Thursday, July 7, 2011

Try renting a yurt in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Area, relax and go hiking and biking

Brenda Adams and Leo Hennessy on the deck at Stargaze Yurt.

Brenda approaches Stargaze on a new singletrack.

Leo grinds up the two-track to Stargaze Yurt on Forest Road 394B.

The fire pit and picnic table by Whispering Pines Yurt.
Park n' Ski Area overview trail map.

Hi all,

Everyone knows about renting the Idaho City Park n' Ski Area yurts in the winter, but not so much in the summer. To give folks an incentive, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has dropped the price of yurt rentals by $30 for weekends and week days, meaning that rents are $60/night for weekends and $45 for week nights. The yurts sleep six.

In my view, the IDPR yurts provide a great venue for a family friendly weekend in the woods. You have six to choose from. All of them are close to hiking and biking trails, and in the summer, you can actually drive to within 100-300 yards from the yurts, making it easy to pack in your camping gear and super easy for parents to take young children.

No muss, no fuss: The yurts are set up with a double-burner stove, cooking utensils, pots, plates and silverware, so you don't have to bring that stuff from home. Just bring sleeping bags, food, water and beverages. Everything you pack in should be packed out. If the bugs are bad outside, you can hang out in the yurt. If it's raining, you can chill in the yurt. Bring lawn chairs, and find shady spots near the yurt or on the yurt deck to enjoy the views.

Summer prices are good from July 1 - Nov. 15. Here's the web link for reservations.

Next, I'll detail some hikes and bike rides that you can explore close to the yurts below:
  • Banner Ridge, Elkhorn and Skyline Yurts are all on the east side of Idaho 21. They provide immediate access to a complete system of singletrack and two-track trails adjacent to the yurts.
  • If you're staying at Banner or Elkhorn, try the easy singletracks called the Cougar Loop or Lehn's Loop. These were trails that IDPR built with volunteer help. Lehn's Loop is 2.4 miles, and Cougar is 3.3 miles. Both trails follow rolling terrain through shady timbered areas without any long major climbs. Good place to take the kids. See this guide for complete details. The loop also is detailed in my Falcon guide Mountain Biking Idaho.
  • A longer and more challenging ride is the Elkhorn-Alpine Loop. This loop is 7.5 miles long, featuring 4WD dirt roads and grassy two-tracks. The Alpine portion of this loop is the most scenic and intimate. I've seen elk and black bear riding my book on this loop. See this guide for complete details. The loop also is detailed in my Falcon guide Mountain Biking Idaho.
  • If you're staying at the Skyline Yurt, there are two possibilities immediately adjacent to the yurt. Hike or ride the Skyline Loop, 5.5 miles from Idaho Highway 21. It's a grassy two-track the whole way. Less than 1,000 feet of vertical climbing, but it is a climb to the yurt from the highway, and it's a fun and fast downhill back to the highway.
  • Another possibility from Skyline, especially for bikers, is to ride Ralph's Trail and Twister to the north and connect over to trails by the Elkhorn Yurt, such as Lehn's Loop and Cougar Loop. See this guide for complete details.
  • If you'd like to stay at Stargaze Yurt, the newest addition to the Idaho City Park n' Ski yurt system, we scouted a new trail in that area last week. It's a 7-mile mountain bike loop (could be hiked) that starts and finishes at Beaver Creek Summit on Idaho Highway 21. The ride starts at the Stargaze Trailhead on Forest Road 394. Bear right on Road #394B and climb a steep two-track dirt road to the yurt junction on a saddle (mile 1.1). Even if you have to walk the steep sections of the climb, it's not very far, and the rest is easy. Take a side trip to Stargaze Yurt and check out the view. Next follow the two-track road from the saddle out to the west to mile 2.3 and go right on a faint two-track. That little trail cuts over to a more major dirt road, which is a snowmobile trail in the winter. Turn right on the dirt road at mile 3.2. Bear right at a signed junction (mile 6.1) to return to Idaho 21 (mile 6.6), turn right and ride the paved road to the trailhead (mile 7). See map above.
  • If you're staying at Whispering Pines Yurt in the Gold Fork area, you could ride or hike the road up to Whispering Pines and then take the Moose Trail back to the parking area. There also are a few short trails nearby. See this guide for more details. Whispering Pines, by the way, has excellent shade afforded by large ponderosa pine trees.
  • Rocky Ridge Yurt, accessed from the Whoop 'em Up trailhead area, has a couple of trails nearby that lead over to Edna Creek Road and Beaver Creek Cabin areas. The Crooked River Trail can be accessed from Beaver Creek Cabin or Edna Creek Road. It's a sweet hiking or biking singletrack that goes downhill along Crooked River for several miles. Turn around and come back. See this guide for more details.
Be sure to print out the maps from the IDPR web site and bring them with you. A map from the Boise National Forest would be helpful as well. And don't forget your bug juice ... because of the big snows we had last winter and spring rain, it's very wet and moist out there in the forest, and the bugs can be fierce!

Other useful resources would be a birding book and wildflower guide.

Have fun!

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