Bergdorf Hot Springs, a rustic resort in central Idaho, is not only off the beaten path, it’s also off the wall.
And a snowmobile is the only reasonable means to reach it.
First you must go to McCall, central Idaho’s mecca for winter recreation.
The elevation in town is 5,025 feet. Skiers at the Brundage downhill resort get off the lift at 7,640 feet, where a clear day offers views that include the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Oregon, the Seven Devils of Idaho and the rim of the wild Salmon River Canyon.
The area also boasts world-class cross-country ski areas.
Boise is just 110 miles to the south of McCall, yet a tough stretch of road weeds out some of the crowds that might otherwise overwhelm it. The town is 280 miles from Spokane.
McCall is a small town with big-time attractions for winter travelers. One can walk to most services in town. Indeed, if you need to rent a snowmobile, you can drive it right from the dealer’s lot and down the street to one of the trailheads. If there’s not enough snow on the streets, the dealers will deliver the snowmobiles to the trailheads for you.
The McCall Winter Carnival is Feb. 3-12 this year, but virtually every accommodation is already booked.
The event began in 1924, complete with horse-pulled skier races. The modern carnival has broader appeal, with ice sculptures, parades, fireworks, dances, ski and snowmobile races and other events.
But locals say the best time to be in McCall is after the carnival. McCall is more quiet and cozy then.
So are the pools at Bergdorf Hot Springs.
The dilapidated resort was developed in the late 1800s and revived as a short-lived hippie community in the 1960s.
Only in the past few years have snowmobilers convinced themselves that the long-hairs didn’t leave any lasting diseases.
Bergdorf now is a destination that’s slowly being discovered.
The weathered wood cabins rent for $15 per day per person. Wood is provided for stoves, but bring your own sleeping bag.
Fussy lodgers who don’t like drafts and prefer indoor toilets will want to stay in McCall and commute to the springs.
The small hot pool where the spring emerges is about 110 degrees, perfect after a roll in the snow. The main swimming-type pool is about 100 degrees. Swimsuits continue to be somewhat optional, especially in the evening.
While the cost of renting a snowmobile has more than doubled in the past six years, little has changed at Bergdorf, including the $5 fee for soaking and the leaks in some cabin roofs.
One can rent a snowmobile and drive from downtown McCall onto Warren Wagon Road, a groomed trail that heads toward Bergdorf.
The 28-mile trip into the springs takes about an hour, more or less, depending on whether you drive like a bat out of hell or a bat out of hell with a death wish.
Near Bergdorf, snowmobilers will find a cafe in Secesh (pronounced SEE-wash). The cafe usually is open, unless the owner gets the urge to return to McCall for a day or two.
Secesh Meadows is a popular playground for snowmobilers who want to get off the groomed trail.
Another attraction is the old empty buildings in the former mining town of Warren, which is a 90-mile round trip from McCall in the Bergdorf area. Snowmobilers who go that far should refuel at the town bar, which has the only services in Warren.
The trip to Bergdorf takes riders through areas that were heavily burned in last summer’s forest fires. However, the burned areas did not reach Bergdorf.
“It’s a miracle,” one McCall native said. “Those old, dry wood buildings would have burned to the ground in a heartbeat.”
This sidebar ran with story: IF YOU GO For more information on services and recreation, call the McCall Chamber of Commerce, (208) 634-7631. Snowmobile rentals Following are McCall businesses that rent snowmobiles. Prices range from small single-person machines to larger more powerful machines capable of hauling two people. Price includes helmet. Shops also rent snowmobile suits. Bomb Shelter, (208) 634-7178. Daily fees $135-$150. Overnight rentals possible. Medely Sports, (208) 634-2216. Daily fees $75-$150. No overnight rentals. Harry’s Dry Dock, (208) 634-8605. Daily fees $115-$125. No overnight rentals.