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Finding a trail with a gentle slope and manageable distance for little legs without sacrificing scenery can seem like a daunting task. But McCall is home to a plethora of short, stunning hikes the entire family will enjoy. And if all else fails, remember to bring some candy for the trek. There is nothing like a little chocolate motivation to keep a kid moving!
Just about every trail in Ponderosa State Park is a great option for little ones, but this trail comes with great interpretive signs that make this a fun learning experience. This is a foot traffic only trail, so there are no worries about running in to mountain bikers with little hikers in tow. The full loop is just under two miles, but there is a good option to cut that hike in half by taking the Fir Grove Cut-Off a half mile in. Trailhead Directions: The trailhead is well marked on the right, just over half a mile on the main road after entering the Park. We like to park at the Activity Center and walk the short distance to the trailhead.
For a longer hike with an easy slope, Pearl Lake is the gold standard. There is plenty to keep little ones entertained on the trail with wildflowers, Teardrop Lake, and a couple of easy creek crossings before reaching your destination. While the hike is a manageable 3.5 miles out-and-back, the road into the trailhead is a bit rocky, so plan to take it slow. Trailhead Directions: Follow Warren Wagon Road just under 14 miles and turn right at the Crestline Trailhead 7 sign (you will cross a bridge). Continue 7 miles up the dirt road to the trailhead, keeping straight at the first two junctions and veering right at the next three.
This great little hike starts out at 6,600 feet and has a gentle climb of 300 feet in just over a mile. The lake is a great day trip, but there are also some great campsites along the lake’s perimeter that make this a perfect first overnight backpack with kids. Trailhead Directions: From McCall take Lick Creek Road, taking the right fork. From the fork, drive 16 miles. On the left will be a large parking area and trail head.
While the shortest hike on our list at just 1.5 miles out-and-back, Josephine Lake may also be the most stunning. The 8,286-foot Squaw Point rises out of the emerald green water for a breathtaking destination. Trailhead Directions: Travel along Warren Wagon Road, passing Upper Payette Lake and Secesh Summit. Three miles after the summit, take a left on Forest Service Road 316, marked “Josephine Lake.” The road to the trailhead is a bit bumpy so a vehicle with good clearance is recommended.
Perhaps the most well-known hike on our list, Boulder has earned its reputation as a favorite for good reason. The trail winds through beautiful terrain and the infinity edge of the dam make Boulder Lake one-of-a-kind. While a bit longer and steeper than the rest, Boulder is a great option for kids looking to take hiking to the next level. At 3.2 miles out-and-back with 800 feet in elevation gain, the trail is still manageable for families. Trailhead Directions: From McCall, drive south on Highway 55 and turn left onto Elo Road. Take the left fork after 2.8 miles onto Boulder Lake Road. Follow this road to its end at a campground about 5 miles in and turn left to park. The trailhead can be found at the base of the Boulder Meadow Reservoir dam.