There are lots of scenic hiking trails all around Cascade, in the Payette National Forest. The last time I went hiking around here I saw the biggest owl I've ever seen in my life. It was almost two feet tall - downright scary looking!!! Later we stopped along the trail for a snack and shared our spot with a large black and white woodpecker, hammering away. Elk and bear inhabit these woods, but I've never come across any on the trail, just some deer.
Eagle Nest Trail is one of the hike's that I've done - it's easy to moderate, and goes on for 14 miles, so you can make it long or short. If you're driving north, go through town, then go right on Warm Lake Road. After about 2 1/2 miles there's an old weigh station on the right (just a shack, really) where you can park and a private street called Joshua Drive on the left, where they're going to build Eagle Nest Subdivision. The trail starts to the right of Joshua Drive, on the right side of the fence - just open the gate and let yourself in.
There's a little visitor center in town where you can get info on a lot more trails, too.
Sugar Loaf is the only island in Lake Cascade, and it also refers to a peninsula that sticks out into the lake. This peninsula is my favorite area of Lake Cascade State Park. The day we were here there was no one else around and it seemed like our own little oasis, maybe because it's a few miles out of town. The lake is 20 miles long, and nearly 5 miles across at its widest point.
Giant white pelicans spend their summer on the lake, and were still here the week after Labor Day, not having migrated south for the winter yet. They're quite shy and would fly away whenever I tried to get close enough to take their picture, so I quit bothering them and resigned myself to enjoying them from afar.
Cascade gets plenty of snow in the winter, so it's a great place to cross-country ski or snowshoe. There are several groomed cross-country ski trails in the area, and they're not crowded. More are in McCall 27 miles to the north, although these do attract more people. There's also a downhill ski resort, Brundage, in McCall, and another big downhill ski area called Tamarack being developed west of Donnelly, also within 30 miles.
Warm Lake is another great place to swim, relax, camp, and fish. The area around here is part of the Boise National Forest. North Shore Lodge is here, too, with a cafe, bar, and grocery store. Also cabins with kitchens, if camping isn't your thing.
My parents took us here the summer "Jaws" came out, and I was just SURE that if I swam too far out something big would get me (I can hear the music from Jaws now)! It made no difference that I knew, in theory, there are no sharks in mountain lakes!
Lake Cascade State Park is a beautiful area for swimming, camping, boating, picnicking, fishing, or just hanging out and enjoying the scenery. Unlike at some other large lakes, this one is not overused by motor boats as yet, so there's not usually a lot of noise here. There's also very little humidity, so you can really enjoy being in the sun.
There are lots of spots around the lake with picnic tables & rustic toilets - some are just for day use, some can be reserved for camping, others are for first come/ first served camping. You've got beautiful mountains in the background and the lake spread out before you.
You can camp at Horsetheif Reservoir for FREE, but only in designated camping sites. Some of the pullouts and docks around the reservoir are only for day use. There are rustic toilets, but you have to bring your own water.
Great opportunities to try shooting some reflection shots with your camera, too.
Rumor has it that Horsethief Reservoir is the best fishing hole around. I can't personally attest to this, but I do know the Idaho Department of Fish and Game stocks the reservoir regularly, and I've seen fish jumping here, so I know they're out there! If you go early like we did you're likely to find fog drifting over the water, making the fish seem more elusive...
Gold Fork Hot Springs is north of Cascade, maybe a half hour drive or so. One of the unique qualities about this springs is that they don't smell like sulfur. They have numerous pools now, from lukewarm to very hot. I recommend the middle pool! This is a natural hot springs that developers built a pool around, with rooms to change in, bathrooms, etc. They even sell a few cold (non-alcoholic) drinks for you to enjoy while unwinding in the water. A nice place to relax after a day of hiking.
Closed Tuesdays. Open till 10:00 pm in summer, 9:00 pm in winter, later on weekends. Call the number below to get exact driving directions.