McCall is a ski resort town two hours north of Boise. The town of 3,000 is situated on the southern shore of Payette Lake in the Payette National Forest. Previously a logging town, McCall now quietly caters to tourists providing ample outdoor activities.
Where to Stay in McCall
When I visited McCall on my road trip, I camped in VANgo. While there are many campgrounds and RV Parks, dispersed camping is a little more difficult to find. There is only one spot on Payette Lake on Eastside Drive. It is next to a waterfall and a short trail out to a view, so sightseers might join you.
Off of Eastside Drive, about four miles from town and just before the aforementioned spot, there is a narrow, gravel side road. You can find perhaps three spots back here, but only one is really good. They back up to a trail system, so local day hikers sometimes join you here as well.
Out Warren Wagon Road, there are some sights past the lake, but they are close together, don’t have cell service, and are a bit far away.
On Salt Lick Road, which takes you to Little Payette Lake, there are more options. These spaces, however, are bunched together, so you would likely be camping close to someone you don’t know, at which point you might as well settle for a campground.
If I had to knock McCall for something, the dispersed camping options would make the list. But otherwise, the town is quaint and enjoyable.
McCall features a handful of B&B’s on Warren Wagon Road, a Best Western, and a couple nicer hotels. My friends, who joined me, stayed at the Shore Lodge. As a result, I spent a few evenings at the hotel indulging in the amenities.
The Shore Lodge provides a lovely view of Payette Lake, tasty food at the restaurant, a nice pool area with multiple hot tubs, free bikes, and a variety of sweets including delicious cookies with turndown service and nightly s’mores over the campfire.
It’s a very nice option for a reasonable price, at least during May in the week prior to Memorial Day.
Where To Eat
After all the junk we ate at the Shore Lodge, I don’t know how we had room in our bellies for any more food, but we found plenty of places to eat.
Crusty’s has a great thin crust pizza called the Smokejumper which includes elk sausage, cranberries, feta and jalapenos. It is one of the most popular on the list and quite tasty.
The McCall Pancake House is the number one place to eat in McCall according to TripAdvisor. It draws a crowd every morning. Our efficient waitress snapped up our order of eggs and bacon along with the GIANT cinnamon roll! We ordered it just to take a picture, but it was good, and we took the leftovers! I asked for a backstory, but there wasn’t one. They’ve always made them that big!
Sip a Beer at the Salmon River Brewery
While at the Salmon River Brewery, sit on the deck and enjoy a beer while looking out on the Marina and Payette Lake. We ate here as well. While I can recommend the burger, I’d skip the fish tacos.
Get Out on the Lake
Speaking of Payette Lake, while it is always nice to take in the views, get out on the water too. The Mile High Marina rents pontoon boat, ski boats, jet skis, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting.
Go for a Hike
If boating isn’t your thing, but you want to be outdoors, don’t worry, you can go for a hike. There are a plethora of trails surrounding McCall, from easy strolls in the park to hard climbs to lakes and viewpoints. I hiked multiple times in McCall. For more details, see my posts about these hikes in McCall: Goose Creek Falls, Hazard Creek, Bear Basin, Peninsula Trail, and Boulder Lake.
Take a Scenic Drive
The drive around Payette Lake is really beautiful. I think I’d probably go counter-clockwise and get the bumpy dirt road out of the way first. It is passable by passenger car. On the way, be sure to look for climbers on the tower granite cliff called the Thinking Point. Look for moose there too! It won’t be hard to spot a deer. They breed like rabbits in McCall. I think I saw about five a day on the way to my campsite. They are also all over Ponderosa State Park.
Ride a Bike
Three places in McCall rent bikes, Apex Electric Bike Sales and Rentals, McCall Sports, and Gravity Sports. Some folks elect to ride around Payette Lake which is 19 miles. Ponderosa State Park also offers a variety of trails. We weren’t that energetic and just rode the free cruiser bikes from the Shore Lodge around town. Regardless, there are plenty of options.
While wandering around town, support the local economy. It doesn’t look like there are that many shops, but there are if you seek them out. We were in search of Huckleberry items, one of the foods to try when in Idaho. Each store owner sent us to another place. We ended up shopping at several cute places we wouldn’t have known about by detouring off the main street and by going down to the marina. It’s a miracle. I actually bought a Mountain Hardwear vest at Mountain Monkey and Dom and Sue bought clothes at Backcountry Boutique and 44 Degrees North.
Try the Huckleberry
We found the best selection of Huckleberry at the McCall Store. The treats included Huckleberry jam, scone mix, popcorn, taffy, licorice, bon bons, ice cream and more. The licorice was really good, and the popcorn tasted like Fruity Pebbles.
Soak in the Hot Springs
While we didn’t make it past the hot tubs at the Shore Lodge, I’d be remiss to not mention Idaho’s hot springs. Idaho has hundreds of hot springs. There are a few near McCall from primitive to developed. The Visit McCall website provides a useful list.
Plan Your Trip
Obviously, there are plenty of things to do in McCall. Plan a long weekend or even a week to soak in the fun! ETB