Square Top Mountain sits in the roadless backcountry east and south of McCall, Idaho. It is a remote summit requiring a long approach hike. The effort is worth it, because Square Top offers up wonderful views of a whole swath of wild country.
Round trip distance: 14.5 miles
Elevation gain (total): 3500'
Expected time: 7-10 hours
View of the peak from a spur trail to a saddle on the approach hike.
A view of the summit through the trees on the approach hike
Square Top Lake sits in a basin to the east. The view to the distance is the South Fork of the Salmon River
From McCall Idaho, drive south on Highway 55 toward Donnelly (or from Donnelly, head north). Turn east on the signed Paddy Flats road. For the first mile or so, the Paddy Flats road is paved, then becomes good gravel/dirt for most of the next 16 miles to the Kennally Creek campground. Simply follow the signs, although a Forest Service map (Boise National Forest) is advised. The last mile and a half is a little rougher, but still easily passable in a passenger car.
The scenic start to the approach hike.This section is rideable on a mountain bike, and bikes are legal. But shortly after, you'll have to ditch the bike in the woods and walk.
At the entrance to the Kennally Creek campground, park as the large area in front of the horse ramp. The trailhead kiosk and trail are about 50 yards further in, but there is not good parking right there.
Start walking up the Kennally Creek trail and enjoy the views of the creek. At about a mile, cross the creek on a bridge. Shortly after, take the right fork in the tail toward Needles Summit (pass).
Follow the Needles Summit trail past the sign pointing to Blackmare Lake and continue toward Needles Summit. After the sign, you will encounter considerable downfall on the trail. Persevere.
After Needles Summit, continue on a very faint trail (it's there, honest!). When you pass through the next saddle, the trail sharply descends about 100' of elevation onto a large flats. From here, leave the trail and navigate the short distance to the base of the peak and work your way up its southwest ridge. If you veer right, you can include a short section of Class 3 scrambling. If you prefer to keep it Class 2, stay left to the summit.
This shows the route from Needles Summit (in the distance) toward Square Top
This map shows the standard route to Square Top Mountain.
The view of the Needles from the approach to Square Top
No parking fees, camping fees, or whatever.
However, when Old Man Winter visits here he sits long and hard. Paddy Flats Road is closed every year just east of the end of the pavement.
From the summit of Square Top, this is looking north-northeast into the South Fork of the Salmon River
When to Climb
Summer and Fall. Paddy Flats Road is usually closed from late October until sometime in June.
This trail sign says No Trail.
Kennally Creek campground is a USFS campground and fairly popular.
Blackmare Lake makes a good backpacking destination, although the sign indicating the turnoff to the lake says "No trail". WE do not know why Blackmare Lake is under Square Top Mountain, when Blackmare Peak is 4 or 5 miles away.