I’ve always been heavy into four-wheeling and dirt bikes, yet snowmobiling was always on the back burner when it came to motorized fun. Perhaps it’s because I grew up skiing and snowboarding – two activities that tend to take up most of my free time during the winter. This year I decided to try something different. I wanted to explore Idaho from a new perspective, on a high-powered sled.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Racing down the side of West Mountain. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

I was determined to conquer the art of snowmobiling, so I took a short drive to West Mountain just outside of McCall to explore hundreds of miles of trail systems. I was not disappointed – upon my arrival I found some of the most incredible backcountry, boondocking, and trails you’ll find anywhere in the Northwest.

Getting There

A river winding through a snowy valley.
Views from the Payette River Scenic Byway.

From Boise, take ID-55 North for approximately 87 miles. Continue on West Roseberry Road – take Forest 427 and West Mountain Road to Village Drive. From there, you will have a broad range of options of what trail to ride. To view the Northern and Southern trail maps click here.

Snowmobiling McCall’s Southern Trails

The McCall area has been known to receive the highest average snowfall in the state, making for some of the best snowmobiling in the lower 48. The jagged high mountain terrain offers riders hair-raising mountain views and unrivaled trails.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Soaking in the views near West Mountain outside of McCall. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

McCall has four groomers that consistently maintain the 750 miles of trails. In addition to expertly groomed trails, the Northern and Southern recreational areas boast thousands of acres of snow-covered backcountry.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Weaving through droves of trees on the back of a snowmobile. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

For this trip in the McCall area, I chose to sift through the Southern trails. It had snowed a foot the day before but my journey began with clear blue skies. My friends, Bond and Colton, joined me for the backcountry tour as they are experts in this arena and live just outside of Donnelly – lucky for me this is their, “backyard.”

If you’re visiting and don’t have a “Bond” or “Colton” of your own to help navigate the terrain, there are plenty of guides and rental shops in the area. For more information on snowmobile rentals and guided tours in McCall, visit CM Backcountry Rentals or Cheap Thrills online.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Ripping up West Mountain on the back of a snowmobile. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

As we headed out, Bond and Colton led me up between towering snow-covered trees, stopping whenever I wanted pictures or an action shot of Colton tearing up the trails. West Mountain was completely secluded and we didn’t see another soul the entire excursion. Honestly, I preferred it that way. It felt as though the mountain was our own personal playground. I think that the feeling would be similar to having an entire ski resort to yourself – I’ve never had that luxury, but I imagine it would be unbelievable.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Ripping through a pile of powder near Tamarack. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

There were several open spaces on West Mountain where we could play and race each other around the rows of trees in fields of powder.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Emerging from a pile of snow just outside of McCall. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

With the expertise of Bond and Colton and our buddy system in place, we explored some of the untracked snow the mountain had to offer. I got stuck a handful of times in deep snow and had to be pulled out, but it was all part of the experience.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Ripping over the edge of West Mountain. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

To tell you the truth, the views are amazing no matter where you go in this area, whether it’s off the beaten path or on a well-groomed trail. Just make sure you have a guide if you decide to venture out into the unknown on your first trip.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Catching some air on the back of a high-powered sled. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

I’ll be up again soon to explore the Northern trails before the snow melts. I think I found a new favorite hobby.


There are several options for parking depending on whether you ride the Northern recreational area or the Southern.

A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Getting ready to tear through Idaho’s backcountry on a high-powered snowmobile. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

Snowmobile parking is accessible at the low elevation Francis Wallace and Green Gate parking lots on Warren Wagon Road. Additional spaces can be found at the Goose Creek High Elevation lot close to Brundage Mountain Resort and also at the West Face parking lot off of Highway 55.

An easily accessible lot can also be found north of Tamarack Falls on West Mountain Road just west of Donnelly.

Trip Tips

  • Check the condition of the trails you plan to explore before you set out.
  • Bring a first-aid kit in case of emergency.
  • Wear proper attire: Goggles, waterproof gloves, waterproof clothing, rubber-lined boots, and a snowmobile approved helmet.
  • Avoid injury by being alert when loading snowmobiles on and off of trailers.
  • Trail maps with routes, mileages and GPS coordinates for junctions can be purchased from most snowmobile retailers and outfitters in the McCall area.
A snowmobiler exploring backcountry.
Powering up the side of West Mountain on the back of a snowmobile. Photo Credit: Bond Campbell

There are many outfitters ready to guide you and your family through Idaho’s beautiful winter backcountry. Check out the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Association or the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board to find your next snowmobile adventure. I’ll see you out on the trails!

This author is a paid content writer for Idaho Tourism.

Tyler Schnur

Published on March 8, 2016