McCall Majesty

Gateway to the Treasure Valley


by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Photo Courtesy of Tamarack Resort, Sherri Harkin Photography

Surrounded by mountain peaks, McCall, Idaho, at the southern tip of Payette Lake, is a mittenshaped, six-mile long, crystal jewel. The area was a sacred and spiritual place for the Shoshone, Bannock and Nez Perce people. The 1862 discovery of gold in the Salmon River mountains brought miners to the region, but today gold is most plentiful in the color of changing leaves each fall when McCall is ablaze with hues. The brilliant golden yellows of aspens and tamaracks against a backdrop of evergreens is worth the trip.


Photo courtesy of McCall Area Chamber of Commerce,

McCall offers myriad choices for fun, education and relaxation. Its natural setting on Payette Lake attracts both visitors and wildlife. While fishing for trout or salmon, keep an eye out for bald eagles, moose, beaver and a rare Long Valley resident, the Great Grey owl; or watch for Sharlie, Payette Lake’s version of the Loch Ness monster, allegedly sighted in 1920. At the renovated McCall Fish Hatchery, reopening mid-October, learn about the rehabilitation of Idaho’s depleted Summer Chinook salmon. From the hatchery’s pools, an average of one million smolts are spawned, reared and released each year. Mountain bikers looking for a relaxing ride in a gorgeous setting or an adrenaline rush at high altitude can find either at Brundage Mountain Resort. After being whisked to the summit on its high-speed chairlift, biking enthusiasts can explore trails weaving through hundreds of acres of the Payette National Forest. For a more grounded experience, enjoy the expansive views of the public golf course at Jug Mountain Ranch. Swing a club surrounded by diverse terrain, from dry desert sage and wetland habitats to wide open meadows and ponderosa forests. A crisp fall day is the perfect time to hike under sky-high ponderosa pine trees and pick huckleberries at Ponderosa State Park. Known for its picturesque views and scenic trails, the park is home to the American red squirrel, mountain lion, beaver, otter, elk, raccoon and moose. For education about the greater McCall area, visit the Central Idaho Historical Museum, housed in vintage log board-and-batten buildings built in the 1930s.

Photo Courtesy of McCall Area Chamber of Commerce


Photo Courtesy of Rupert’s, located in Hotel McCall.

A small resort town with stellar natural assets and bounty for the belly, McCall offers visitors a wide selection of incredible edibles to satisfy those who fancy anything from a gourmet meal to a rustic repast. To accompany outdoor adventure, consider packing a picnic with specialty rolls such as ShrimpZilla or Sharlie’s Garden from The Sushi Bar. Lardos, a rustic saloon on the west side of town, features prime rib and traditional Italian pasta dishes. Rupert’s, located in Hotel McCall, boasts the culinary expertise of the semi-finalist for the 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northwest, Chef Gary Kucy. Savor the flavors and drink in the view of Payette Lake at The Narrows at Shore Lodge. Wine enthusiasts should take full advantage of booking the exclusive wine cellar table at this steakhouse that’s received multiple accolades for its wine program. Prefer ale and beer? Tap into the three local craft breweries and sample their signature beers—Sturgeon Tale Ale at Broken Horn Brewing Company, Wobbily Man Smoked Scotch Ale at McCall Brewing Company or ESB: Extra Special Brundage from Salmon River Brewery.

Things to Do and Places to Stay

Photo courtesy of Hotel McCall


Idaho has been known as the “Gem State” since its  days as a territory, a fact that comes to life at the McCall Jewelry Company. Owners Erica Seeds, a gemologist, designer and appraiser, and her husband George, offer a glittering array of star garnets (the state gem), opals and jaspers in artful jewelry settings. Learn wisely at The Barn Owl Books and Gifts, McCall’s independent bookstore that regularly hosts community events and author visits. Shop for art, gifts, clothing, glasswork and handcrafted items at 44 Degrees North, named in honor of the town’s line of latitude. Spruce up your home with decor, works from local artists, custom vintage reproduction signs and more from Razzle Dazzle. Fine art, including paintings, sculptures and mixed media pieces can be found at Gallery 55, a member-owned cooperative showroom located on Payette Lake.

Relax and Rest

After spending a day strolling the streets or lake shore, stay a night or more in this marvelous mountain town. In the heart of McCall, the 20-room Hotel McCall would not look out of place on the shore of a Swiss lake, and stands on the historical site where Sam Devers, McCall’s first resident, built his cabin. End the night on a sweet note roasting marshmallows around the fire pit at the Shore Lodge, a lakefront icon established in 1948. Soak in the panoramic views of the valley in a large hot tub at an impressive mansion built in 1911, the Hartland Inn Bed & Breakfast in New Meadows, a 17-minute drive from McCall. Autumn in McCall is especially fine, when summer tourists are gone and winter sports enthusiasts have not yet arrived. McCall is calling.

Tamarack Resort

Just 23 miles south of McCall, Tamarack Resort provides a day trip or is worth a return trip of its own. With four seasons of recreation, the resort offers biking, hiking or ziplining in the summer or skiing during the winter. Since 2019, the resort has invested in lifts and the addition of terrain to elevate the Treasure Valley experience.

Photo Courtesy of courtesy of Shore Lodge