Loon Lake Loop Hike
The Loon Lake Loop Hike is a staple adventure in the Payette National Forest. Boasting a demanding hike, this path offers a variety of scenery to indulge in along the way. Explore the lively wilderness, revel in the scenes of the idyllic lake framed by the crests of the Salmon River Mountains, and visit a historic plane crash site. What more could you ask for?
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Route Description for Loon Lake Loop Hike
A hike along the Long Lake Loop is a rite of passage when visiting the Payette National Forest. While this path is well-traveled, is it primitive and subject to blow down—but that’s all part of the fun, right? Wear a sturdy pair of footwear and come prepared to do some scrambling and creek crossings. Although most can easily navigate the circuit, we encourage hikers to download the trail GPS as the overgrowth can impede the worn trails. As this route travels deep into the backcountry, it is important to be mindful of bears, moose, deer, etc. If you spot wildlife, be sure to admire them from a safe distance.
Exhibiting a diversity of flora and fauna and a plethora of amazing scenery, the Loon Lake Loop beckons the exploration of international adventurers. While not the shortest excursion, the gradual terrain and absence of technical terrain warrants ideal conditions for intermediate hikers and families with older children. This beautiful trail wanders along lazy moving rivers, through lush regrowth, dense woodlands, and meandering creeks before opening to the alpine pool. A magnet for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike, this route also offers the opportunity to explore the remains of the B23 Bomber Crash Site on the south shore of Loon Lake. Don’t forget your camera; the scenery is quite photogenic!
With plenty of water, a camera, and the trail GPS in tow, begin your adventure along the Loon Lake Loop from the Trailhead off National Forest Road 080 in the Chinook Campground. Here, you will be confronted with two routes; take the rightmost path signposted as the Loon Creek/Loon Lake Trail. Traveling southwestwardly, you will be diverted away from the Secesh River and into the meadowlands adorned with several scar-burned trees. Gently undulating through the backcountry, you will eventually reach an intersection at the Victor Creek Bridge. There are several branching routes here, so make sure you maintain along the Loon Creek/Loon Lake Trail.
From here, you will enter into a swathe of lush vegetation, including towering pines and vibrant grasslands. At the subsequent junction, keep right, and you will shortly reach the shoreline of Loon Lake. Revel in the beauty of the glittering pool encircled by verdant trees and framed by the granite crests of the Lick Creek Range. Turn right at this intersection, and you will be diverted onto the Duck Lake Trail. This path progresses along the western lakeshore before merging left onto the primitive trail to the B23 Crash Site. Tracking east, you will explore marshlands before arriving at the wreckage. Explore the historical remains, then continue along the shoreline trail, heading north and crossing over Loon Creek. Be mindful of leeches if you or your pup take a dip!
When you ultimately complete the circuit around the lake, retrace your footing along the Loon Creek/Loon Lake Trail briefly before turning right onto the Loon Creek Trail Loop at the following intersection. Gradually descending through an exposed meadow along Loon Creek, you will reach a bridge over the Secesh River. Beyond this point, the Loon Creek Trail Loop meanders through the valley, hugging the curves of the winding river. Enjoy the seclusion and shade along this section of the hike.
Keeping an eye out for moose and bears camouflaging in the woodlands along the way, you will eventually reach your adventure’s end when you return to the trailhead in the Chinook Campground.
B23 Bomber Crash Site
On the south shore of Loon Lake, you will find aircraft remains from the 1943 crash. On January 29, 1943, a Dragon Bomber occupied by eight men was flying through a snowstorm and was unable to maintain altitude due to extreme conditions and icing and had to crash land on Loon Lake, which was frozen at the time. All eight men survived, and the wreckage remains in a clearing overlooking the lake. There are plaques at the site depicting a more in-depth history of the crash.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the Loon Lake Loop?
The Loon Lake Loop is an 19.2 km hike in the Payette National Forest.
Where is Loon Lake, Idaho?
Loon Lake, Idaho is located in the Payette National Forest, north of McCall.
Insider Hints for Loon Lake Loop Hike
- There is potable water at the Chinook Campground
- Park at the designated trailhead parking
- Be wary of leeches in Loon Lake
- Come prepared to do some bushwhacking and scrambling over fallen trees
- The walk to the Bomber travels through marshy grasslands, so expect wet and muddy conditions
- Head out in the early morning to beat the crowds
- Bring the trail GPS to easily navigate the route
Getting to the Loon Lake Loop Hike Trailhead
The Loon Lake Loop Hike departs from the Loon Creek Trailhead off National Forest Road 080.
Loon Lake Loop Hike Elevation Graph
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