Thursday, January 23, 2020

My favorite xc ski, snowshoe and snow biking spots in McCall for Winter Carnival

Fat biking at Jug Mountain Ranch is a fun activity. (Courtesy McCall Chamber of Commerce)
Cross-country skiing in Bear Basin (courtesy McCall Chamber of Commerce)
Hi all,

Well, it's that time of year, once again, when the McCall Winter Carnival is swinging into action on Friday, Jan. 24, and it runs through Sunday, Feb. 2. The theme is "It's a Kids World."

I've been in McCall frequently in recent weeks, and despite 50 degree temperatures and bare ground in the Treasure Valley, it's full-on winter in McCall, with 2-3 feet of snow in town. Master ice sculptors are perfecting their masterpieces as we speak, and downtown McCall is looking bright and festive for this wonderful occasion!

"The McCall Winter Carnival was inspired by the Payette Lake Winter Games, first held in 1924 when a train from Boise brought 248 visitors to McCall. The official McCall Winter Carnival started in the 1960s and over the years, the Carnival has grown into an iconic Idaho event bringing more than 60,000 people to McCall each year!" writes the McCall Chamber of Commerce.

I highly recommend the Marti Gras parade on Saturday, checking out the ice sculptures, ice skating, live music, beer garden, and scores of other events planned for the next 10 days. Have you been growing out your beard, or ladies, your leg hair, for the hairy legs contest? The McCall locals have a great sense of humor, and they know how to celebrate winter!
While you're in town, I'd like to share my favorite places to go snow-shoeing, xc skiing or snow-biking in the greater McCall area.

Drew snowshoeing with me in Ponderosa
Park on the Meadow Marsh Trail.

1. Ponderosa State Park:
 Located close to downtown McCall, Ponderosa State Park has 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) of groomed cross country ski trails and 3.5 miles of marked snowshoe trails that will be nicely packed from recreation use until we get more snow. There’s also Rover’s Roundabout, a 1-mile groomed trail loop for dogs near the park entrance.

It’s a beautiful experience skiing at the park because of the huge ponderosa pine trees that tower over the groomed trails. The classic day trip is to ski up the main trail to Fox Run, climb Fox Run and take that around to Lakeside, turn right and climb up to Osprey Point, a sweet overlook of Payette Lake. That’s about 6.2 miles (10k) round trip.

My favorite snowshoe loop is to walk around Meadow Marsh. When you’re halfway through, if you’re feeling strong, you might take the Lily Marsh trail to Fox Run and retrace your steps. If that’s too easy, stay on Lily Marsh to Ridgeline and climb to the top of Osprey Point for the view.
Getting there: Take Railroad Avenue off Main Street, heading east. Follow signs to Ponderosa State Park (entrance and trail fees apply).

We're regulars at Bear Basin since they allow dogs on all of their trails. Huck loves it!
Bear Basin: We like Bear Basin because it allows dogs on all of the cross country ski and snowshoe trails, and the trails there have a little more diversity and length. The grooming is frequent and well done, as it is at Ponderosa. Bear Basin has 18.6 miles (30k) of cross country and skate ski trails, and 6.2 miles (10k) of marked snowshoe trails.

Beginning cross country skiers or skaters can do a 2-mile (3.2k) loop right out of the parking area on a green trail called “Just Right.” You can change things up and add more distance and challenge by doing the Polar Express Loop (1.4 miles/2.3k), Mack’s Loop (1.3 miles/2.1k) and Lyle’s (1.9 miles/3.1k). If you do all three of those intermediate to advanced loops, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten your workout for the day.

Snowshoers will find a number of loops in the woods close to the trailhead, and then, of course, you can travel more distance by making your own trail or following the cross country trails wherever you wish to go.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 west of McCall to North Club Hill Drive at the top of the hill before you come to the Little Ski Hill. Turn right. Go a quarter mile to the Bear Basin Trailhead on your right. There is a restroom, yurt and parking by the trailhead. Be sure to pay your trail fees before you ski or snowshoe.

Snow biking on the North Valley Trail, excellent choice! 
Activity Barn/North Valley Trail: Located south of McCall, the Activity Barn is the go-to place for lift-assisted tubing. Kids love it. There’s also 3.1 miles (5k) of groomed cross country ski trails open to snowshoeing and fat biking as well. You can connect to the North Valley Trail, which is groomed out to Heinrich Lane, about three miles one way from the Activity Barn. The bonus of all of these trails is that they’re open for free, courtesy of Brundage Mountain and Valley County Pathways.
Getting there: Take Mission Street south of McCall to Moonridge Drive. Turn right and follow the road less than a mile to the Activity Barn parking lot.

4. Jug Mountain Ranch: Jug has awesome cross country ski/skate trails, plus it’s the go-to spot for fat biking in the area. There are 15.5 miles (25k) of groomed cross country ski and skate trails at JMR. The trails are also open to fat biking and dogs. The classic trip is to ski or ride Mainline trail up to Upper Jug Creek Reservoir. Enjoy the pretty setting of the lake, with Jughandle Mountain looming above, and then cruise downhill, retracing your steps, or take a different trail downhill.
JMR also grooms fat bike singletrack on the South Elk and North Elk trails, which are definitely worth riding. If you don’t have a fat bike, JMR rents them at the clubhouse. Fat bikes are available at McCall outdoor stores as well.

Getting there: 
Take Idaho 55 to Lake Fork. Go east on Lake Fork Road to the entrance of JMR. Stay on the main road and drive up to the clubhouse and trailhead. Check in at the clubhouse before you ride or ski to pay your trail fees.

Enjoy Winter Carnival! 
- SS

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