2016-08-22

Box Lake above McCall Idaho

Box Lake above McCall Idaho

Box Lake sits at 7200 feet and is reached by a short, but moderately-strenuous 4 mile hike, with an elevation gain of 1800 feet. 

In late August, after the lake has dropped, there is a fun sandy beach and many day-hike to the lake, bringing their dogs and a light lunch.  We arrived Saturday and stayed until Monday.  By Sunday, we had the lake mostly to ourselves.

Around the lake, we saw the usual litany of chipmunks and deer, along with a good crop of black crested mountain blue jays (Stellar's Jay).  There were no mosquitoes. Along he trail there was an occasional huckleberry bush here-and-there, especially on the north slopes.  At night, a small squadron of bats danced across the lake.

I recommend this trail for moderately experienced backpackers and would not take first-time campers.  As an alternative, Loon Lake (West of McCall, off of Warren Wagon Road, half way to the ghost-town of Burgdorf) is wonderful trail for new or inexperienced campers.

Photos:
All photos are straight, non HDR, taken without a tripod.  As you can tell, I used a polarizer.

Box Lake, looking North.  Click for a larger view.

These photos were taken halfway up the box canyon, a mile or so, off-trail. 

Box Lake, looking North

Just beyond Box Lake, directly North, are two lakes called the "Sisters".  Following the trail on the West side, you will cross a forested area burned in the early 1990's.  It was beautiful and interesting to hike.  But because of felled timber, and because we did not look at a map, we managed to get lost.  We overshot the lakes, with only a glimpse of the smaller lake. 

If doing this again, we would have hiked around Box Lake to the Northern-most tip and then should have followed the drainage a quarter-mile to Sisters.  Only the larger of the two Sister's lakes is of interest, with the smaller being little more than a pond.  Fishing is reportedly spectacular in the larger lake and in the stream that feeds it.

On the Box Lake Trail, past Sisters, en route to Heart Lake

Forested Burn from the mid 1990's.  Undergrowth trees are about 4' tall.  Click for larger view.


Rough Directions:

From McCall, Idaho, turn right onto Lick Creek Road, driving approximately 11 miles. The road is maintained and well marked.

From the trail-head, you immediately begin climbing and climb a moderately steep trail almost to the top.  There are a few short sections of blessedly-level mountain meadows, but not enough to make a difference.  Although this is not a technical ascent, it is tiring. 

With a full pack, expect to spend about 4 to 5 hours.  Day hikers make the climb in under 2 hours.  Water is available for the first third of the trail.  In late August, we used about 2 liters of water per-person on the climb. 

When you reach the summit, it drops briskly down the back side, directly to the lake, losing about 600 feet.  That 600' is noticeable. 

Two wonderful camping spots are at the approach to the lake, one on the right and one on the left.  Continuing to the left, two more, but rockier camping spots are about 30 yards away, behind the prime spots.

If you find no room at the Inn, continue further left, along the West side of the lake.  About mid-point along the lake, you will find a delightfully shady camping spot, surrounded by an extraordinary number of fallen and mature trees.  I really liked this spot and would stay there the next time I visit.  At the far end (the outlet) are additional spots that we did not explore.  The entire East side of the lake is uninhabitable, populated by lots of boulders and falling rock.

The return trip, along the same trail, is downhill all the way.  The trail is steep and slippery with gravel and debris and your calves will be angry.  Take your time.  Using a careful pace, and with lighter packs, it took two and a half hours to return, without taking any breaks.