If you crave 24/7 entertainment and the never-ending thrills and spills of the city, don’t bother with McCall. If, on the other hand, you like breathtaking scenery, miles of scenic trails, glistening lakes, and more opportunities for outdoor adventure than you can shake a stick at, don’t miss it. What this small resort town lacks in bright lights and nightlife, it more than makes up for in everything else. If you’re planning a visit, be sure to check out these 20 best things to do in McCall, Idaho.
20. Take a Tour of the McCall Smokejumper Base
Taking a tour of the McCall Smokejumper Base isn’t as easy as turning up at the door and hoping for the best. You’ll need to make an appointment in advance, and if you turn up at any other time, don’t expect to be giving a warm welcome. But even though it takes a bit of work to get in, the unique opportunity to learn more about the work and training that goes into becoming a smokejumper is too good to miss.
19. Take a Sleigh Ride to Meet the Elks
If you’re in the market for a family-friendly experience, book a sleigh ride with Hap & Florence Points. The ride, which takes around 2 hours, will take you deep into elk territory. Most of the elks are so used to being visited, they’ll happily approach the sleigh in the hope of being treated to some tasty snacks and a petting session. Be sure to dress warmly for the occasion and whatever you do, don’t forget your camera.
18. Enjoy Some Good Eats at The Pancake House
No visit to McCall is complete without stopping by The Pancake House for a breakfast, brunch, or light lunch. The menu is crammed with tasty treats, from eggs benedict and French toast to omelets and sandwiches. And then, of course, there’s the vast selection of pancakes – whether you try them with maple syrup and bacon or boysenberry syrup and jalapenos, you’re guaranteed a memorable meal. The prices are tiny, the portions are huge, and according to Yelp reviewers, you’ll be hard pushed to find better service anywhere in town.
17. Grab a Beer at Salmon River Brewery
If you’re in need of something cold and refreshing to round off your day, take the advice of a FabolousTrip and head to Salmon River Brewery, a 7 barrel brewpub surrounded by divine scenery and offering up a scrumptious menu of gourmet pub grub and a superb selection of artisan ciders, and wines.
16. Take a Dip at the Hot Springs
McCall can get pretty chilly during the winter months, but there’s a guaranteed way to beat the cold: take a dip at the hot springs. The area actually boasts a number of different facilities, but if want a truly indulgent experience, travel the 30 miles south of McCall to Gold Fork Hot Springs. With six mineral pools with temperatures ranging from 85 degrees to 110 degrees, along with a kid’s pool for the little ones, it’s guaranteed to inject some warmth into your day. As an added incentive, the cost of admission is bargain-tastic: expect to pay around $10 for an adult and $5 for a child.
15. Indulge Yourself in a Spa Treatment
There’s only so much sightseeing anyone can do before their muscles start aching and their feet start screaming in protest. If you’re at the stage where the thought of yet another hike, bike ride, or skiing session fills you with dread, put down your guidebook and head to the Unwind Mountain Spa instead. Offering a full complement of treatments (including Thai massage, warm lava shell massage, deep tissue massage, facials, pedicures, and more besides), it’s the ideal place to relax, rewind, and rejuvenate.
14. Hike to Goose Creek Falls
Fancy putting your hiking skills to the test? Then grab some water, some sunblock, your sturdiest hiking boots, and head for Goose Creek Falls. Beginning just below the base of Brundage Mountain, the trail drops a dramatic 750 feet through pine and fir forests as it leads to the falls. The falls themselves are magnificent, and very much worth the effort of that hike back up to the top.
13. Tour the McCall Fish Hatchery
If you’ve ever wanted to find out more about the workings of a hatchery, McCall Fish Hatchery is the place to do it. Even if you’re more interested in eating salmon than seeing how they’re bred, you might be surprised at just how fascinating it is. Built in 1976 to help counter the effects of a dwindling fish population in Lower Snake River, the hatchery offers daily tours from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round. Discover the incubation area, the two outside raceways, the fish ladder, and the fish spawning area – you can tour it alone if you prefer, but to get the most out of the experience, it’s worth calling ahead to book a place on a guided group tour.
12. Enjoy Some Water Sports at Rotary Park
Rotary Park is a well-maintained, popular city park with a ton to offer. There are picnicking tables, restrooms, playground facilities, and acres of green space to enjoy. Its chief attraction, however, is the glistening lake that cuts through its center. Popular with swimmers (although be wanted – there are no lifeguards so be careful if you have kids), kayakers, canoeists, and anglers, it offers hours of fun in idyllic surroundings.
