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Escape the Smoke in Payette National Forest at Goose Creek Falls

McCall-area hike follows the crystal-clear Goose Creek

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With all of the smoke from the Halstead and Trinity Ridge fires, your best bet for avoiding a gray skyline and congested lungs is to explore the Payette National Forest outside of McCall.

A wonderful journey is the hike to Goose Creek Falls from the Last Chance Campground trailhead. The five-mile hike (out and back) meanders through a dense forest of Douglas fir, spruce and pine. Lichen-covered boulders and the nearby Goose Creek add to the scenery.

The trail eventually takes you to Goose Creek Falls, an impressive waterfall that plummets 60 feet over gray granite into a large pool. The setting is complemented with shrubs and ferns, which flaunt their fall colors in hues of yellow, orange and red as the cool nights begin. Children will find the trail engaging with its modest grade, bridged creeks, granite boulders and variety of flora.

From the trailhead, hike north, paralleling Goose Creek through dense forest. The trail crosses several small creeks on bridges and bypasses a couple of huge granite boulders. Picnic opportunities abound during the first mile of hiking as the crystal-clear Goose Creek is always near.

The trail reaches a signed junction at 2.4 miles. Turn right, passing a small waterfall and ascend 100 feet to a granite outcropping that provides an overlook of the falls. For an impressive view of the falls, use caution and scramble 50 feet down the outcropping to the small pool below the falls.

For a longer hike, continue north on the trail a short distance to another junction. Turn right again and within 300 feet arrive at yet another junction, west of the bridge that fords Goose Creek. You can cross Goose Creek and ascend a steep 600 feet in 1.2 miles to the trail's end at Brundage Mountain-Goose Lake Road. The views of the surrounding area are sensational on the climb. Another alternative from the junction near the Goose Creek bridge is to continue north in a little more than three miles to the Brundage Reservoir.

Trailhead directions: From downtown McCall, drive west on Idaho 55 approximately eight miles and turn right onto the well-graveled FR 257. The road is located between mile markers 151 and 152. Follow the road 2.2 miles to a Y-intersection and turn right into the Last Chance Campground and drive .3 mile to the trailhead. There is parking for three to four vehicles.

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