several miles Buckhorn Summit, and several smaller lakes are located near that summit.

2. Louie Lake - From the same trailhead, you can hike uphill to Louie Lake, have a nice swim and picnic, and go fishing if you like to do that sort of thing. It's about 1 mile from the trailhead to the lake. I've even ridden my mountain bike to Louie Lake, but it's quite steep and rocky, and kind of a pain if you're carrying a day pack with a fishing pole, etc. There are definitely some nice fish in that lake. I've seen 'em.

3. Josephine Lake - North of McCall, just past Secesh Summit on the way to Burgdorf Hot Springs, there's a Forest Service road that peels off to the left and takes you up to a trailhead for Josephine Lake. The road is about 3+ miles of rough, rocky tread ... best for a truck, but a Subaru could make it, too. Just go slow so you don't get a flat. The rocks are sharp! The trail to Josephine is about 1 mile to the lake. It's a nice big lake, great for swimming, camping, and fishing. You also could car camp at the trailhead.

4. Duck Lake - This is one of the most accessible lakes off of Lick Creek Road, east of McCall. The trailhead is just on the other side of Lick Creek Summit. There's a parking area and rest room at the trailhead. Duck Lake is about a 1/2-mile hike from the trailhead. You could camp at the lake or at the trailhead, or just go up there as a day trip. Duck Lake has fish in it.

5. Upper Hazard Lake - The trailhead for Upper Hazard is at main Hazard Lake off the Goose Creek Road. You access Goose Creek from the paved road to Brundage Mountain. Proceed up the bumpy Goose Creek road to Hazard Lake. Then hike a little less than 2 miles to Upper Hazard Lake. You'll see fewer people up there, and you can camp and fish at that lake, too.

All of these lakes should be easy to find with these directions, but a Payette National Forest map would be most helpful as well. You can pick them up at the McCall Ranger District office in McCall.

If you want a cup of coffee in McCall, stop by the Hub, it's a great jump-off spot before you head into the backcountry. They have knowledgeable people on staff who can assist with any questions about your outing, and they have a huge topo map on the wall of the McCall area. They also have overnight lodging. Gravity Sports and Hometown Sports also have outdoor gear and experienced staff that know the area.

If you don't want to camp, and prefer doing day trips in McCall, check into lodging at the McCall Chamber of Commerce,, or

Have fun!
- SS

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