Visiting McCall, Idaho | Lakeside Paradise in the Mountains

I’ll be honest, I never thought a place like this could exist in the state of Idaho. You know, Idaho, the state famous for potatoes, right? Well, over the past few years, we’ve been up to a few mountain towns in Idaho like Salmon, Ketchum, Boise, Pocatello, and Driggs, but nothing has come even close to McCall. McCall is a town that sits right on the edge of the pristine Payette Lake, surrounded by rocky mountains, dense pine forest, and of course, at the base of of Brundage Mountain ski resort. Between the boating opportunities, endless mountain sports, breweries, fly fishing, and skiing in the winter, what else could you ever ask for? Well, after spending a few days up there on a summer road trip through Idaho, we finally got to experience it for ourselves.

After driving around Oregon and Idaho on our family road trip this summer, it was hard to beat our stay in McCall. We booked a Cabin from AirBnB on the northwest side of the lake, with our very own dock, and a stellar view that would rival the sights of Lake Tahoe. This was the perfect place to truly relax after the long drive to and from Oregon. If we weren’t out and about, we spent every waking moment out on the dock or by the lake. Whether we were reading books, throwing sticks for our dog to jump of the dock into the water, enjoying a few beers, or especially the time spent on the SUP and Kayaks. Just hearing the sound of the small waves crashing along the rocky shoreline was soothing in itself, even more-so as we were going to bed with the windows open. I couldn’t tell who enjoyed it most out of us, but our dog made an excellent case for loving it the most, as he never wanted to leave the dock the entire time. He’d swim around, chase sticks we’d throw in, or just sunbath at the end of the dock until someone would play with him some more. It was a life I could get used to.

The highlight of our time here was the opportunity to go on a guided fly fishing trip up in the mountains near the ski resort. We booked our guide through Drift Fly Fishing shop, and though they normally specialize in drift boat tours, since it was going to be my wife, her dad, and I, we all couldn’t fit in the one drift boat. So we instead went on a walk-in fishing trip to check out the mountain streams, rivers, and creeks. And after driving up to the dirt roads, we reached our first of the three spots to fish, Goose Creek. Here we got to spread out and fish this pristine creek that snaked its way through a dense pine forest for some native brook trout. I was lucky, with the first couple catches on the day of small, 6-8″ brook trout. Our next spot was as a less than stellar portion of the upper Goose Creek, where we had to hike deep into the woods to try and fish a few remaining holes from the summer runoff. Courtney got lucky here with a hit in a small pool between large boulders and log jams. Last up, was probably the most exciting spot, at a place called Fisher Creek. We hiked up river for almost a mile, fly fishing along the way. Here we got to experience many different features in the river, trying to deliver the fly in the exact spot to draw the fish out. I got very lucky here, getting a ton of hits at this one river bend. Court’s dad got lucky further up river, where tons of brook trout were going for his fly. Overall, an incredible day up in the mountains getting to fly fish, despite how small the fish were.

The town itself, is incredible, much different than the other mountain towns we’ve been to like Park City, Breckenridge, or Bend. The main street of McCall is right on the edge of Payette Lake, with pretty much a view of the lake from anywhere. The main strip still has that similar relic feel of an old western town, now turned into a tourist hotspot. There are a few breweries in town, but we ended up at Salmon River Brewing twice since they were dog friendly with a rooftop deck that overlook the blue lake to the north, so I wasn’t complaining. In town, there are a handful of the shops you see in every tourist/mountain town, like the art galleries, the tourist t-shirt stores, gear & fishing shops, jewelry and fancy establishments, and of course a dozen or so restaurants to handle the influx of tourism during the summer and winter months. But for us, the highlight was having a grocery store right in town that we could stop in for all our dinners’ ingredients and of course to pick up beer and wine. If we had more time, we would’ve love to rent a boat on Payette Lake from one of the marina’s right in the main street area. But we had plenty of fun without a motor on this lake.

To be honest though, I think because we spend so much time away from water where we live in Utah, my favorite part was getting to spend time on the lake every morning, afternoon, and night. It got even better when I realized I could paddle my SUP laying down like a surfboard. Don’t get me wrong, paddling a SUP is fun, but so is paddling like how I grew up surfing and it feels so much more natural. And that’s what lead me to try to paddle around the Cougar Island in the middle of Payette Lake. The water here was so clear, with a rocky bottom, and a stunning panoramic view of ponderosa pines and rocky top mountains. Being here was fantastic, and really made us think twice about the next place that we’d love to live. Getting back to a body of water, whether it’ll be the ocean, or a lake like this, would be a perfect place!

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