It doesn’t get much further off the beaten path than Warren, Idaho. As you enter this rustic mining relic, signage stating “Since 1862” informs you that this place has been around for a very long time.
Warren was originally settled as a gold mining town. It still boasts an active mining culture but has broadened its horizons as a major access point for public-lands managers charged with maintaining the adjacent Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness—a dirt airstrip and some U.S Forest Service buildings are the first things you see when entering Warren.
Various scenic drainages abut the route to Warren, including the Secesh River and North Fork of the Payette on the McCall side and the South Fork of the Salmon on the Yellowpine side. The fishing is excellent during summer months in this region with its high mountain lakes, streams and rivers.
If backpacking is your bag, then this area is hard to beat. One of the best hikes in Idaho is the trek to 20 Mile Lakes just down the road from Upper Payette Lake. Fires from 1994 and 2000 have scarred parts of northern Valley County and southern Idaho County, making for an interesting landscape—with old torched trees towering above young conifers and green grasses.
Burgdorf Hot Springs is also a great relaxation spot along the way. Just 30 miles from McCall, the hot pools are a real treat, and camping and cabin rentals make it an easy overnight trip.
Getting There: Leaving McCall around 2 p.m. atop my KLR 650, I made my way north of McCall on Warren Wagon Road. Skirting the western edge of Payette Lake, the luxurious waterfront cabins became sparse as I neared North Beach.
The road begins to wind its way up past several trailheads before flattening out near the turnoff for Burgdorf.
Just past the turnoff, the road turns to gravel and runs alongside the Secesh River for several miles. I passed through the town of Secesh with the intention of stopping off at the old Stage Stop, but it has closed since my last trip up there many years ago.
The last 20 miles into Warren are punctuated by steep but well-kept grades and excellent panoramas. Dropping into Warren, remnant piles of rock from former dredge mining claims begin to appear along Warren Creek. A hop and a skip up the road—past the airstrip—and I had arrived at my destination.
A brief stop for refreshments at the local watering hole and I was on my way back to McCall in time for dinner.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can continue an additional 62 miles into Yellowpine, which leads back to Cascade and the heavily traveled Highway 55 corridor. Or you can tack an additional 57 miles on your trek and end up at Deadwood Reservoir between Lowman and Crouch (see alternate route below). Always check road conditions before you go, as these areas are remote and highly subject to the whims of Mother Nature.
Total Distance: 46 miles each way from McCall, 16 on dirt
Alternate Route From Boise: