The Lick Creek range is a subrange of the Salmon River mountains. This subrange is defacto wilderness and includes parts of the Lick Creek and Secesh IRA (Inventoried Roadless Area) on the Payette National Forest. During the summer months, it is relatively lightly used due to the roughness of the terrain, few roads, and little trail maintenance. Old maps show lots of trails, but the Payette National Forest shows little interest in non-motorized recreation. Unfortunately, the Forest Service heavily promotes snowmobiling so the area sees heavy use during the winter.
The Blackwell Fire
Most of the range, 56,000 acres, was burned over in 1994 by the Blackwell Fire. Instead of the shady, damp fir forests that covered the area prior to the fire, much of the range is now devoid of any real forest. There are pockets of old trees, but mostly it’s just snags. However, the undergrowth and brush is coming back quickly because this area is fairly damp, at least by southern Idaho standards.
The recovering slopes make for excellent range for deer and elk. Although rare, there are mountain goats here. The Forest Service monitors the northern end of the range for bighorn sheep. If you are lucky, you might even spot a moose. There are many small tarns, and some offer excellent fishing.
The mountains in the Lick Creek range are granitic and gneiss, an excellent example of the Idaho batholith. The peaks tend to have steep north faces with gentler south slopes. The north faces are probably the result of glaciation, but there are no glaciers left. Most of the area is above 5000’, so it receives lots of snow and holds it well, with pockets on north faces lasting most of the summer, and a rare few snow patches even remain year-round.
The closest town is scenic McCall, Idaho. For more info on McCall, see the links below.
About 25 miles south, Cascade rests just past the southern terminus of the range. In-between, two very smalls towns offer minimal amenities: Lake Fork and Donnelly.
Climbing and HikingThe Lick Creek range offers wonderful opportunities for wildness, solitude, and adventure. It is not heavily used, so you have to be ready to explore and also to take care of yourself. But for the person looking for adventure on foot, there are many rewards.
All of the peaks in the Lick Creek range are accessible as Class 3 or easier climbs. The greater challenge will be finding an acceptable route, because what few trails are there are either not maintained, or not even marked. A few of the standard routes on the peak pages are Class 4, but with some work they go easier. Nick Peak is an example.
However, there are technical climbs established. Traditional and bolted routes to 5.10 (and a few even higher) exist on Slick Rock, Jughandle, and the Needles. Some wild backcountry rock has not seen any attempts (at least no known attempts): check out the 500' face of Storm Dome. For something aesthetic and wild but a bit easier, check out the slabs on the southeast shoulder of Beaverdam Peak. SPer Luddite has a trip report of that area in his blog.
The hiking in this area focuses primarily on fishing, so the major trails tend to lead to lakes. There here are many, many lakes in this area. Some have established (but not really maintained) trails to them, but many are trail-less, so are difficult to find even with a map and compass. Here are a few of the better-known and more easily found lakes in no particular order:
- Duck Lake (Lick Creek summit)
- Duck Lake (west of Granite Mountain, aka "Other Ducker" according to my father)
- Loon Lake
- Box Lake
- Snowslide Lake
- Louie Lake
- Golden Lake
- Boulder Lake
- Twenty Mile Lakes
- Enos Lake
- ThirtyThree Lake
- Cly Lakes
- Crystal Lake
- Rapid Lake
Peak ListThese are some of the main summits, ordered by elevation.
Note: There are quite a few more unnamed peaks in the range. More links, images, and information will be added as they become available.
Lick Creek Road
From downtown McCall, take the Lick Creek road, also signed as the turn for Ponderosa State Park. Turn right after the golf course, then take another right off the pavement (signed) in about three miles
Warren Wagon Road
From downtown McCall, head clockwise around Payette Lake to Warren Wagon Road, which continues around the lake. At the north end of the lake, stay on the pavement. This road will take you past Upper Payette Lake to Burgdorf junction. From there, you can continue down the road (now good dirt) along the Secesh River.
A few of the access points are connected to roads leading directly from Highway 55 south of McCall.
Red TapeNo real red tape. No registration or reservations required.
Some campgrounds are fee-based.
CampingCamping is available at many sites along the access routes discussed in Getting There.
On Lick Creek Road, the nicest campground is the Lake Fork Creek campground, about 10 miles before Lick Creek Summit. The campground is quite nice (although primitive), but also quite popular. Normal Forest Service fees etc. apply.
On Warren Wagon Road, Upper Payette Lake has very nice lake-side camping. However, it is a popular spot so may require reservations.
For something more civilized, you can stay in McCall at either one of the many hotels, or try Ponderosa State Park (usually requires reservations).
Last, the Lick Creek range lends itself to backpacking. Generally, you won't see many people. The fishing tends to be good to fantastic.
External LinksGuide books
Idaho: A Climbing Guide; Tom Lopez
Hiking & Angling in McCall, Idaho; Roger Phillips
Hiking Idaho, 2nd; Ralph Maughan
Points of Prominence, Fire Lookouts of the Payette National Forest
McCall area info
Payette National Forest
City of McCall
McCall Chamber of Commerce
McCall, Idaho wiki
Weather and road conditions
McCall area web cams (including Brundage Mountain, the local ski area)
Idaho road conditions