After 5 nights exploring Northern Idaho it was time to head south towards McCall. Our 6 hour drive south took us through incredibly diverse landscapes. We drove past tree covered mountain sides, through Hell’s Gate canyon and past golden farmer’s fields before reaching the beautiful town of McCall. As we approached we immediately could tell that this place was special.
Guide to Exploring Central Idaho with Kids
The touristy town of McCall is located on Payette Lake next to Panderosa State Park. The harbour is situated in the downtown area with a beach right next to some great local restaurants. Adjacent to the beach and harbour are views of the mountains with beautiful fall coloured leaves painting the mountains.
We had no idea that this ‘new-to-us’ area could pack in so much for a fall trip. We found ourselves biking downhill mountain trails, relaxing in unique hot springs and enjoying gorgeous beaches all to ourselves while exploring the area in and around McCall. McCall provides a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, and fall was a great time of year to explore as a family. Put McCall on your list of places to travel next fall and enjoy these 5 activities around the area.
Note: This post was done in partnership with Ski Idaho and McCall Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. All opinions and views are 100% our own.
Paddle the Meanders
The Meanders is a beautiful narrow channel that zig zags through the Ponderosa State Park. It is a great place to go stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or canoeing.
Our family opted for inflatable stand up paddles boards that we rented from Gravity sports to to explore the meanders. It was a beautiful fall day with the colours changing from green to yellow, orange and red. We set up “camp” at North Beach just 18 minutes from McCall. While we inflated the boards our kids played on the soft sandy beach. The weather was warm so the kids were in and out of the water in their bathing suits.
From North Beach we paddled the short distance to the entrance of the meanders. The water was calm making it perfect for paddling with littles kids on the board. Not long after entering the narrows we had two pirate ships with Captain Brown Beard and and Captain Silver Tail as the leaders. Our two hour paddle was a great success and I attribute it to the extra snacks and water I brought along to eat on the boards.
Reserve and Rent paddle boards from Gravity Sports here.
Swim and Tan at North Beach
Only 7.5 miles and 15 minutes from McCall, North Beach is a stunning sandy beach with a shallow entry making it a great place for little kids to play. From the beach the views of the surrounding mountains are incredible with no view of any sort of town or city.
I am sure in the summer months the beach is packed but late September we were gifted with a secluded beach all to ourselves. The weather was still warm which meant that we could jump in for a swim. It felt like paradise and was the perfect way to spend the day. There are toilets and picnic tables on site. Our kids can dig in the sand forever which meant that my husband and I had time to dive into our chapter books.
Learn more about Payette Lake here.
Bike at Jug Mountain
Jug Mountain, located just 10 minutes from McCall has a series of mountain biking trails and a golf course. Oftentimes they have a shuttle that takes you up the mountain. The day we were biking the shuttle was not operating and so we took the “easy” trail up. The mild grade made it possible to reach the top to access the trails without too much trouble. My husband, an ultra running superstar, could have made it up without walking his bike, but I did have to get off and push my bike some of the way.
At the top of the mountain we enjoyed biking the intermediate blue run called Shoreline around the Jug Reservoir. We stopped to check out the cabin before exploring some of the other green runs. We enjoyed the trails at the top for 2 hours before descending the mountain on Doejoe, a great new green run with tons of flow.
Learn more about biking and golfing at Jug Mountain here.
Soak in Burgdorf Hot Springs
We were surprised to find out that Idaho is filled with hot springs. We soaked up a little bit of history and a whole lot of relaxation at the Burgdorf Hot Springs an hour’s drive from McCall. The Hot Springs are named after Frank Burgdorf, a German immigrant who founded them in 1865. He originally was in search of gold but when he heard about the hot springs he decided to build a future resort and ranch.
When our family arrived at the hot springs we immediately became friends with the local chickens and goats that roamed the property. We were lured in by the rustic surroundings and explored the unique historical grounds before checking in for a swim. We were able to go inside one of the 18th century rustic log cabins, finding a cozy dining area and bed, as well as a loft with two additional beds. The cabins can be rented and will give you the full experience of life without electricity. They have candles for lighting and a wood stove for heat.
After checking out the cabins, we began our relaxation retreat in the hot springs. The water was so clear that you could see the pebbles lying on the bottom. They have pool noodles, life jackets and other flotation devices for kids and adults to enjoy the hot pools. The main pool is warm like a hot tub but the two hot spring pools under the awning are more than 110 F! I could only put my feet in those pools. The best feature for our kids was on the other end of the hot springs. The hot springs pour out into a creek bed , making it a great place for the kids to wade in and play with rocks and in naturally heated water. We ordered a wood stove cooked pizza for lunch and enjoyed some veggies and ciders that we brought along.
Learn more about the Burgdorf Hot Springs here.
Hike and Play Disc Golf at Brundage Mountain
A 10 minute drive from McCall, Idaho is Brundage Mountain. Brundage Mountain has a series of hiking trails to enjoy for the whole family. We enjoyed taking turns trail running the trails just a short drive from our hotel. The fall leaves at this time of year made the runs even more beautiful. Older children would really enjoy the Disc Golf course that they have set up. Rent Discs from the Mountain or bring your own to enjoy the course.
Learn more about exploring Brundage Mountain here.
Where to Stay in McCall
The Hunt Lodge which is a Holiday Inn has a continental breakfast that also serves pancakes, sausage, bacon and eggs. The hotel is well decorated and clean with a nice pool and hot tub area. It is located just a 2 minute drive from the harbour and beach. Cost varies from $150 USD. Book your hotel stay here.
The Ponderosa State Campground is located 5 minutes from downtown McCall. The campground has full amenities including electricity and water at most sites. They also have showers and flush toilets. Cost is $33.00 USD. Book your campsite here.
Where to Eat in McCall
Ruby’s Kitchen in McCall is located across from a playground beside Payette Lake. The organic and local cafe is open for breakfast and lunch. Eat in and then head across the street to let the kids play. Check out Ruby’s Kitchen on their Facebook page here.
Salmon River Brewery is a local brew pub located near the McCall harbour. Enjoy local brews and a delicious line up of pub food for the family. Learn more about Salmon River Brewery here.
The Sushi Bar is an excellent option for those wanting something a little lighter to eat. The food was jam packed with delicious flavours. The upstairs patio is the place to eat on a nice day as it offers views of Payette Lake. Check out The Sushi Bar’s menu here.
The Pancake and Christmas House is sure to please all members of the family. Order breakfast anytime of day or enjoy lunch and dinner options. After enjoy some treats in their candy store for dessert! Learn more about the Pancake and Christmas House in McCall here.