Idaho is a beautiful state filled with incredible opportunities to leave your car, and the city, behind. Head out into the bountiful nature and mountain lakes that cover Idaho, from border to border. Can you think of any better way to spend your day than outside, underneath the clear Idaho skies? And there’s no better place, than right outside of McCall, Idaho to go exploring.
You’ll encounter beautiful scenery, a lake ready for swimming, birds and other wildlife waiting to be discovered, and even the wreckage of an old bomber, over half a century old. Loon Lake is a popular destination for outdoor lovers. Whether you go mountain biking, dirt bike riding, or simply hiking, Loon Lake is a great place to spend your day. It will make you fall in love with Idaho all over again, and it serves as a reminder of why you decided to make Idaho your home.
The Loon Lake Loop
Getting to the Loon Lake Loop is easy. You’ll head north from McCall, Idaho, following the Warren Wagon Road. After you have driven around 30 miles along mostly paved roads, you’ll pass a junction that leads off to Burgdorf Hot Springs. Past that, you’ll want to find the sign for the Chinook Campground. This will be on the right hand side of the road. You can either continue to the campground, or find a trailhead near a bridge. Either place is a great one to start, and there’s no wrong way to take the Loon Lake Loop.
The most popular walking loop leads out from the Chinook Campground, taking you through the Payette National Forest. You’ll begin along the banks of Secesh River, before winding your way to the incredible Loon Lake. The best part about this hike is that it’s not only beautiful, but it lets you take a walk back through history as well.
Heading out from the campground, your first few miles will follow along the Secesh River. This river is both beautiful and historic. The name might seem odd, and it’s pronounced “SEE-shesh.” The name actually stems from secessionist, and its history traces back to just after the Civil War. Gold was huge, and it drew prospectors from all over the United States. They settled in Warren, but conflict rose between the former Union and Confederate loyalists. Before long, lines were drawn to separate the two factions, with the Northerners staying in Warren, and the Southerners settling across the river. The river became known as the Secesh.
The loop will take you from the Secesh River up to Loon Lake. The northern end of the lake is relatively shallow, which causes it to warm up quicker. This is a popular spot for swimming, and once you test out the water, you’ll understand why. But the lake and river aren’t the only draws of this incredible loop. You’ll be able to encounter all sorts of wildlife, like loons and moose. And as you continue along the loop, you’ll travel once again into some incredible history.
The Fallen Dragon
On January 29th, 1943, a B-23 Dragon Bomber was forced to make an emergency landing. The eight-man crew was heading back to Washington from Nevada, but a severe Idaho snowstorm forced them to find a place to land. Lost, and with a malfunctioning radio, they were ready to abandon the plane and parachute out at 13,000 feet. But a break in the weather let the pilot see a frozen lake, and they made the call to try and land.
The first attempt was unsuccessful. Ice build on the wings and flaps made them abort the first attempt. The second attempt, however, was successful. The pilot landed the twin-engine bomber on the frozen lake, but the plane slid across the ice and 150 feet into the forest. The crash sheared off both wings. But they had landed. All eight men survived, with a broken kneecap being the only injury.
Unfortunately, their ordeal wasn’t over yet. They had gotten lost, and the pilot had radioed when he could that they were landing near Boise, Idaho. Instead, they were at Loon Lake, just outside of McCall. After waiting for five days, three men set out with only a shotgun and rations of chocolate to search for help. Fourteen days later, the men reached a ranger outpost and called for help. They had hiked nearly 42 miles, crossed a mountain pass, and fought their way through waist deep snow.
A bush pilot spotted the wreckage, and flew the crew out. He had to make two flights, but the rescue was successful. The eight-man crew survived over 20 days in the harsh Idaho winter with no food. The wrecked plane is still where it went down, slowly being overtaken by the forest. But if you hike out at Loon Lake, you can see the fallen dragon for yourself.