Special Places

In 2006 the Payette National Forest sought to define its recreational experience on the forest, just as other forests across the nation did. The outcome was a defined niche for the forest in terms of providing recreational opportunities to the public. This was also an opportunity for the forest to plan for the future in terms of more efficiently dedicating resources, knowing that we were putting our funds to the areas where the public would see the most benefit. Below is a description of the forest's niche...

Deep Canyons, Deep Wilderness, Deep Snow

Spanning seasons in a day, visitors can explore the contrasts of the Payette National Forest.   From warm, deep canyons to crisp alpine lakes, the forest is the centerpiece for outdoor recreation in Idaho’s Heartland.  Vast expanses of unroaded backcountry provide solitude while evolving adjacent venues provide structure and amenities.  Far-reaching trails enable incredible winter sports, destination hunting, and traditional gathering of forest products. 


Photo of Lick Creek Divide


Forest-wide Settings, Special Places, and Values
Bordered by two of the deepest canyons in North America and containing vast portions of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the Payette NF is nationally recognized for these dramatic landscapes.  The topography of the Forest ranges from rugged mountain peaks that feature high alpine meadows and crystal blue lakes to steeply plummeting river canyons.  Connected with other public lands, the Forest is part of an expansive, uninterrupted landscape that provides incredible habitat for an exceptional diversity of big game, upland birds, and other wildlife species.  Past mining activities including Chinese influences have left a rich history that is evidenced by mining towns and cemeteries. Native Americans continue their traditions today through fishing, hunting, gathering, and use of sacred sites.


Needles Area
Solitude – These vast, remote settings include portions of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and adjacent unroaded areas.  Visitors can access extensive backcountry trails via roads to trailheads and interior airstrips, unique to the region.







Skiing in fresh powder
Vacation Package – These areas are both connected to and influenced by the evolving communities and developments along highway 55 through McCall, and highway 95 through Council.  Visitors enjoy “packaged” activities offered by private resorts outfitter/guides, state parks, and communities. The Forest serves as a scenic backdrop and provides a less developed extension to the formalized staging areas.





Idler Creek
Roaded Vistas – These settings are dotted by small rural communities with increasing visitation from the treasure valley and NE Oregon areas.  A quality system of trails and roads provide easy access to relief from heat, and beautiful views.






The South Fork Salmon River
Primitive Motorized – This setting is rich in mining history and is off the beaten track.  The South Fork of the Salmon is a well known salmon fishery, highly valued by Native American Tribes.  







Hells Canyon
Hells Canyon Gateway – As the gateway to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, towering cliffs and fish filled reservoirs create a dramatic setting.  Visitors value the warm respite from surrounding winter highlands. 






Avalanche Forecaster at work

Forest-wide Activities/Opportunities/Experiences
Snowmobiling (outside wilderness), backcountry skiing, hiking, dispersed camping, big game hunting, upland game birds, fishing, non-motorized boating (float boating & kayaking), and forest product gathering occur forest-wide. Rustic campgrounds are located adjacent to water.  Outfitters and guides help provide a quality recreation experience for activities consistent with the niche.

Highlighted Areas

Buck Park Cabin Lookout/cabin

Access to this site is via a 15 mile 4-wheel drive road. This is a very rustic cabin. Metal cots are provided for sleeping. You must bring your own water, cooking utensils, sleeping bags, and firewood. A wood stove is on site for cooking. No plumbing or electricity. Outhouse provided. Several motorized and non-motorized trails are located within walking distance of the cabin.