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Explore Payette National Forest Backcountry Lakes

Two Grass Mountain lakes make for picture-perfect hikes

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The Payette National Forest contains an abundance of high mountain lakes, and by any reckoning, the two Grass Mountain Lakes should be counted among the best. These two gems, located in the Grass Mountains—a subrange of the Salmon River Mountains—are simply stunning.

Appropriately named, the two lakes are a quarter-mile apart and are bordered on their northern perimeters by pockets of tall green grass and dense forest. To the south, an unnamed peak rises more than 600 feet to an 8,156-foot summit. Green fir trees, gray talus and a kaleidoscope of wildflowers make this an excellent destination in July and August. Backpackers will find plenty of flat spots to call home for the night. Families will find this hike enticing with the outstanding scenery, low elevation gain (750 feet) and short hike distance (3.8 miles out and back).

To find the trailhead from downtown McCall, drive west on Hwy. 55 for 5.5 miles and turn right onto the paved Brundage Mountain—Goose Lake Road. Proceed 18.2 miles (the road turns to gravel after 3.8 miles) to the large parking area on the right side of the road. The trailhead is located on the opposite side of the road.

From the trailhead, make an easy climb to a signed junction at two-tenths of a mile. Turn left, ascending an open hillside with inspiring views and colorful wildflowers. The trail passes beneath dense forest and eventually reaches an unsigned junction at 1.4 miles. The left fork travels another quarter mile to the eastern lake. To find the lake that lies to the west, take the right fork and enter a lush meadow painted with yellow composites and purple shooting stars. At the next unsigned junction, turn left and follow the footpath to the lake.

Those looking for additional adventure and scenery can take the right fork at the second unsigned junction and ascend 400 feet to a divide with sensational views. Continue west a half mile to a signed junction for Coffee Cup Lake, which glistens 400 feet below. Here, you can follow the trail down to Coffee Cup or continue west another 2.5 miles to Morgan Lake.

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