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

Paddy Flat Guard Station Rental Cabin

The Paddy Flat Guard Station is located in the Payette National Forest of central Idaho. Guests enjoy the remote area for its hunting opportunities and abundance of hiking, biking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicle roads and trails, such as the Paddy Flat/Lake Fork Creek Trail #103.  The Kennally Creek trailhead to the east also has numerous trails.  Abundant streams and numerous alpine lakes within travel distance offer fantastic fishing opportunities.

This cabin sits at an elevation of 5,250 feet and is situated within a scenic meadow surrounded by a dense conifer forest. The Payette National Forest contains some of Idaho's most beautiful and diverse country. Located in west-central Idaho, north of Boise, the 2.2 million-acre forest extends 100 miles west to east, from Hells Canyon to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and 70 miles north to south, from the Salmon River to the Weiser River.

Kitchen utensils such as a coffee pot, frying pans, and silverware are not provided, so please bring your own. Firewood gathering is available in the forest areas surrounding the Paddy Flat Guard Station, although none is available on site.

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.

Lake Fork Guard Station Rental Cabin

The Lake Fork Guard Station is located within the Lick Creek Corridor just over seven miles from the town of McCall, Idaho. Originally constructed in early 1933 by workers in the CCC, this cabin was remodeled by the Payette National Forest in 2011, updating the interior and bringing the building into accordance with the American Disabilities Act.

 This cabin sits at an approximate elevation of 5,300 feet and is situated within a dense conifer forest on the Lick Creek Road just outside of the town of McCall, Idaho. The Payette National Forest contains some of Idaho's most beautiful and diverse country. Located in west-central Idaho, north of Boise, the 2.2 million-acre forest extends 100 miles west to east, from Hells Canyon to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and 70 miles north to south, from the Salmon River to the Weiser River.

The guard station has flush toilets and potable water. Propane lights, a heating system and new kitchen appliances bring comfort to your time in this great location.  There is adequate room within this site for up to two medium sized tents for additional sleeping accommodations.

Several trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding leave from the nearby Lake Fork Camground: East Fork Lake Fork Creek Trail #104, Lake Fork First Bridge Trail #339, Paddy Flat/Lake Fork Creek Trail #103.

Lick Creek Area, McCall & Krassel Ranger Districts

The Lick Creek area is just west of McCall, and accessed from Lick Creek Road.  This is a beautiful area that many think of as the Alps of Idaho.  There are many recreation opportunities in this area.  Camping, a cabin rental, and many trailheads that lead to alpine lakes are in this area.  A drive to the top of Lick Creek summit from McCall only take about 40 minutes.  This is a highly recommended area!

Camping & Cabin Rental



Rock Climbing