Backpacking Hazard Lakes and Hidden Lake – McCall, ID

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A relatively short drive from Boise, ID, and a very short drive from McCall, ID make this hike a quick getaway for the weekend warrior. This hike will put you high in the western edge of Idaho’s central mountains, away from many people, with great views and easy trails.

The trailhead begins at a campground with 12 sites on Hazard Lake. Elevation starts at 7,600. From here you can hike north to Big Hazard, only a short distance, or head south, uphill, towards Upper Hazard. The hike is under 2 miles. In parts the trail follows a Brook Trout filled stream, whose willowy banks lazily flow through grass meadows, perfect for catching amphibians and spotting birds, then gains elevation. You will walk through old burns, where the succession of flora has taken over the forest floor for several years now.

After some very mild switch-backs, the trail levels out and you can spot what must be where the lake sits, judging by the mountain in front of you, creating a dead end. Walk through the grass meadow or follow the trail and the blue waters of Upper Hazard shine brilliantly through trees with a basalt spire called Bruin Mountain that rises behind it to the south.

Backpacking IdahoThere are a number of backcountry sites to set up camp all around the lake, under 10 sites in all though. I recommend looking for the grassy spot on the southeast side
of the lake, just under the mountain, for an incredible sunset view on the lake. For the rest of the day you can climb the peak behind you, Bruin Mountain, fairly easily. The view offers vista to the north that includes the Hazard lakes and the Salmon Mountains to the north. Late in summer a small amount of ice remains, filling a tarn that can be sipped from without filtration (or at least we did and here we are still alive, dysentery free). A friend of mine concluded, it was the “quietest place” he’d “ever been,” according to his Facebook.

Backpacking IdahoThe next day we continued on our way to Hidden Lake. Hiking to the west, up and over a ridge, the trail flattens out as you pass by Hard Creek Lake. Continue on the
trail. Look for signs to Hidden Lake shortly after Hard Creek Lake. We somehow missed the signage, realized we were going the wrong way, went off trail uphill, wondered for quite some time, and eventually found the lake. A good sidenote: If you ever get lost going toward an alpine lake, look for “crotches” in the mountains above you. These are gathering places for water carved by glaciers. Anyways, we did that, and it led us to Hidden Lake. There are trophy sized trout in there so bring a fly rod.

backpacking IdahoThe next day we hiked out the way we came in all in one stint, although you can follow the loop back towards the road that leads to main Hazard Campground. This hike is an easy one, great for newbie’s, great for fishing, great for peaking, and great for off trail exploring, since most high views keep the lakes within sight.

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