11. Treat Yourself To Dinner at Rupert’s
Recommended by travelawaits.com as one of the best places to eat in McCall, Rubert’s offers a superb culinary experience at a very reasonable price. The innovative menu combines Southwest, Asian, and Mediterranean influences to come up with something very unique, very creative, and very, very tasty. All of the ingredients are either foraged or sourced locally, resulting in dishes that sing with freshness. Whatever you try won’t leave you wanting, but the Ale Brined Pork Porterhouse served alongside clouds of sweet potato mash, seasonal veg, and a caramelized onion-ale reduction is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
10. Play a Round of Golf At McCall Golf Club
If you can’t imagine spending an entire vacation without at least one game of golf, you’re in luck. The McCall Golf Cub has not one but three excellent nine-hole golf courses to choose between. Once you’ve selected between the Aspen Course, Birch Course, or Cedar Course, get ready to practice your putting as you enjoy the stunning mountain scenery. If nine holes aren’t enough to sate your appetite, take your game to the next level at the Jug Mountain golf course, an 18 hole, award-winning course designed by Don Knott.
9. Join in the Festivities at the McCall Winter Carnival
If you’re in McCall between late January and early February, be sure to check out the McCall Winter Carnival. Described by The Daily Tourist as one of the best festivals Idaho has to offer, it promises a huge amount of fun for the whole family. As many as 60,000 people regularly descent on the town during the festivities, lured in by the promise of snow bikes races, wine tasting, parades, fireworks, and more besides. If you’ve got the energy, don’t miss signing up for a game of snowshoe golf, which substitutes golf balls for tennis balls and regular shoes for snowshoes to come up with something 100 percent fun.
8. Shop at McCall Farmers Market
If you want to check out where the locals like to stock up on groceries, don’t miss McCall Farmers Market. Open from June through October, it’s the perfect place to fill your fridge and your cupboards with some of the finest produce in Idaho. Along with the vast selection of fresh fruits and veggies, there’s also a huge variety of handicrafts and homemade gifts, household products, art, plants, cut flowers, and more besides. If you get peckish, you’ll find plenty of food vendors offering everything from burgers and hot dogs to slushies and smoothies to fill up on.
7. Ski the Slopes at Brundage Mountain Resort
McCall has some of the highest snowfalls in all of Idaho, so be sure to take advantage of it during your visit. The Brundage Mountain Resort is a paradise for skiers and snowboarders. Located around 10 miles north of McCall, it features 46 named runs, five lifts, two terrain parks, and enough variety to keep even the most experienced skier happy. If you’re new to the slopes, the beginner’s area is the perfect place to build your confidence.
6. Admire the Flowers at Charlies Garden
If you’ve ever wanted to explore a secret garden, make time for a visit to the exquisite Charlies Garden. Centrally located between Warren Wagon Road and Payette Lake, the garden was designed by Charlie Davidson to offer an idyllic botanical experience for the residents of McCall to enjoy. Despite being open to the public year-round, very few people know of its existence, leaving the lucky few who stumble on it free to enjoy its beautiful fountains and myriad of blooming plants without having to jostle for elbow space.
5. Take a Cruise of Payette Lake
Payette Lake is unquestionably one of the most beautiful attractions in McCall. If you want to appreciate the lake in all its splendor, do as vacasa.com recommends and take a two-hour sunset cruise aboard the good ship Idaho. Organized by McCall Lake Cruises, the cruise promises live entertainment by way of either a guitarist or a pianist, as many cocktails as you can drink, and gorgeous sunset views. If a cruise isn’t your scene, the lake still promises a ton of fun, with an endless array of outdoor recreation to keep the whole family happy.
4. Explore the Downtown
McCall might be all about outdoor adventure, but if you’d rather trawl the shops than hike the mountains, you’re in luck. The downtown area is a delight, with a small but charming collection of cute cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops, and restaurants. It’s not huge by any stretch of the imagination, and if you come expecting casinos, bright lights, and world-class clubs, you’re going to leave disappointed. Come with an open mind and enough time to explore all the town to offer (including the gloriously quirky McPaw’s Thrift Store, the historic Hotel McCall, and the delectable Ice Cream Alley), and you’ll have a great time.
3. Check Out the Ice Sculptures
If you’re in McCall in late January to Early February, do as The Mandagies recommends and check out the annual ice sculpture contest. Each year, the town invites a bunch of professional ice sculptors to show off their skills in Depot Park. If you want to get involved yourself, the town will deliver enough snow to the site of your choice for you and your friends or family to make your own creation. It’s fun, quirky, and very, very McCall.
2. Tackle the Trails at Jug Mountain Ranch
If you like mountain biking, a visit to Jug Mountain Ranch should sit at the top of your list of priorities. The ranch offers some of the best mountain bike trails in the region, offering everything from pleasant rides through flat forests to blood-pumping adventures through the mountain. Regardless of whether you’re a novice or a seasoned hand, you’ll find something to enjoy. The trails are well maintained, well-marked, and the ranch even offers rentals to people who’ve left their own bike at home.
1. Enjoy a Picnic at Ponderosa State Park
Drive just a little north of McCall and you’ll find Ponderosa State Park, a heavenly slice of nature bordered by the equally delightful Payette Lake. With its stunning lake views and tranquil beauty, it’s the ideal place to enjoy some al fresco dining. If you’re in the mood for something a little more active, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained, whether it’s with a spot of fishing, a game of volleyball, or in winter, a cross country skiing session. There are also ample opportunities for wildlife spotting, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled and your camera on standby.