French Creek Loop

Explore mountain lakes, forests, hot springs, historic areas, and waterfalls along the 115-mile scenic French Creek Loop into Idaho’s backcountry. The route begins near Shore Lodge in McCall where travelers should merge off Highway 55 onto Warren Wagon Road. This road served as an important pack trail in the 1800s mining days and later became a well-traveled wagon road. Many old wagon ruts are still visible near the highway.

Continue on past Big Payette Lake to North Beach State Park. Depending on how much time you have available, stop for a swim, picnic, or a stroll along the beach. From the park, the road winds through granite cliffs lined with pine, fir, and aspen trees to the popular fishing spot at Upper Payette Lake. Proceed past Secesh Summit (where many visitors have reported moose-sightings) and continue to the trip’s 27.3-mile mark. Here, travelers should cross the Lake Creek Bridge and bear left on windy Forest Road 246, a road that was unbelievably considered a state highway in the late 1800s.

Now on Road 246, continue to the historic Burgdorf Hot Springs. Established by German immigrant, Fred Burgdorf, the hot springs are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue winding through the forest as the road climbs to its high point at mile 37.7 before descending down several hairpin turns into Salmon River country. At mile 42.1, note a pioneer cabin on the road’s left side. Built in 1900, a man named Edmundson lived there with his family until 1930 and it was a popular freight stop along the French Creek Road.

At mile 53.6, travelers will reach the junction of French Creek and Salmon River Roads. Proceeding left, the road winds through scenic canyons along the Salmon River. Many visitors stop for a stroll on the river’s banks or for a dip in the river. Swimmers, however, are highly urged to wear lifejackets as the river’s rapids can be dangerous.

The one-lane, steel Manning Bridge appears at the trip’s 58.3-mile mark. The Civilian Conservation Corps constructed the bridge in the 1930s, and although it appears rickety, it is safe for automobile crossings. Upon crossing the bridge, drive past the Spring Bar Campground and Allison Creek picnic area to the junction with Highway 95. Turn left here and proceed back to McCall. Along the way, check out the Rapid River Hatchery where salmon are raised, the waterfall on the Little Salmon River, Zim’s Hot Springs, and Packer John’s Cabin State Park. Travelers should allow at least 6 hours for this drive that primarily follows gravel roads.

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