from foot of S. Loon
North Loon Mountain is one of Idaho's 2000 foot prominence peaks
. It is a remote peak in the mountains above McCall, Idaho, which shares a ridge line with South Loon Mountain
. These mountains are mostly granite, with moderate south slopes and precipitous north sides. The route described here for North Loon takes the moderate south slope.
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
. However, if one is skilled at navigation the terrain lends itself to cross-country travel (a euphemism for the dreaded "bushwacking").
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.
Route Stats (RT)
- Distance: 19 miles
- Gain: 7100'
- Class: 2 to 3
North and South Loons
This climb can be accessed in any car, assuming you go when the road is snow-free. The snow generally leaves the upper portion of Lick Creek Road by mid-June. However, in any season it is a long, bumpy drive.
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.
N. Loon from Enos #2
From the trailhead, follow the trail to Duck Lake, about 1 mile and 430' gain.
Walk north up the valley past Duck Lake to a trail intersection at about 1.2 miles farther and 200' higher. Turn right and head uphill. There is a trail; you just have to look for it (a lot).
After another mile and 900' gain, you will top a ridge. Descend the other side on even more marginal trail, then leave the trail (if you are still on it), heading northwest. Pass the the two unnamed lakes (on either side….), then continue to angle northwest as you climb gradually. Eventually, you will meet another trail.
Follow the trail north until you reach the south ridge of South Loon. From here, follow a climber's trail (if you can find it) over the saddle to the east of South Loon, heading for Enos Lake. Follow the now more-obvious trial to Enos, then head around the lake clockwise on a fisherman's trail. Where you deem it appropriate or easiest, head uphill and for the open slopes to the southeast of North Loon. Gain the east ridge and walk easy terrain until you get to the boulder field. Scramble the best line to the top. The summit is to the right (north).
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.
Loons from 8808
View from Victor
No red tape.
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.
Payette national Forest
City of McCall
Splattski trip report
Brundage Mountain web cams (including McCall)
Idaho road conditions
For additional information on this climb and other peaks in the area, please see Tom Lopez's excellent book, Idaho: A Climbing Guide
Loon Creek Panorama