OverviewBuckhorn Mountain sits at the head of several drainages, offering commanding views of the Lick Creek range. It is also part of a serpentine ridge that includes many other peaks and peaklets in a very craggy granite area. Buckhorn is easy to get to and a fun hike, so it should be a peakbaggers delight but the area also offers the possibility for some fun technical climbing for those with the spirit of adventure (and a strong back for lugging gear in rough terrain).
Many people hike in to Boulder Lake to fish and camp. They think they see Buckhorn Mountain, but the real peak is largely obscured by a sub-peak (really no more than a bump on a ridge) immediately to the west of the true summit. The summit register has several entries of folks who were so fooled; they call this other peak "False Buckhorn." We also suggested "Emergency Backup Buckhorn." You can use whatever name you want.
The route described here is about 5.9 miles each way, with a gain of about 2100'. Mostly Class 1, with the final grunt up to the saddle and final peak going at Class 2 (depending on your route-finding skills and spirit of adventure).
Getting ThereAbout 1.5 miles south of the traffic light at the McCall airport/Hwy 55, turn east on Farm to Market Road (paved).
There are parking spaces all over, but sometimes finding an empty space is a challenge because the reservoir is a popular local fishing hole.
The first part of this route is a popular day hike from McCall. At about 1.5 miles and 700' gain, it's an easy hike from Boulder Meadows Reservoir, the trailhead, to Boulder Lake. There is a signed trail just north (uphill) from the dam.
After you arrive at Boulder Lake, the trail swings to the south of the lake, passing through quite a few well-loved camp spots. At the far end of the lake, the trail meanders through some meadows and at about 2.5 miles (and another 50' of gain) you will come to a trail intersection. Go straight and follow the very-obvious trail, which will take you toward Buckhorn Saddle. Along the way, you will walk undeer cliffs leading to False Buckhorn. After you pass the cliffs, leave the trail and head for the saddle between False Buckhorn and Buckhorn (the saddle should be visible through the trees).
From the broad, grassy saddle, the true summit is obvious to the east. The line of ascent is obvious: just follow the ridge, moving to the right side a bit as needed to avoid rocks or downfall.
This is typical Lick Creek Range terrain, where a skilled navigator can head cross-country. We descended the rougher terrain of the south ridge of Buckhorn to join up with the route to Rapid Peak.
There are cliffs on the north side of Buckhorn Mountain, and the typically good granite of the Lick Creek range might offer up some routes for those willing to lug gear in that far. For now, though, there is no known technical route.
Motorized vehicles are not permitted on these trails (but chances are you will see sings of them... for a long time.
This is snow country, so check ahead on road conditions.
CampingAlthough there are campsites at the trailhead, for spoiled mountaineers it is too busy for good camping. Boulder Lake offers some nice spots, but don't expect to be alone, as this is another popular fishing spot.
Instead, try camping at Summit Lake or Rapid lake, where you will most likely have the place to yourself.
External LinksPayette National Forest
McCall Chamber of Commerce
McCall area web cams
Idaho road report
McCall, Idaho wiki
Splattski trip report
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide.