McCall, Idaho is a scenic lake and ski town located about 2.5 hours north of Boise. It's right on Payette Lake and just a few miles north of Cascade Lake.
The city of Cascade is located about 30 miles away and there are a lot of fun things to do between McCall and Cascade. We stayed for nearly a week and weren't able to fit in all the activities on this list.
My family traveled to McCall with my parents, all three of my sisters and their families. There were 16 of us, ranging in age from 8 to 70. We rented a vacation house together and planned most of our activities together. These trips with extended family are always my kids' favorites.
We stayed at an AirBnB vacation rental between Cascade and McCall, overlooking Cascade Lake. It had eleven beds, a big common area and enough space for one family to park their RV outside. It was so fun to stay together and share meals here.
Ready to plan a trip? Here are my favorite things to do in McCall and Cascade, Idaho.
Explore Downtown McCall
McCall's city center is more than just shopping, dining and charming hotels. You can walk along the waterfront, take a lake cruise or lay out your beach towel on a sandy beach and take a swim at Legacy Park.
There are many shops and boutiques. We mainly cruised the souvenir shops but discovered a couple of unique places too.
My daughter and sister found a few treasures at McPaw's Thrift Store. It was next door to an Albertson's general merchandise store. I'm used to Albertson's grocery stores, but this Albertson's sold only recreational equipment. If you need an affordable float toy, Frisbee or camp chair for your day by the water, you'll probably find it here.
McCall has several ice cream shops, but we set our sights on Ice Cream Alley. It is a walk-up counter, located in an alley on East Lake Street, across from Legacy Park. Scoops are generous here – a $3.50 single scoop was bigger than than some of us could eat.
For lunch, we packed a picnic to Rotary Park. It's a public park on the waterfront, a few blocks from downtown McCall. This scenic park has a swimming beach, picnic tables and restrooms.
We didn't have much trouble finding a parking space, but traffic and parking in downtown McCall can be tricky in the peak weeks of summer.
Related: Tips for Visiting Bear Lake
Lake Cascade State Park
Cascade Lake was our main destination in the McCall area. Our vacation home overlooked the lake near Sugarloaf campground and boat ramp. It's a lovely lake rimmed by snow capped mountains.
Lake Cascade State Park has 80+ miles of shoreline, 6 boat ramps and 10 developed campgrounds. Boating, fishing, SUP paddle boarding and other water activities are popular here.
Our family wanted sandy beaches, paddle boarding and water play. We spent time on the beaches at Boulder Creek and near the Van Wyck campground in the city of Cascade.
Our beach experience was better on the less-crowded weekdays than on the weekend. On Friday, the beach was more crowded and we had to live with cigarette smoke and beer pong from the group behind us. A motor boat parked for hours in the swimming area in front of us.
Ponderosa State Park
Ponderosa State Park is just a few blocks from downtown McCall. It's an easy escape into nature.
We spent a couple of hours in Ponderosa State Park. We drove through the heavily forested park up to Porcupine Point where we enjoyed a panoramic view of Payette Lake, the state park and McCall.
Some of our group hiked back down via a hiking/biking trail. My husband was in that group, and he was on the lookout for wild huckleberries, which peak in August. They found and ate a few, even though it was a still little early in the season.
Meanwhile, I drove the kids down to the day use area behind the visitor center where they enjoyed a little lake play before we all headed back to our rental house for dinner.
Ponderosa has a large campground with camping cabins, RV sites and tent sites.
Related: Our Favorite State Parks in Utah
Whitewater rafting was the #1 reason that we planned a trip to Idaho. We have a family friend in Cascade who has all the equipment and know-how for a day trip on the Cabarton branch of the Payette River. It was so much fun!
We are not a hard-core adventure family, but I've done six rafting trips (including two week-long trips.) The rafting companies and guides make it easy and fun. It's such a great way to get into nature, work as a team and make epic memories together.
I highly recommend whitewater rafting for adventurous families with older kids. Our group ranged in age from 8 to 70.
Kelly's Whitewater Park
Another way to get your whitewater thrills is by visiting Kelly's Whitewater Park in the city of Cascade. This park offers a variety of family-friendly activities including tubing, kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding, volleyball, bocce ball, horseshoes and walking trails.
There is no admission fee, so it costs nothing to participate in these activities if you have your own water equipment. Equipment rentals are available on-site as well.
Cascade Aquatic and Rec Center
The city of Cascade has a large swimming pool that is naturally heated by geothermal springs. It's warmer than your typical public pool, and families can swim here year-round.
The Cascade Aquatic and Recreation Center is located next to Kelly's Whitewater Park. The cost of an adult day pass was $6 per person at the time of our visit.
Tamarack Resort is located on the far side of Cascade Lake. It's a ski resort, but there are lots of summer activities as well. Unfortunately, we didn't make it here during our trip, but it's somewhere I'd like to play or stay on another trip.
Summer activities include a zip line tour, mountain bike trails, scenic lift rides and camping. You can also arrange whitewater rafting tours and rentals for water play on Cascade Lake through Tamarack Resort.
Lodging, dining and spa services are available on-site. Tamarack Resort would make a good base for a winter or summer vacation.
Brundage Mountain Resort
Brundage Mountain is located just eight miles from McCall. Like Tamarack, it's a ski resort that also has fun summer activities. These include mountain biking, hiking, zip line, scenic chair rides and disc golf.
Brundage Mountain has one restaurant and no on-site lodging. But it's a little closer to McCall than Tamarack. You can easily visit both resorts in one winter or summer trip.
Related: Best Utah Ski Deals for Families
Gold Fork Hot Springs
Gold Fork Hot Springs has several geothermally heated mineral pools. It's family friendly, moderately priced and open year round.
We traveled with my brother-in-law who makes a point to stop at every hot springs he comes across. Alas, Gold Fork was closed due to COVID-19 during our visit. Otherwise, we definitely would have stopped here.
You can go fishing in Cascade Lake, Payette Lake and the Payette River. Our local friends told us that Cascade Lake freezes solid in the winter, so this is a popular ice fishing destination too.
The McCall, Idaho area is so beautiful and so much fun. The summer weather was perfect during our stay – warm enough to swim, but not too hot to do everything else on our list of activities.
Whitewater rafting, lake play and family time were our priorities on this trip, but there are so many other ways to play in McCall. I hope that our experience and these ideas help your family plan the perfect trip.