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A Visitor’s Guide to Little Payette Lake, Idaho

The Best Rental Cabins, Homes, Lakefront Estates and Romantic Getaways in McCall, Donnelly, Cascade & New Meadows

Idaho certainly lives up to its outdoors mecca hype. Gorgeous pine forests, endless mountains, rivers, lakes, and wildlife straight out of a movie. There are many reasons to stay in this beautiful state, and long-time visitors know there is more than meets the eye.

While many locals typically think of Payette Lake and Cascade Lake first when planning a day trip adventure near McCall, Idaho, there is an off-the-beaten-path that gem that shouldn’t be missed.

Little Payette Lake offers the same fun activities for the whole family, from fishing, swimming, and boating to simply lounging and taking in the fresh air and stunning landscapes without the crowds.

For visitors looking for an outdoor getaway at a McCall vacation home rental, there are plenty of reasons to head over to Little Payette Lake.

Take a look at this visitor’s guide to make the most of your trip to Little Payette Lake!

About Little Payette Lake

Photo Credit: Charles Knowles

Situated just 5.7 miles east of the center of McCall, Little Payette Lake is a breathtaking spot with quite a bit to offer despite its tiny name.

This quaint lake is a tributary to North Fork Payette River, and once upon a time, Little Payette Lake was even littler! Then, in the mid-20th century, locals dammed up the lake, nearly tripling its size to its current footprint of around 1400 acres.

Little Payette wasn’t always known for its great fishing, either. In the late 1980s, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission enacted a management plan to replace the smaller, overpopulated fish species like Kokanee with hearty Canadian rainbow trout. Then, in 2020, the commission recently transplanted over 600 adult smallmouth bass to the lake from nearby waterways like the Oxbow Reservoir.

With these interventions, the lake today stands as one of the better fishing spots in the area and has plenty of space for visitors to recreate.

Why Spend the Day at Little Payette Lake?

Why not stick to Payette Lake or Lake Cascade? Well, first off, bigger isn’t always better. These lakes are gorgeous, but Little Payette Lake is arguably a better destination for outdoor adventurers looking to escape crowds, especially during busy seasons.

In addition, this lake is close enough to town to make a pleasant day trip. No long drives required! Lastly, it’s a fantastic family destination that is easily accessible for families with young kids that provides plenty of opportunities for mini adventures.

What Can You Do at Little Payette Lake?

Visitors can do any of the typical lake activities at Little Payette Lake with the added convenience of more privacy and seclusion.

While there are plenty of other lakes in the area, Little Payette Lake stands out for its beauty and tranquility while still providing an abundance of activities for the whole family.


Photo Credit: TeodorLazarev

McCall hosts an abundance of great fishing opportunities. Because the lake is so close to town, avid anglers can easily sneak out for some dawn fishing and be back in time for brunch with the fam! Can’t beat that!

Little Payette Lake is well-known for its excellent on-site trout fishing and the variety of other freshwater fish, such as smallmouth bass, crappie, walleye, tiger muskie, and perch.

The easy access to the water makes it an ideal spot for anglers of all ages and experience levels and particularly enjoyable for introducing young ones to the sport. Plenty of trophy trout have been caught in Little Payette, so don’t miss the opportunity to catch some big fish!

Ice Fishing

Photo Credit: Alexander Lukatskiy

Little Payette becomes a winter wonderland come December, enchanting those who visit with its crystal-clear blue waters and snow-covered surroundings. With temperatures dipping below freezing, ice fishing enthusiasts will find themselves drawn to this idyllic location, eager to drop their lines and see what they can catch.

As they patiently wait for a bite, they’ll enjoy the peacefulness and serenity that comes with being surrounded by nothing but the beauty of the lake.


Photo Credit: Zoran Zeremski

In the warm weather, the lake also offers many deep, clean areas for swimming, with easy lake access beaches and docks and plenty of shallow waters for children.

In the drier summer months, the water can get fairly low, which makes for extra fun because of the many fallen trees that become exposed. Test your balance or pretend to be a team of beavers while you explore the piles of logs.


Photo Credit: LadyLesBois

Despite its modest size, Little Payette Lake is still plenty large enough for kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddleboarding. In addition, there are plenty of easy-access launch points, and the lake tends to be calm and serene year-round.

Enjoy a relaxing paddle; just watch out for the occasional snag in the water during the low season!

Ice Skating

Photo Credit: Vit Kovalcik

Winter is excellent for ice skating and even ice fishing. Just ensure the ice is thick and you’ve had many days of significantly cold weather before heading out. If in doubt, feel free to call up Idaho Fish and Game or ask locals about the ice conditions.

Getting There

The lake is close to Downtown McCall, so getting there is easy if you stay at a local vacation home.

Travelers staying in McCall can’t mess up the route to Little Payette. If you want to hit the lake’s north side, simply take Lake Street on the north side of town all the way to the lake.

Continue on the same road if you’re more interested in the east side of the lake. If heading to the south side, take South 3rd Street to Durham/Elo Road and then take Boulder Lake Road the rest of the way.

Things to Do Nearby

  • Go for a hike. There is plenty of great hiking in the McCall area. In particular, Box Lake Trailhead is just a few miles further up the road from Little Payette Lake.
  • Check out the views. Nearby Snowslide and Sawtooth Peaks offer up tremendous vistas.
  • Go biking. Little Payette also puts you very close to plenty of opportunities to go biking in nearby Ponderosa State Park.
  • Check out local sanctuaries. Animal lovers might also want to visit the nearby Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. This 32-acre wildlife rehab center focuses on rescuing, rehabilitating, and returning the local wildlife to nature after they are better.
  • Have a picnic. Proximity to town means you can pack a picnic and eat at the lake or work up an appetite and head back to civilization for a delicious lunch or dinner by the selection of eateries in town.

Big Fun at Little Payette
Idaho still reigns supreme as one of the most beautiful and serene places in the U.S., especially because of vibrant and picturesque spots like Little Payette Lake. Located in the heart of the Gem State, the lake welcomes visitors with open arms.

If it’s your first time staying at a vacation home in Idaho state, you can’t beat the easy drive from Boise, and if you’re already familiar with the area, Little Payette is a great way to deepen your knowledge of the region.

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