The Long Valley has always been a place of boom or bust. Back in the day, it was the timber industry that determined the fate of the community. Now, it's tourism.
McCall has long been a favorite destination for those seeking the cool mountain air and scent of pine trees. With the stunning Payette Lake as a backdrop, the little picturesque town attracts those looking for a little fishing, waterskiing or overall relaxing in the summer, while winter means hours spent on Nordic trails.
Ponderosa State Park (parksandrecreation.idaho.gov) is an outdoor haven regardless of the season—summer hiking trails turn into lakeside Nordic trails once the snow starts piling up. When it comes to snow, few Idaho resorts can hold a candle to Brundage Mountain Resort (brundage.com), which draws skiers from across the region in search of some hidden lines and deep powder.
When temperatures are at their coldest, Idahoans make the sometimes-treacherous drive to the McCall Winter Carnival (mccallchamber.org) for two weekends filled with family-friendly events, including giant snow sculptures and the wild Mardi Gras parade.
But beyond outdoor adventures, McCall is also a central Idaho art hub, with numerous galleries lining its streets, as well as the occasional art and craft show (mccallchamber.org).
In between McCall and Donnelly, Jug Mountain Ranch (jugmountainranch.com) is a hidden gem, offering a spectacular links-style golf course, a gourmet restaurant and Christmas time horse-drawn sleigh rides.
To the south, Donnelly has had a harder time in recent years. The prospect of a new world-class ski area—Tamarack Resort (tamarackidaho.com)—brought with it a boom in jobs, construction and even housing prices. But when the resort filed for bankruptcy in 2009, everything came to a crashing halt.
The tiny town and half-built resort experienced a mass exodus, leaving many struggling. But hope returned in 2010, when not only did the resort's Osprey Meadows Golf Course open for the season but a group of homeowners banded together to get the lifts running for the ski season.
Despite the issues with ownership, tourists can still enjoy limited amenities, with plenty of hiking, biking, skiing and water-based pursuits on nearby Lake Cascade.
While Donnelly is a tiny town, it still manages to pull out the stops for its annual Huckleberry Festival (donnellychamber.org), where that oh-so-prized berry of summer is honored. Of course, you can always get your fill of huckleberry goodness when the berries are in season with a stop by Flight of Fancy (282 N. Main St.), where baking with the berries has been made into an art form.