We had never really considered planning a trip to Idaho, it just wasn’t on our radar; but when a close friend decided to have her wedding there, we made a full vacation out of it and left in utter disbelief of Idaho’s beauty and adventures. We flew into Boise, then rented a car for the two-and-a-half-hour drive along the Payette River to McCall, Idaho. The drive is BEAUTIFUL, but, with no guard rail along the river and snowy-icy conditions on the road, can be a little scary for a car full of Texans. We reserved a large SUV with four-wheel drive to be on the safe side, and we stayed overnight in Boise after arriving at 9 PM so that we could make the drive during daylight hours.
We arrived to The Shore Lodge around noon, dropped our luggage in our room, suited up and headed straight to Brundage Mountain for a half day of skiing. We reserved our ski rentals and lift tickets online a month in advance for a 40% discount, you can purchase for a discount through the Brundage website as late as the day before you ski, so would definitely check that out to save a few bucks. After not having snow for about two weeks, McCall received TONS of snow throughout our stay (16 inches from Wed-Sun!). This first day on the slopes we received a fresh coat of powder on every run, though this made visibility pretty poor. I think that the most noticeable perk of Brundage was the distinct lack of crowds – we never waited a single second in line for a lift, and we rarely encountered other skiers throughout a run, it was incredible! With trails up to 2 miles in length, each run is a full experience. Ryan and I stuck to the blue runs on both the front-side of the mountain as well as the lake-view bowl (which had even fewer guests and better views the second day when the sky cleared a bit). Sometimes we would just stop in the middle of the trail and marvel at the vastness of the surrounding forest and complete silence.
We grabbed a few meals over the course of the two days we spent on the mountain, Smoky’s Bar & Grill has everything from warm, hearty, comfort food to fresh salad and cold beer to hot coffee to mixed drinks, you name it. They also have areas where you can bring your own lunch if you so choose. Brundage is less than a 10-minute drive from Shore Lodge, I believe there are a couple of shuttles between the two throughout the day, but we were happy to have the flexible timing of our own ride. We thoroughly enjoyed the two days we spent on the mountain and would make a point to hit the slopes again on a future visit.
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only outdoor winter activities that McCall has to offer though; on the third day of our trip, we opted for a different adventure. Burgdorf Hot Spring has a couple of pools varying in size and temperature, fed by a natural, mineral hot spring. Burgdorf is just up the road from McCall, through the Payette National Forest. The road becomes impassable in winter so that the hot spring can only be reached via snowmobile. We reserved rentals through Cheap Thrills Rentals in McCall; they supplied all gear including boots, gloves, snow suit, helmet and snowmobile along with a tutorial on how to operate the machine. We needed to be back for the rehearsal dinner in the evening so we opted for half day rentals, allowing for about 4.5 hours with the machines. We were in a group of ten friends and tried to stick all together. It’s a 45ish minute ride from the rental pickup to Burgdorf on the snowmobile. We made it to the hot spring, changed into swimsuits (which was not fun in the uninsulated changing room in the freezing cold) and took a dip. The smallest, hottest pool was unbearable for most of the girls (113°F), but the boys all hopped in and acted like they could tolerate it. The larger pool is around 100°F and feels wonderful after freezing in the snow all morning. We stayed in the water for around 10 minutes before changing back into our gear and continuing down the trail.
There is another town, Secesh, about 10 minutes further down the trail where there is a restaurant/bar called Secesh Stage Stop. We stopped here for a beer and burger. The views surrounding this stop are great, it’s crazy to think how isolated this small town is in the winter when roads are impassable; the bartender told us there are 8 official citizens. The place is primarily decorated with $1 bills signed by previous patrons, and there are thousands, our group decorated one to add to the collection. We had to really rush back after eating though since Secesh is almost an hour drive away from where we’d picked up the snowmobiles and they were due back within our half-day rental timeframe. I think that a full day rental would have been preferable so that we could’ve soaked in the hot spring longer and made it up to the last stop past Secesh, a town called Warren, where there is another bar/restaurant and rumored, better, sweeping views.
Another outdoor activity that many of the wedding guests enjoyed was snow-shoeing. As mentioned, Payette National Forest is right outside of McCall so it is very easy to escape from the tourists and town into a whimsical, winter wonderland. We didn’t have time to squeeze in snowshoeing, and wouldn’t have thought to give it a try except that so many people were raving about the solitude, beauty and exercise they experienced on the trails. So, if you’re not into skiing, or just need a little break from the slopes, snowshoeing sounds like a worthwhile excursion.
The Shore Lodge was the wedding accommodation, and it was an excellent place to stay. They have a large, ornate Bar with huge windows overlooking the lake; a fireplace and hearth for gathering and warming up; multiple dining options from a grab-and-go Starbucks to fine dining at The Narrows, we particularly enjoyed the food from the more casual restaurant, The Cutwater. They have multiple, heated, outdoor pools and hot-tubs which were inviting after a long day on the slopes. It is a magical experience being outside, surrounded by freezing air and falling snow, but warm and cozy inside a beautiful hot-tub. The spa at Shore Lodge is beautiful and luxurious, we thought we might try for a massage, but they stay pretty booked up, so would recommend trying to book in advance.
McCall is a great destination for a long weekend getaway, between the beautiful, natural surroundings; relaxing spa options; outdoor, adventurous activities; and cozy, friendly locals; there is something for everyone! The hotel staff said that they book even more fully in the summer months than winter, so I can only imagine how beautiful and eventful the town must be during that time. (Though this post is being published in April, we actually visited McCall in mid-February.)