The elevation at the trailhead is nearly the same as at the lake, but to get from one point to the other across ridges and drainages requires a lot of accumulated gain and loss. Beginning at the Chinook Campground, trail Secesh River Trail #81 follows the gorgeous river through forest. A wildfire burned much of this area a few years ago so while the shade is not as dense as it once was, the area is recovering nicely.
What Makes It Great
A nice break spot at the big bridge crossing the river provides a chance to rest before the next stretch of trail. While only just over 1 ½ miles long, the Loon Creek Trail #84 that brings you to the lake is sandy and steep with long switchbacks. After this stretch, you'll feel like you’ve truly earned the reward of getting there. A short drop brings you down to Loon Lake. Surrounded by forest and high peaks, this is a lovely spot for lunch or camp if you are backpacking.
To check out the wreckage of the WWII B23 Dragon Bomber at the south end of the lake, travel overland along the east shore or, hike Loon Creek Trail along the west shore and then overland a shorter distance. The wreckage is just inside the trees a hundred feet from the lake with a signboard detailing the wreck.
Hike back along Loon Lake Trail #81 for about 4 miles to get back to the trailhead, completing the 9.3 mile loop. This section was burned worse than along the river and without the river right there, is not as dramatically beautiful. Still, the open trail provides nice views. You can also hike back the way you came, making the round trip distance come in at about 11.5 miles.
Stop in McCall on your way home for dinner after your day and have the pick of many great spots. The unassuming Salmon River Brewery has a great selection of taps, tasty burgers and often has live music out back.
Who is Going to Love It
The first section of trail is minimally difficult, and you can add more mileage to get in some more distance if you want to go further. This is a solid trail for a half day hike or trail run.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From McCall: Go North on Warren Wagonn Rd/Forest Rd. 21 until you get to Forest Rd. 378. Turn Right to Chinook Campground.