Two Quaint Idaho Cities Named “Best Small Lake Towns in America”
For some reason, the concept of Idaho is something that people who don’t live in the Northwest can’t seem to grasp. When they picture Idaho, they picture us somewhere in the Midwest. Many also assume the state is just acres, upon acres of potato fields. That’s why they’re quick to overlook Idaho as a potential vacation destination.
One day, we’ll find out which geography teacher is to blame for people getting the Gem State confused with Iowa. Beyond where you’ll find the states on a map, the states have nothing in common when it comes to lakes. Iowa has just over 30 naturally occurring lakes. Most of the lakes that people recreate in and on there are manmade.
But in Idaho? Fish and Game explains that the Gem State has over 3,000 natural lakes! That’s why it’s no surprise that two small towns that border some of them found themselves on Country Living’s “40 Best Small Lake Towns in America” list for 2023. The towns on their list were all-season destinations, perfect for kicking back on the beach in the summer or hitting the slopes in the winter.
So which two Idaho cities got a nod this year? One that pretty much EVERYONE in the Boise area is familiar with.
Country Living seemed particularly impressed with the amount of mountain biking trails you can find at Ponderosa State Park, Brundage, Tamarack and other recreation sites in and around McCall. If you read through the description of each of these lake towns in their article, they get rather redundant. So many of them mention hiking trails, but McCall offers you one hike that, to the best of our knowledge doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country.
That’s the Loon Lake hike to the crash site of a WWII Era bomber. If you haven’t done it yet, you should do it soon. As the years wear on, more and more of the plane disappears.
The vague description almost mentions ziplining but doesn’t mention that Zip McCall Adventures is home to the longest zip line in the state of Idaho! Zip 6 on their Extreme Tour is about half a mile long!
When it comes to winter entertainment in McCall, they mention snow tubing, skiing and snowshoeing but somehow managed to leave out the one party of the year that McCall is best known for…Winter Carnival! While the celebration is shrinking to just three days and moving to the end of February in 2024, it’s still going to wow visitors with dozens of snow sculptures, the famous Mardi Gras parade, live music and more!
It did make us giggle that the article made “kicking back at Shore Lodge” sound like something that everyone does while they’re in McCall. A stay or meal there can be pricy, but it’s really something everyone should try once. We stayed during the off-season when rooms were a little more affordable and really enjoyed the fact that they serve complimentary s’mores around the firepit every night…and the fact that you can play unlimited ski-ball games for free in their game room.
Of course, what Country Living failed to mention was the fact that McCall’s is also a killer place for ice cream. Ice Cream Alley has been a summer staple in the lakeside town for nearly 40 years. Squatch Sweets might be the new(ish) kid on the block, the but creations that Alyssa and Mackenzie Casey have dreamed up are delicious works of art.
They also didn’t mention that McCall’s got a cool craft brew scene! If you’re visiting during the peak of summer or winter recreation season, you’re usually going to have to wait for a table at Salmon River Brewery or McCall Brewing Company, but the beers and food are worth the wait. It may be a little further off the beaten path, but Broken Horn Brewing Company might be one of McCall’s best-kept secrets. They’ve got a killer Hell’s Canyon Jalapeno beer.
Let’s face it, you don’t have to be someone who’s passionate about recreation to enjoy McCall. It’s an equally fun place to go if you’re a foodie who wants to enjoy a good meal and wonderful drinks as the sun sets over Payette Lake.
So which OTHER Idaho city made the list?
We’ll be straight up with you. The article you’re reading is written by someone that’s been based in Boise for nearly 15 years. We don’t get to travel to North Idaho often, so we won’t pretend to know the local gems. Country Living put Sandpoint on the list because of the beautiful views the town gets of the Cabinet and Selkirk Mountains, huckleberry lemonade and local festivals like the 1.76-mile open water swim alongside Long Bridge over Lake Pend Oreille and the Festival at Sandpoint.
We weren’t familiar with either of these before reading County Living’s article, but the Festival at Sandpoint has our attention now! The lakeside music festival goes on for several days in late July/early August and includes some big names like Train, Micahel Franti, REO Speedwagon and Ashley McBryde. In the past, they’ve hosted stars like Jake Owen, Chris Janson, Gladys Knight, The Beach Boys and Lindsey Stirling.