Idaho : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Idaho - state review
McCall, Idaho is a mountain resort town with a stunning summer and the longest winter you’ll ever enjoy.
You also can’t call it spring around these parts because it’s just known as “mud season.”
This city is a gem nestled in the mountains and on a lake so far away from the average city there isn’t even a McDonald’s here.
McCall gets more snow than any other city in Idaho and winter amenities are built around this fact from the top (of the mountain) to the bottom (of the canyons).
You can Nordic hike, tube up a hill on a magic carpet ride and let gravity slide you down, or just soak in the mountain air on a deck overlooking Payette Lake.
Summers bring whitewater rafting, jet boating, mountain biking, and fishing and you haven’t seen fall colors until you’ve seen them from a zip line high above the Idaho mountains.
You can even keep an eye out for Sharlie the Lake Monster.
While just 4000 people call McCall home, certain events can bring more than 60,000 people to this small town.
If you are worried it might get too cold for you here, there’s always a hot spring ready to warm you up.
Of the couple hundred articles I’ve written for this website, if I could pick just one to actually go visit, I think McCall is right at the top of the list.. for now.
Warnings & Dangers in McCall
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk. With incredibly low crime numbers, like 10 violent crimes in 2020, and an overabundance of things to do, you can't lose in McCall. Well, you could forget to use the bear-proof trash can, and then you'd lose your trash and upset the neighbors. More on that to come.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Once you get to McCall, you can enjoy a free shuttle around town and it also goes 30 miles south to Cascade. Some ski resorts nearby offer shuttles from McCall and some don't so check ahead of time. You aren't going to find many taxis or rideshares here, and having a car would be ideal.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a better chance that a bear is going to rummage through your trash than someone rummaging through your pockets. You have a low risk of being pickpocketed, but don't let your guard down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Is it a risk of a winter storm if you want it to happen? This area gets 138 inches of snow each year. That's almost 12 feet. You need to be prepared for winter driving and survival here. Study up on avalanche safety too. When the ground thaws you'll risk flooding and wildfires. There might be an occasional earthquake too. An average day will have a low risk, but study up on emergency preparedness in McCall on the city's website.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There was one robbery in 2020 and just four robberies total since 2010. That's about as low of a risk as you get without no risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a terror attack here. It's a small town with no hard targets. An attack here would probably hurt wildlife more than people.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There have been some fake Chamber of Commerce flyers going around promising a free stay at a hotel. If you see a 1-800 number for the McCall Chamber of Commerce, it's likely a scam. Be sure to book through a local travel agent or directly with a resort to avoid a rental scam. Other than that, there's a low risk as long as you don't go looking for discounted ski passes on Craigslist.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Shopping, spas, unique dining, a Starbucks, and outdoor amenities in every direction? What's a woman NOT to love about McCall? There's a low risk, but use caution when going into the wilderness, and traveling with a buddy is preferable for safety reasons.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water is clean and safe to drink in McCall with no violations in the latest annual water quality report.
Safest Places to Visit in McCall
Whatever season, grab a cup of hot cocoa or iced coffee and stroll through the city of McCall on the Art Walk.
Feel free to visit the stores along the way.
There are art galleries downtown as well, showing everything from local art to Native American historical art.
You can even do the McCall Ale Trail downtown if you’re into craft beer.
The Central Idaho Historical Museum sits on four acres with eight buildings dating back almost 100 years.
For more history, the town of Roseberry is just 15 miles south and has a whole town built in the spirit of the early 1900s.
There are a plethora of outdoor activities in and around McCall.
Four hot spring resorts dot the region and three ski resorts.
Apparently, you don’t just ski or snowboard anymore.
There’s a wild world of winter sports available, like cat skiing (going into the backcountry on fresh powder), Nordic skiing (a free-heel binding system that is similar to cross-country skiing), snow biking, and snowshoeing.
Sleigh rides are available too.
Brundage Mountain Resort includes an Activity Barn with five tubing lanes to explore and a “magic carpet” ride that takes tubers back to the top to do it all over again.
During the summer, you can zipline at the Tamarack Resort or get in some of the most intense mountain biking or ATV riding along muddy trails.
Pick up a map of the self-guided bike tour and you can explore at your own speed.
There are boat, kayak, and SUP rentals along the shoreline.
You can white water raft down the river or ride a jet boat against the flow of water and hit the rapids face first.
Some of the boat and raft trips offer overnight adventures.
Places to Avoid in McCall
There aren’t any dangerous neighborhoods in McCall.
That bear I keep talking about is probably a bigger risk to you than anything.
In all seriousness, you do want to respect the wildlife and follow the rules of the town by putting all the garbage in bear-proof trash cans.
I’m not sure if you’ve seen what a bear can do to the inside of a car or home, but it’s pretty intense.
Living with bears means respecting the rules and giving them distance and not making them too comfortable around humans.
Avoid any risk you aren’t comfortable with because you can go to the extreme with any seasonal sport here.
You should also avoid dumping your stuff at the hotel and heading for the mountains if you aren’t used to a higher altitude.
McCall itself sits at 5000 feet above sea level, which is going to take your body a day to adapt to before you go up to 8000 feet in the mountains.
You should also avoid trying to find your favorite fast food restaurant here.
The only things familiar you’ll find are a Subway and a Starbucks.
The rest are locally owned and operated businesses.
Safety Tips for Traveling to McCall
- For winter, you need to dress in layers and keep warm. You can rent most ski equipment if you don’t want to lug it around on the flight. Hand warmers can be bought ahead of time and really help keep the chill out while waiting on a ski lift.
- Bring bear spray with you when heading into the wilderness. You will only use the spray if necessary, which means if a bear is imminently going to attack you. Don’t try to climb a tree to get away from a bear (they can climb) and don’t run away (never turn your back on a bear). Speak in a normal voice to let it know you are human. Hike with bear-proof containers as well, so you don’t smell like lunch to a hungry bear.
- Bookmark the Payette Avalanche Center on your mobile device and check the forecast daily. With so much snow here, avalanches happen more often. You need to know the risk areas, especially if you’re thinking of going into the backcountry.
- The city’s website has an interactive map so you can find public parking quickly. If you have an RV, you can’t park on a public residential street. The same goes if you are towing a boat.
- You can ride a snowmobile on the streets of McCall under very specific rules which can be viewed on the city’s website. This is something specific only to McCall and it is generally illegal in other parts of the state.
- Verizon gets the best cell phone coverage in McCall, but all providers should have some service within the city limits. Once you go into the wilderness, you should expect to be cut off from communication. This is why it’s critical to plan ahead with plenty of equipment for the current conditions and always go with a buddy.
- Spring brings snowmelt, which makes a lot of mud and it’s generally one of the more affordable times to visit. This means, that even on bright sunny days, you’ll want to have waterproof boots and clothing that could get muddy. Even on trails, you’ll pass bicyclists spouting dirt from the tires and might step in several inches of mud along some trails.
- In late January, McCall hosts Winterfest, which brings 60,000 people to town. If you are booking during this time, you need to book very early or else risk having to stay in a nearby town. It is about as crowded as the town gets, so expect long lines at lifts and restaurants and more traffic than normal.
- If you want to hunt or fish here, you’ll need a license from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. You can purchase this online ahead of time or over the phone. There are locations in town where you can purchase as well.
- When driving the roads in the mountains surrounding McCall, you have to go slow and watch out for narrow portions of the road where only one vehicle can fit at a time. This is truly rugged wilderness.
So... How Safe Is McCall Really?
This city hasn’t had a homicide since at least 2012 and only had 10 violent crimes in 2020.
Half of those violent crimes were in private homes.
As far as thefts go, this city usually doesn’t even break into triple digits in incident reports.
2020 brought just 44 thefts and most were put into the category of “other”, which could mean getting skis stolen from the backyard.
As much as this is a resort community with a lot of luxurious options, it is also surrounded by the laws of nature and many associated risks.
If you aren’t used to hiking in the bitter cold and deep snow, you won’t realize how much the weather takes a toll on your body until it’s too late.
That altitude sickness can make it feel hard to breathe.
Even very fit people can get altitude sickness if they don’t take the time to adjust.
How Does McCall Compare?
- Visas - You need to plan at least 3 to 6 months out to start the Visa process to get through all the required steps. You will show your Visa when you arrive in the U.S. as you go through Customs and then your passport will be used as your legal ID otherwise.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and most attractions can be booked or reserved ahead of time. You don't need cash, but if you would like to carry some with you, don't bring a large amount.
- Weather - Plan for extremes in summer and winter and be prepared for above-average cold or heat in the spring and fall. Dressing in layers is always a good idea, since it gets cooler, even in the summer, at higher altitudes. Bring clothes that can get muddy and are waterproof or be prepared to do a lot of laundries.
- Airports - You'll want to plan three hours for the trip to the Boise airport and tack on another hour or two if you are traveling in a snow storm.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance to make sure you can stay safe while having the adventurous time of your life in McCall. Keep in mind too, that if the airline loses your baggage, there are policies in place to help you get the airline to pay for the necessities you need.
McCall Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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