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Ponderosa State Park is one of Idaho’s best for kids
Plenty of hikes to stretch their legs and help learn about nature in park near McCall.
MCCALL, Idaho — “Hey, hold up!”
The calls from parents echoed through the woods at Ponderosa State Park, near McCall.
The kids were way out in front of the parents as the Noel family, of Longview, Wash., hiked near the Lily Marsh at one of Idaho’s most popular state parks.
The parents were trying to put the reins on the kids, but there was so much to see — from deer casually browsing in the brush to tall, tall, incredibly tall ponderosa pine trees.
A 150-foot pine tree is pretty tall to kids, and they can’t wrap their minds around the enormity of majestic old-growth timber.
Anyway, you get it? Ponderosa State Park and magnificent ponderosa pines.
But it’s even more than that. The park is a natural romper room for kids, and one of the best places to take youngsters on their first hike.
Besides ponderosa pines, the park’s trails wind past Douglas fir, grand fir, lodgepole pine and western larch. Bring your plant and tree guides because the kids will ask questions.
“It’s amazing,” said Adam Simon of Seattle, who stopped with his family at the park on a recent road trip.
Simon and his wife and kids hiked along the shore of Payette Lake and at the Lily Marsh. They also swam in the lake during their visit.
The park provides a kid-friendly hiking area with fairly mellow trails, lots of trail signs so you don’t get lost, and lots of interpretive information.
The park is on a 1,000-acre peninsula in Payette Lake and offers so much variety in kids’ hiking trails and even places for kids to ride their bicycles.
“This is a good trail for kids,” said Justin Noel, as he tried to keep up with the kids, who were blasting through the pine forest trying to take in everything nature has to offer them.
There were bees on asters, something croaking from the lily pads, and some kind of hawk circling overhead.
What are the blue berries? What about the orange berries? That bird’s red, yellow and black. Why? Why did that tree fall over?
Mom, Dad, if you head for Ponderosa State Park, get ready to answer lots of questions. Read the park’s interpretive signs and brochures so you have quick answers.
Another educational thing about the park is its varied topography. It’s all in one place.
You can have the kids marching through arid sagebrush flats one minute and then through thick forests the next.
They can watch the water of marshy areas or take in the views from an overlook at Osprey Point on a steep cliff.
You’ve got to take in the interpretive trail that winds around the Meadow Marsh.
Kids like the park also because they can just stroll or bike along the gravel roads.
Here are two easy kids’ trails:
Distance: 1.4 miles. It’s good because it’s foot traffic only.
Getting there: It begins at the overflow parking lot across from the entrance of Peninsula Campground.
Notes: The trail loops around Meadow Marsh, which was once a marsh, but is now in transition to becoming a mountain meadow.
The trail is well shaded by a variety of trees, so it’s cool in the summer. You can find huckleberry bushes along the trails, there’s wildlife, and it’s an easy hike with little elevation gain.
Distance: 1 mile; also hiking only.
Getting there: The southern access point begins about 3/4 mile north of the activity center at the Fox Run Trail head.
Notes: The trail goes through a variety of terrain with up and down slopes and also crosses open areas with loose rock. Wooden walkways and steps have been put in to help.