Named for an early fur trapper—Francois Payette—the Payette National Forest covers over 2.3 million acres of forests, rivers, and mountains. The forest is managed by the National Forest Service and is bordered by other federally protected areas. Though some of the lands were cultivated and settled early in its history, nearly all development projects failed. Attempts made at mining, homesteading, lumber production, and milling failed except for a few cattle grazing concerns that still use sections of the land as free-range. Within the forest are two Wilderness Areas—the Frank Church River to Nowhere Wilderness Area and the Hells Canyon Wilderness Area. While small communities like McCall, ID, and Baker City, OR, provide much of the service required to manage such a large area, Boise, ID, the nearest sizeable urban city, claims the forest as its recreation area.
The Goose Creek Falls Trail is an in-and-out pathway that descends to Goose Creek from a drive-up trailhead. The path is well maintained and marked with intermittent signs along the way. Though the trail is easy most of the way, the final section is a scramble over loose rocks and scree to get to the creak side.
Length: 3.1 miles
Loon Creek Trail is a short pathway used by hikers, horses, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. It begins by crossing a steel bridge that spans the Secesh River, then follows Loon Creek, a tributary of the Secesh, to its entry into the river. The forests echo the babble of the creek as it flows along, giving an undeniable cooling effect.
Length: 1.6 miles
The Buckhorn Creek Trail is a point-to-point pathway that can be hiked either way. To walk this trail from the top, start at the summit of Rapid Peak to descend to Buckhorn Creek. Much of the upper reaches of the pathway is strewn with rocks, gravel, and boulders, making headway difficult. Once below the tree line, the pathway levels somewhat to pass through the forest.
Length: 10.7 miles
The Snowslide to Lake Fork Trail leads you to the panoramic views of the Salmon River Mountains found at Snowslide Lake. The first section of the pathway is a steep climb of as much as a 47% grade. After reaching Snowslide Lake, the path levels off for the remainder of the hike to the trailhead at Lake Fork.
Length: 11.8 miles
The trail up Granite Mountain climbs 1,762 feet to the peak. The path is generally well marked and maintained. From the heights of the mountain, you get an incredible view of the Salmon River Mountains and the Seven Devils of Hells Canyon.
Length: 5.6 miles
Intensity: Intermediate to Difficult
There are nearly 400 lakes in the Payette National Forest and over 4,000 miles of fish-rich streams making angling one of the main draws that bring visitors to the forest. Whether you favor dropping a fly into a small puddle along a stream or hiking to find a lake in which to fish, this forest is an angler’s dream. While the most prominent rivers—the Salmon and the Snake—provide a rich harvest of catfish and sturgeon, the smaller streams and lakes harbor fighting trout, northern pikeminnow, and mountain whitefish.
Be aware when planning on depositing a cache in this forest that wilderness areas are unavailable for the game. The remainder of the Payette National Forest not within the boundaries of the wilderness areas is available for any player to engage in the fun. To find the borders of these Wilderness Areas, stop by the Visitor Center and pick up a map with latitude and longitude designations.
Stargazing is excellent in the Payette National Forest. The high elevations and unpolluted air work together to expose a sky urban dwellers can only dream of. Those who observe the night sky from the forest realize the impact of returning to nature.
Address: 500 North Mission Street, Building 2, McCall, ID 83638
Fee: Entry fee $0
Payette National Forest is easily explored in an RV. Though many of the trails are inaccessible to vehicles, their trailheads are generally available to RV traffic. Getting around the forest in an RV gives you the peace of mind of knowing there is a comfortable spot for you to recover after hiking for miles or climbing hillsides to reach pristine lakes in which to fish. Take an RV to the Payette National Forest and enjoy your stay.