Sitting on the shores of glacier-formed Payette Lake in the Cascade Mountains, McCall Idaho is one of my favorite mountain towns in the West. Between the gorgeous forested landscapes, four seasons of outdoor recreation, and the unpretentious vibe, I’ve considered moving here more than once, especially for the hard-to-beat McCall, Idaho winters.
McCall is home to two ski resorts, over 500 miles of groomed snowmobile and Nordic trails, hot springs, and good beer to boot. You want in, don’t you? My friend, Linda, and I recently spent 4 days in McCall experiencing the best that winter has to offer.
In this post, I share a day-by-day McCall, Idaho winter itinerary to help you plan the perfect snowy winter wonderland getaway.
McCall Winter Highlights YouTube Video
Watch my 2 minute YouTube video that captures the highlights in this McCall Idaho winter itinerary.
Getting to McCall, Idaho
McCall is located two hours north of Boise, along highway 95. The scenic drive follows the Payette River, which is the training ground for some of the world’s best whitewater kayakers during the summer.
The easiest way to get to McCall is to fly into the Boise Airport (BOI) and rent a car. If you visit McCall, Idaho in winter, you should consider springing for an SUV rental that can handle any snow or ice you might hit on the drive.
While I do recommend having your own car, if you aren’t comfortable driving, contact Sawtooth Transit, which provides a fee-based shuttle service from the Boise Airport to McCall. Once you are in McCall, the town offers free public transportation, which you can flag down anywhere on the established route, and there is also a shuttle that runs a few times a day to and from Brundage Ski Resort during the busy winter season.
4-Day McCall, Idaho Winter Itinerary
Day 1: Boise to McCall
Catch an early flight to Boise in order to make the most of your first day. The twisty road to McCall hugs the Payette River and I recommend doing the drive in daylight so you can enjoy the view and see where you are going! The drive will be much more enjoyable that way.
I’d suggest grabbing a sandwich or a quick bite in Boise before you head up so you can jump right into the action. Uncle Giuseppe’s Italian deli is a good option right before you turn up Highway 95.
Jug Mountain Ranch
The first stop on your McCall, Idaho winter itinerary is Jug Mountain Ranch, which is just a smidgeon south of McCall.
Jug Mountain Ranch is a privately owned community but they have an extensive free trail system open to the public year-round. Whether you are a beginner mountain biker out to enjoy the smooth-rolling singletrack or an expert looking for technical features and fast downhill terrain, Jug Mountain Ranch has something for everyone, even in the winter.
During the snowy months, Jug Mountain Ranch grooms the trails for fat biking, which is basically mountain biking with big, beefy tires that provide traction on the snow. It was my first time trying fat biking and it was a blast cruising through the ponderosa forest with views of the valley. What’s even better is Jug Mountain’s trail system is dog-friendly, which is awesome for those of you who want to road trip with your dog.
The Jug Mountain Pro Shop rents fat bikes that will provide maximum efficiency on the trails.
Where to stay
The Shore Lodge is an option and if you visit mid-week outside of holiday weekends you can get a pretty good deal on a room. However, McCall also has countless condos and cabins for rent that are especially suitable for groups. You might even score one with a lakefront view.
We stayed at McCall’s Park Street Penthouse which was conveniently located a block from the center of McCall.
Day 2: Tamarack Ski Resort
It’s time to hit the slopes! McCall has two ski resorts to choose from. Both have ample terrain and a mom-and-pop feel, so you can’t go wrong with either. For the best views, I recommend Tamarack which is located just a few minutes south on the highway.
The first thing I noticed when we pulled into Tamarack was the fact that there were only about 20 cars in the parking lot. Score! Lift tickets are also relatively cheap and they have a rental shop on-site, making your day on the slopes as easy as it gets.
The mountain was impressive too. Two days after a big storm there was still tons of fresh powder to be had. While most resorts get quickly skied out these days, I couldn’t believe how much untracked snow we found at Tamarack, and with 2,800 vertical feet, the mountain offers plenty of terrain to explore.
For those that prefer to stay on trail, the wide groomers were smooth and offered something for every skill level.
Where to eat
There are several places to grab lunch at Tamarack. For weekend visitors, the Mile High Catina is the place to be. While they were closed during our visit, word on the street is that you can get three street tacos and a beer for $11.
Other places to eat at Tamarack include The Reserve which is open daily and Clear Water Coffee where you can get a cup of joe and baked goods or a sandwich.
