Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying exploring two trails that start with "C"

Crooked River Trail (courtesy tiffanyrooprai at

Crooked River (courtesy of dauw at

Crooked River Trail map

Hi all,

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!
- SS


Eric said...

So is 203 worth mountain biking on, or would it be more fun to just ride cottonwood all the way up to the lookout and back? If 203 is just a dirt road, I think 100% singletrack would be better, no? What's the benefit of the loop? Thanks for the find, I'm going to give this one a whirl!

Steve Stuebner said...

Hi Eric,

The suggestion of climbing #203 is just to make it easier to get up to the Lookout riding on a two-track ... you definitely can climb the singletrack, it's just harder work!

Pick you pain :) Best, Steve

Eric said...

Great. Thanks for the suggestion! We'll see how much time we have to spare and make the call on-site.

Unknown said...

Was just out there yesterday afternoon, hiked over from the Whoop Um Up Park & Ski area and went about 3.5 miles down the river. Pretty amazing place but with the small streams of varying depth needing to be forded and the trail being due for some maintenance due to trees and rock fall it can be a chore for those of varying skill levels and athleticism. Especially when I see other sites listing this as 4/10 or "very easy".

Steve Stuebner said...

Thx for that info, Drew! Good to know! the lower part of Crooked River is definitely in need of repair!

Unknown said...

I've biked Cottonwood Creek, the bottom is fun but middle section is terrible with massive overgrowth. Do you know how the bottom/end of the Crooked River Trail compares with this? I'd like to bike Crooked River, but only if it's not as bad as Cottonwood Creek.

Unknown said...

Noticed you're not posting my previous comments regarding the Cottonwood Creek and Crooked River trails, but maybe you and your readers will find this useful or at least interesting. As previously commented the mid section of Cottonwood Creek Trail is horrible for biking. Yesterday I biked up Crooked River, and as you alluded to the bottom half of that trail is even worse for biking than Cottonwood Creek. Here's my report if interested:

Steve Stuebner said...

Hey Erik - Thanks for your comments ... wish the Forest Service could restore the bottom half of Crooked river Trail but it would take an army of volunteers to get it done ... they're just allowing a lot of their trails to fall into disrepair or worse! Thanks!