Between hosting family, wrapping presents, and trying to entertain the kids while they are on Christmas break, the holidays can quickly become a bit overwhelming. Why not break free of the holiday stress and escape to McCall? With beautiful snow-covered scenery at every turn and easy access to skiing, snowmobiling, hot springs and a few magical Christmas adventures, McCall has everything you need to create a holiday to remember.
Day 1: Sleigh rides and hot springs
Load up the car and head to your holiday home away from home. We recommend a vacation home or condo. Find a cozy hideaway to sleep two or twenty, all with modern amenities so you can celebrate the season together.
Kick off your holiday adventure with a good old-fashioned horse drawn sleigh ride. The sleigh experience lasts 90 minutes and takes you through post card perfect scenery with views of Brundage, Jug Handle and No Business mountains. Midway through the ride, stop at a yurt to warm up at the Outfitters tent and keep toasty around the fire pit. Snacks and beverages are available to purchase. Sleigh blankets are provided, but plan to dress warm and bring extra blankets, hats, mittens and your camera to capture the magic! Sleigh rides are available at 3pm, 4:30pm, 6pm and 7:30pm on weekends and holidays. Reservations are required. Please visit brundage.com for more information.
After the sleigh ride, head to Gold Fork Hot Springs for a soothing soak. These steaming pools are just the ticket to keep that winter chill at bay. Set in the snowy hills just outside of Donnelly, Idaho, six mineral-rich pools await to sooth and rejuvenate. Closed on Tuesdays, but open for all holidays. Bring cash or check with you as credit cards are not accepted!
With a busy first day under your belt, pick up a few pizzas for the crew on the way home from the hot springs. We highly recommend the Big Growler, the Payette Lake Supreme, or the Bruschetta Pizza from Growler’s Pizza Grill or the Zesty Garden, BBQ Chicken, Mac and Cheese Pizza or the McCall Special from Toll Station Pizza and Pasta. Looking for something a little bit different? Try the Butcher Block from Crusty’s Pizza, which comes with pesto, elk sausage, prosciutto, roasted garlic, mushrooms, caramelized onions and blue cheese, or the P&P, a spin on a traditional Hawaiian using prosciutto and pineapple.
Day 2: Get out and explore!
Wake up and get ready for a second day of winter fun! A holiday in McCall isn’t complete without a stop at the Pancake House for breakfast. Known for the dazzling display of Christmas lights and plate-sized cinnamon rolls, the Pancake House is an icon in McCall. With a menu that covers everything from pancakes to omelets to benedicts to biscuits and gravy, you won’t have any trouble finding a hearty breakfast here.
Today is all about getting out of bounds and getting a first-hand look at that stunning winter landscape that surrounds McCall. For those in the family looking for a high-octane adventure, we highly recommend a guided snowmobile trip. So what does a guided snowmobile trip entail? First, it means that a permitted, qualified professional rider will guide you into the Idaho backcountry, imparting knowledge and training so you can safely operate your machine. Depending on the experience you are after, this can mean a trip along groomed snowmobile trails, off-trail powder riding or a combination of both alongside your guide. You can ride your own machine or opt for a tandem snowmobile (please call ahead for a tandem machine as these are limited). As the guest, you determine what type of country and what type of riding you would like to do based on your level of comfort.
For newbies to the snowmobile game or intermediate riders looking to enhance their skills, a guided snowmobile trip is the way to go. Book your guided ride with CM Backcountry Rentals or Brundage Snowmobile Adventures.
Wanting a day of tranquil exploration? Strap on the snowshoes! Snowshoeing was historically a means of winter survival, but saw a transformation into a recreational activity in the 1970s. This easy way to enjoy the snow is ideal for families and kids. All you need is a pair of winter boots, snowshoes and trekking poles. Then just start walking!
Blaze your own trail or try a hike to Goose Creek Falls. While this route is popular in the summer, it is also a beautiful trail to take when the snow falls. The trail meanders through snow-covered Douglas fir and down Goose Creek Canyon along a clear mountain stream. The trek is about two miles out and back with a 650 foot elevation gain. To access the trailhead, head up Goose Lake Road like you are going to Brundage. Turn left into the Gordon Titus parking lot and find the trailhead at the northern end of the parking lot there.
After a day of exploring, cooking will be the last thing on your mind. Stop by McCall Brewing Company for a dinner the whole gang will enjoy. Beer cheese soup. Need we say more? McCall Brewing Company does soup right by combining smooth aged cheese with their fresh ales. It’s delicious on its own or as a starter before your meal. Pair it with any one of the Brewery’s craft beers and you have the perfect McCall feast!
Day 3: Corduroy Heaven
On your third day of holiday magic, some squeaky groomed runs are just the ticket to keep the fun going. Fuel up at a favorite local haunt for a quick, hot breakfast. TJ’s Cutting Edge Café is probably best known as the snack stop during hockey games or ice rink events, but it is also a hot spot for breakfast! We love the Bus Driver Scramble with rosemary roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon and sausage and the Puck Breakfast complete with buttermilk biscuit topped with a fried egg, your choice of ham, bacon or sausage and covered in country gravy.
Once breakfast has settled, make your way to the mountain for a downhill rush. McCall is in the center of it all, so take your pick of resorts. Brundage Mountain Resort is best known for its powder-packed glades and luxuriously wide groomed runs. They also boast a great beginner area that is FREE for those looking to learn. Down the road, the Little Ski Hill is an action-packed ski area featuring a T-bar with access to 405 feet of vertical terrain. It is also the only place in the McCall area to offer night skiing! This year will mark the 80th season of the Little Ski Hill, making it the third oldest ski area in Idaho. Near Donnelly, Tamarack Resort boasts 2,800’ of vertical packed with long groomed runs and glades full of powder stashes.
Groomers aren’t only for downhill enthusiasts. McCall has several fabulous Nordic areas where you can get out on the corduroy. Bear Basin Nordic Center is host to 30km of beautiful trails that wind through open meadows and giant Ponderosa pines. During the holidays, Bear Basin will be offering group ski lessons for $25. Classic lessons begin at 11am and skate lessons begin at 1pm.
In town, Ponderosa State Park covers most of a 1,000-acre peninsula that juts into beautiful Payette Lake. Nordic trails range from recreational to competition to accommodate all abilities and is one of only two USSA-certified cross country courses in Idaho.
For a great first-timers loop, try the Activity Barn. Five kilometers of trails are FREE and you can also opt for a ride on the conveyor lift to the top (lift ticket fee applies) of the hill and hook into the groomed trail from there. It also connects to the North Valley Rail Trail, so the options are limitless!
With terrain for every skill level that takes you across open meadows along Boulder Creek or up tree-lined climbs to the Upper Jug Reservoir, you are not likely to get bored at Jug Mountain Ranch. Trails are also dog and fat bike friendly!
As the last day of your holiday getaway in McCall comes to a close, it is a time to sit back and celebrate the season with a delicious family meal. Take in the beauty of Payette Lake in the winter at The Cutwater at Shore Lodge. Aside from the stunning lake views, we also love the Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs and the Pan Seared Pacific Wild Salmon.
Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!