Once your day of skiing is over, make the short drive up to McCall. For dinner, head to the Shore Lodge, one of the classiest joints in town. In fact, it’s so classy that it was recently named the third best resort in the US by Conde Nast Traveler.
But no need to dress up for dinner, the Cutwater Grill offers a casual-ish menu and delectable cocktails with views of Payette Lake.
Day 3: Snowmobiling & Hot Springs
Get ready for quintessential McCall, Idaho winter activities: Snowmobiling and hot springs! Each are fun on their own, but combining these two classic McCall winter activities is even better.
Burgdorf Hot Springs opened its doors in 1870 after geothermal water was discovered by local miners. Lucky for us because Burgdorf is one of the coolest hot springs resorts I’ve ever been to! Located thirty miles from McCall, the only way to reach Burgdorf in the winter is by snowmobile as the road is covered in snow.
While you can rent snowmobiles in town and take the direct route up Warren Wagon Road, we chose to explore on a guided snowmobile adventure leaving from Brundage Mountain. Our guides Jake and Robbie led us along backcountry ridges, through winding rows of powder-pillowed pine trees, and deep down into the valley before catching up with the main drag where we cranked the throttle to 50mph.
It was the perfect combination of practicing some technical riding skills before getting fast and furious.
Arriving at Burgdorf was just the icing on the cake of an already exhilarating day. Fed by natural geothermal springs, the water at Burgdorf stays a balmy 100 degrees all year round offering the perfect tonic for soothing your muscles after a long day on the trail.
If one day isn’t enough, you can rent one of their cute onsite cabins and stay overnight, allowing you to access the pools for a midnight soak. (No alcohol is allowed at the pools).
Where to eat
You’ll need to get an early start to grab breakfast before the snowmobiling tour. Cafe 6 Three 4 has a relaxed and fun atmosphere and they serve unique breakfast and tasty breakfast items. They have a couple of quick grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches, burritos, smoothies, and pastries, but I’d suggest taking the time to sit down and smell the fresh-brewed coffee while sampling a breakfast bowl or burrito.
Lunch is included on your snowmobile tour.
For dinner, after you clean up, walk down to the Sushi Bar for some tasty rolls or a poke bowl. The fish is super fresh and what’s really cool is the owner is committed to sourcing the most sustainable fish possible. Pro-tip: If you’re nice and chat up your server, you might get lucky and be offered the local’s menu which features some extra special rolls.
Day 4: Spa day
It’s time to wrap up your time in McCall but not before you treat yo’self. The Shore Lodge has one of the best spas around, and your muscles will thank you after those long days of skiing and manhandling snowmobiles.
The Cove Spa has a set of salt-water immersion pools where you can melt away any stress you have about leaving this lovely little mountain town. For an extra treat, opt for the Swedish-Style Vintage McCall massage or the Trail Blazer for deep-tissue lovers.
Where to eat
No one wants a massage on a full stomach, so skip breakfast or grab something small at the coffee shop at the Shore Lodge. The spa also has a room-service menu where you can have food and beverages (mimosas anyone?) delivered to the immersion pool lounges.
To get one more taste of town before you head back to Boise, I recommend grabbing lunch at the Salmon River Brewery. You won’t find a better elk burger and the rosemary fries are ridiculously good. The beer is obviously the main attraction, so if you’re the passenger on the drive down, a beer sampler is probably in order.
What to pack for your McCall, Idaho winter getaway
- Winter layers
- Ski gear if you plan on skiing or snowboarding
- Winter boots – the Oboz Bridger Waterproof Boots are a Bearfoot Theory favorite
- A bathing suit for soaking in the hot springs
Summers in McCall Idaho
If you’re not a winter-lover, summers in McCall are glorious as well. Go river rafting, water skiing, fly fishing, cliff jumping, hiking, mountain biking…pick your vice. With hundreds of lakes and some of the best whitewater in the country, countless ways to get your adrenaline pumping lie at your doorstep.
- Read Next: Tips for Visiting McCall
- Read Next: Visiting Burgdorf Hot Springs in McCall, Idaho
- Read Next: Tips for Visiting Boise
I hope this 4-day McCall winter itinerary shows you what makes this small Idaho town such a fun winter destination. My guess is after a long weekend visit, you might contemplate moving here, just like me!
Have you been to McCall, Idaho in Winter? What are your favorite activities? Leave a comment below and let us know!