The best route (if there is one), car-to-car, is approximately 19.0 miles with a climb of over 4900'. Due to the need to cross two ridges on the way, there is about 7100' of actual gain. So for most folks this is a big day. For faster hikers, expect this to take about 12-15 hours.Although there are trails leading toward this area, they do not take you to the peak. Those that get close are often not maintained, so can be hard to follow at times. However, if one is skilled at navigation the terrain lends itself to cross-country travel (a euphemism for the dreaded "bushwacking").
Route Stats (RT)
- Distance: 19 miles
- Gain: 7100'
- Class: 2 to 3
First, get to McCall. Either take Highway 55 north for about 100 miles from Boise, or come south from Riggins and New Meadows.
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.
From downtown McCall, it is about 23 miles to Lick Creek Summit. Drive down the other side about 1/2 mile to the Duck Lake trailhead. There is room for quite a few cars, and the trailhead also includes a good toilet.
It's possible to access North Loon from Loon Lake, a popular hiking or mountain biking trail. However, no known ascents have been made this way and the terrain looks like a barrel full of bushwhacking. The photo of the Loons from 8808 shows what might be the route on the left side of the photo.
However, this is within big-game hunting area, so check the regulations and wear bright colors.
When to Climb
North Loon is in snow country, in a big way. From late November until late June, the road approaches are closed due to snow.
The closest official campground that is worth anything 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.
The map shows a Black Lee campground, but it's mostly just a dirt pull-out, and not recommended.
However, there are numerous unofficial campsites along Lake Fork Creek.
Or you can stay in McCall at either one of the many hotels, or try Ponderosa State Park (usually requires reservations).
The best option would be to camp at one of the many gorgeous lakes en route. Go light, because crawling over deadfall with a big pack can be *ahem* unpleasant.
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide