This article first appeared in the Boise Weekly on July 31, 2013.
About 20 minutes north of Brundage Mountain Resort near McCall is a splendid hike that explores two high-alpine beauties–Hard Creek Lake and Upper Hazard Lake. Although an easy hike, this trek is off the beaten path and offers solitude, great scenery and the opportunity to explore other nearby trails, including Granite Mountain Lookout, Twin Lakes, the two Grass Mountain Lakes, Lake Serene and Coffee Cup Lake.
Although the Corral-Blackwell Complex Fire of 1994 burned much of the forest near the area, both of the lakes are stunning. The smaller Hard Creek Lake is surrounded by gray snags, a sprinkling of green firs and numerous granite outcroppings. There are several places to set up camp for the night, and the short hike distance (3.2 miles out-and-back) and easy elevation gain (600 feet) makes this outing an outstanding choice for families.
You can extend the hike to nearly five miles (out-and-back) by trekking to the much larger and equally impressive Upper Hazard Lake, which is bordered to the south by the towering Bruin Mountain.
From the campground (elevation 7,000 feet), travel east through a small meadow. The trail turns south and offers far-reaching views, then descends 100 feet along a grassy hillside to a signed junction at 0.9 miles. The trail to the right continues south for another mile to a meadow in Hard Creek Basin.
To find Hidden Lake, turn left (east) at the junction and ascend a moderate grade weaving between an assortment of lichen-covered boulders. The route soon bends north below the steep, granite walls of an unnamed 7,975-foot peak. In midsummer, this section of trail is extremely scenic with wildflowers blooming trailside.
At 1.5 miles, make an easy ford of the outlet creek to arrive at the narrow Hidden Creek Lake. If you would like to continue your hike another three-quarters of a mile, follow the trail along the south side of the lake. The trail ascends a small hill and then descends to the 20-acre Upper Hazard Lake. Anglers will find brook and rainbow trout in both lakes.
Trailhead directions: From downtown McCall, drive west 5.5 miles on Highway 55. Reset your odometer to zero and turn right on Brundage Mountain-Goose Lake Road. Continue 18.7 miles (the road turns into an improved gravel road at 3.8 miles) to a small spur road. Turn right into the Hard Creek Campground. The trailhead is located on the east side of the campground, next to a large information sign.