Summer temperatures in the forest's lower reaches along Hells Canyon at an elevation of only 1,500 feet can easily exceed 100 degrees. High country in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness runs about 9,500 feet in elevation. Winter temperatures there often exceed minus 40 degrees.
Diversity also can be seen in the annual precipitation the forest receives. The Snake River country sees about twelve inches of mostly rainfall a year. The big wilderness mountains above 4,000 feet see more than sixty inches of precipitation a year, almost all in the form of snowpack crucial to Idaho's summer water needs.
The Payette forest is home to some of Idaho's most beautiful high-mountain lakes and vistas, some of which are accessible by auto. Among the more famous is the area around the Seven Devils Mountains, a series of Alpine peaks towering over Hells Canyon. Visitors are urged to contact the forest supervisor's office for detailed trip information and road conditions.
The 2,800 miles of roads in the forest are complemented by 2,125 miles of trails. Included in the trail system is the famous Lava Ridge National Recreation Trail and some 784,000 acres of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Twenty-one primary, developed campgrounds feature 251 family units. In summer, most are busy, especially on the weekends.
Two downhill ski areas are located in the forest. Just west of McCall is Payette Lakes Ski Hill. Brundage Mountain, just seven miles north of McCall, is more popular. It features some of the deepest snows in the Northwest on 1,800 feet of vertical drop. Thirty-six runs are served by four lifts and two rope tows Cross-country skiers and snowshoers will find many miles of groomed trail in Payette, too.Forest visitors are reminded that "multiple use" means that in all but wilderness and roadless areas grazing, logging, mining, and wildlife habitat enhancement may be going on simultaneously. These activities are another good reason to contact the forest supervisor's office before visiting.