No matter what the season is, there are some places that never run out of activities for eager vacation goers. One great example is McCall, a town located on the western edge of Valley County, Idaho. During winter, it is one huge snow-filled playground where people go skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing. Meanwhile, during summer, it transforms into a sunny neighborhood filled with lush vegetation and exciting swimming opportunities. Of course, museums, shops, and restaurants, welcome guests all year round.
If you’re considering bringing your family and friends to McCall, or maybe even traveling solo in this wonderful town, here’s a useful list of places you should check out:
1. Payette Lake
Payette Lake, elevated at approximately 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), is the go-to place for boating for the locals of McCall and other neighboring towns. It is believed that this body of water was carved out from a glacier 10,000 years ago. Currently, it spans a total of 5,330 acres (2,157 hectares) and its deepest point is 392 feet (119.5 meters) deep. Aside from boating, other popular activities at Payette Lake include paddle boarding, jet skiing, fishing, and swimming. Several community events are also held here each year, like like the Payette Cup Regatta every first weekend of June. Part of the lake is a protected area of the Ponderosa State Park.
2. Ponderosa State Park
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Ponderosa State Park is a family-friendly park spanning a total of 1,000 acres (404.7 hectares), including part of Payette Lake. During summer, it is suitable for camping, picnicking, hiking, and cycling. Meanwhile, during winter, it offers opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The park is named after the ponderosa, a kind of pine tree that grows up to 500 feet (152 meters) tall. You will find these trees surrounding the park, along with other trees like western larch, lodgepole pine, douglas fir, and grand fir. There are also diverse creatures that you might spot during your visit, including bald eagles, wood ducks, deer, and beavers. There’s a 5 USD fee for each vehicle entering the park.
3. Activity Barn
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Boasting a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) trail, Activity Barn is a winter recreation center that is popular for snow tubing. It can be accessed by either a lift or a sleigh ride, offering views of Brundage Mountain and Jughandle Mountain. No experience is needed when trying out snow tubing, all you have to do is to hop on the tube and enjoy! Only one person is allowed per tube and children below two years old cannot join in with the activity for safety purposes. A single tube ride costs 5 USD, or you can enjoy a 2-hour session for 14 USD. After your tubing experience, you can warm up at the Activity Barn’s red yurt where snacks and drinks are available.
4. Brundage Mountain Resort
McCall doesn’t run out of options for a skiing vacation! Brundage Mountain Resort, for instance, is an alpine ski area where guests can experience backcountry powder skiing. It is nestled in the mountains of Central Idaho, with an elevation of 7,640 feet (2,329 meters). Five chairlifts serve the resort, which is open seven days a week during wintertime. In case you’re coming in the summer, you can still enjoy Brundage Mountain by mountain biking or playing disc golf. Chairlifts are also open during the warm months, offering an opportunity for a scenic ride despite the lack of snow.
5. Salmon River
How about some water activities for thrill-seekers? Salmon River in McCall offers an ideal white water rafting setting, with crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and a deep canyon gorge. It has a length of over 684 kilometers (425 miles), which is considered the “longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states.” Rapids range from Class I to Class III, ideal for families with adults and kids. Meanwhile, most one-day trips at Salmon River last for eight hours and cover 20 miles (32.2 kilometers) of rafting. Calmer sections of the river are also ideal for swimming.
6. The Cove Spa
After trying out McCall’s outdoor activities, it’s time to give yourself some well-deserved relaxation. The Cove Spa, located at Whitetail Club, is a luxury spa offering massages, facials, body treatments, and salon services, as well as a fitness studio and immersion pools. They also have facilities like private changing rooms and showers, as well as a lounge where herbal teas and light snacks are served. The use of robes and slippers is included in their fees. With its tranquil ambience, The Cove Spa is ideal for couples and honeymooners. It is also worth noting that people aged 18 and below are not allowed in the spa pools.
7. The Pancake House and Christmas Shop
It feels like the Yuletide season all year round at The Pancake House and Christmas Shop, a restaurant and souvenir shop housed in a beautiful log building. Some of the restaurant’s best sellers are, of course, the pancakes which are made from non-GMO organic eggs from chickens raised on a vegetarian diet. Other items included on their menu are hash browns, omelettes, waffles, quesadillas, homemade soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches. While waiting for your seat or after indulging in a heavy meal, you can spend time at the Christmas Shop, where you will find all sorts of Christmas items like home decor and displays.
8. McCall Golf Club
Since 1934, McCall Golf Club has been offering mountain golf experience for both locals and visitors. They have three courses with nine-holes each, namely Aspen Course, Birch Course, and Cedar Course. Fairways are lined with trees, while the terrain is very walkable. It is located nearby the Ponderosa State Park, so don’t be surprised if you see wildlife taking a peek at the golf course. Other facilities include club and cart rentals, a driving range, a restaurant, and a bar. During certain times of the year they conduct tournaments for various ages and levels of expertise.
9. Manchester Ice and Event Center
No matter which season you choose to visit McCall, you can always experience ice skating at the Manchester Ice and Event Center. They have public skating programs seven days a week, where the fee includes admission to the facility and skate rental. Other activities they offer include private figure skating lessons, adult hockey, and youth hockey. More than just an ice rink, it also serves as an event center, where shows like concerts and judo exhibitions are held. They also accommodate personal events or celebrations such as birthday parties, anniversaries, and reunions.
10. Central Idaho Historical Museum
Covering a total of four acres (1.6 hectares), the Central Idaho Historical Museum in McCall aims to educate the public about regional subjects such as logging and forestry. It has eight buildings, which belong to the National Register of Historic Places. These contain photo and artifact exhibits, as well as written and oral histories of McCall. The most prominent building is called the Fire Warden’s House, which was built in 1937. It is a great example of rustic American architecture with some Finnish touches. Admission to the Warden’s House costs 3 USD, but it is free to enjoy the rest of the site. It’s open between Wednesdays and Saturdays from June to August each year.
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Plan your McCall vacation
McCall has a dry-summer continental climate, which means that winters are cold and snowy, while summers are warm and dry. Formerly a logging community, it is now one of Idaho’s primary tourist destinations. With a variety of outdoor activities to choose from, it’s not surprising why more and more people come here each year!
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