Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The high country beckons! Three kid-friendly mountain hikes near McCall

Bear Pete Trail at the Josephine Lake overlook.
We ski-daddled along the snowy Bear Pete ridge in our hiking boots.
Hi all,

Summer is kicking into high gear, with temperatures now in the 90s in the Boise Valley. And the snow is melting fast in the mountains, so it's time to head into the high country for hiking and summer fun.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes in the greater McCall area (elevation 5,000 feet). All of these hikes would be suitable for kids and families.

Be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks/lunch, rain coat and bug spray. Also, it's a good idea to bring a Payette National Forest or McCall area Adventure map to stay on track. Most of these areas are out of cell range except Boulder Lake.

Jim Pace takes a gander at Buckhorn Mountain off in the distance at Boulder Lake.
1. Hike to Boulder Lake - Rated easy to moderate. Distance: 4 miles - 2 miles out, 2 miles back. Vertical: 700 feet of gain. This is a scenic hike that offers a little more mountain "wow" factor than the trails in Ponderosa Park and Bear Basin. Nice place to swim, go fishing or have a picnic. Trailhead is off Elo Road by Boulder Mountain Reservoir. See details on Payette National Forest web site. Bring a lunch and enjoy the setting! 

You walk by multiple meadows on the 20 Mile Trail ... old burn areas and some mature forest that didn't burn.
2. 20 Mile Trail - This is more of a forested hike into a beautiful glacial-sculpted canyon. Much of this area burned years ago, but the lodgepole pines are growing back as thick as dog hair. Rated easy. Distance 5.5 miles to 20 Mile Lakes junction and back. Vertical: 260 feet of gain. The 20 Mile trail is in great shape. No downfall. That makes things super pleasant. If you want to go farther, go uphill on the trail to 20 Mile Lakes for a bigger view of the surrounding mountains. Getting to the trailhead: Take Warren Wagon Road north past Upper Payette Lake and watch for 20 Mile Trailhead on the right side of the road.

Looking up the canyon toward Lick Creek Summit.
For an even bigger adventure, leave a shuttle vehicle at the 20 Mile trailhead and get a ride to the Duck Lake Trailhead by Lick Creek Summit. You can do a through-hike from Duck Lake down the full length of 20 Mile Trail ... it's only 10.5 miles! 710 feet of gain and 1,640 feet of descent. Plan for a full-day to do the shuttle and hike.  

Wendy walks through a gallery of dead whitebark pines on the way up the mountain.
3. Bear Pete Trail to Josephine Lake overlook - Hiking this route is a quick way to get into the alpine zone from the trailhead at Cloochman Summit, not far from Secesh Summit. Rated moderate. Short strenuous climbs in a few spots. Distance: 5.5 miles out and back. Vertical: 1,400 feet of gain. Drive north of McCall on Eastside Drive to North Beach area, then continue north on Warren Wagon Road past Upper Payette Lake to a signed left-hand turn to Cloochman Saddle. High-clearance vehicle recommended. Park at the trailhead by the saddle. Hike uphill on Bear Pete Trail and enjoy the rainbow of wildflowers as you climb through alpine meadows to an overlook of Josephine Lake at just over 8,000 feet. Big views looking into French Creek, Bear Pete Mountain, and the Payette Crest. The full length of Bear Pete Trail is 17.5 miles ... I have mountain biked it both directions. Hard-core trail runners would love doing the whole thing. 3,125 vertical!

Bear grass coming on!

The Grand Opening for the new Payette Lake singletrack trail is on Saturday, from 2-8 p.m., sponsored by the Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA). Burgers, dogs, and Salmon River Brewery will be pouring beer. This is a fund-raising event. CIMBA does a ton of great things for trails in the greater McCall area, including overseeing the development of the new trail on the west side of Payette Lake. Here's a link to the new trail on MTB Project.

- SS

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