I was up in the Idaho City area camping with my kids last weekend, and I was reminded how cool it was to go hiking or biking on the sweet singletrack along Crooked River near Idaho City in the Boise National Forest.
In this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending exploring two excellent trails that start with "C" -- the Crooked River Trail or Cottonwood Creek Trail, both of which are about an hour from town and are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.
It's supposed to be quite chilly this weekend, but in my view, that's great weather for hiking or biking. Sounds like Saturday is going to be the best bet. Sunday may be wet. Dress accordingly and dig deep in your drawer for a few extra layers.
First, Crooked River. The easiest way to access the trail is via the Edna Creek Road off of Idaho State Highway 21, northeast of Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit. You'll see a highway sign for the Edna Creek Road and Atlanta, turning right off Idaho 21, about 60 miles east of Boise. There is a pull-out for the trailhead on the Edna Creek Road in the first half-mile from the highway. You can either hike or bike from here.
The trail is a moderate hike, but a little more challenging as a mountain biking trail because it is singletrack, and that makes the riding a little trickier and technical. The trail runs downhill, but remember, you'll have to climb back to the trailhead. About 3-4 miles down the trail, it becomes more sketchy with downfall, and you may want to turn around. The trail is supposed to extend all of the way to the North Fork of the Boise River (10 miles one-way) but it needs more work to make that trip possible for Joe 6-Pack.
Bring a fishing pole if you like to fish. It's a beautiful creek with nice holes and it's a beautiful roadless setting. Bring a lunch to enjoy the setting.
The Cottonwood Creek Trail is one of the closest singletrack trails in a roadless setting to Boise. The trailhead is found on the road to Lucky Peak, Spring Shores and Arrowrock Reservoir. Turn left on Forest Road #377 and go three miles to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on the right.
The hike or bike ride is typically out-and-back. It's a 10-mile uphill pull to the top of Cottonwood Creek and another mile to Thorn Butte Lookout. So most people go up a few miles, have lunch, turn around and go back.
It's a beautiful singletrack trail amid tall ponderosa pines. I've also called it a "wet shoes" hike because of many creek crossings, so be aware of that.
Serious mountain bikers or really strong trail runners can tackle the 21.75-mile Thorn Butte Road-Cottonwood Creek Loop. You ride or run up Forest Road #203, a 4WD road to the top of Thorn Butte (elevation 7,515) and then cruise downhill on the Cottonwood Creek Trail #189. That's a good day's workout for sure!