This past weekend I had quite the adventure! I put my mountain biking skills to the test, and took one of Shore Lodge’s Trek Fuel EX 6 full-suspension mountain bikes (available as rentals exclusively for Shore Lodge guests) on an exciting ride to Loon Lake. Let me set the stage so that you can better understand why I’ve been so excited for this adventure: picture gorgeous high-mountain lake scenery with historic airplane wreckage to weave your way through. Pique your interest, too? It certainly had my attention so off we went!
Loon Lake is located about 40 miles north of McCall. It is a pretty straight shot from Shore Lodge to get to the trailhead – take a right out of the resort’s east entrance and follow Warren Wagon Rd. past upper Payette Lake, Burgdorf Junction (the road turns to dirt here) and continue past the small housing development of Secesh. After passing through the last cluster of cabins in Secesh, keep an eye out for the Chinook Campground/Loon Lake Trailhead sign and turnoff on your right. Turn at the sign and head another 1-2 miles to the Loon Lake Trailhead. The trail to get there is an adventure in its own right and is open to hikers, mountain bikers, motorcyclists and equestrians, so be courteous to those around you.
From an elevation perspective, the route to Loon Lake can be a bit deceiving. The lake is only about 150 feet higher in elevation than the trailhead to get there, but don’t let this fool you, there is a substantial amount of climbing (and of course some sweet downhill riding) to get there. Overall, I would consider the trail fairly technical and appropriate for intermediate riders. You will encounter a fair amount of rocks, boulders and roots to navigate throughout the 5 mile trip to the lake along with some decent climbing time. But the scenery makes it worth it.
The area is absolutely beautiful, especially during the fall. A substantial amount of the area was affected by the Blackwell fire in 1994, so much of the forest is continuing to go through its re-growth period, but it still exudes awe-inspiring beauty. Multiple boardwalks bridge small streams and the trail crosses the gorgeous and salmon-bearing Secesh River. Simply stunning. Once you catch your first sight of the lake, you still have about 2 miles to go.
The highlight of my visit was seeing the airplane wreckage. In January of 1943, a B-23 Dragon Bomber did an emergency landing across the frozen lake and came to rest just off the southern shore of the lake. To get to the wreckage you’ll have to travel the last mile or so through a small campground on the southern shore and cross the lake’s inlet- be careful though, the lodge pole bridge is a bit rickety and the crystal clear water below is chilly!
For bikers, I would recommend leaving your bikes before the campground and traveling the last mile or so on foot, as the trail becomes extremely rocky and ends in a marshy area that would be a difficult ride on. The wreckage lies about 150 feet off the southern shore, and relax, the story ends well. All of the crew members were rescued and a broken kneecap was the worst injury. Looking for a photo of the wreckage? Hit the trail and see for yourself – I promise it’s absolutely worth it. The giant engines are exposed, one wing is still attached and you can easily see right into the cockpit. It is incredible to see such an amazing piece of history up close. If you decide to make the trek too, be sure to share your experience with me!
Until next time, Happy Trails!