Thursday, June 23, 2016

Five fabulous kid- and family-friendly bike rides in Cascade and McCall

Kids do amazingly well on the Bear Basin Trails in McCall 
Barb and Paul ride a boardwalk on the Shoreline Trail at Jug Mountain Ranch 
Dropping into Upper Drain in Bear Basin 
Cindy and Steve Jones on the North Valley Trail, south of McCall 
Hi all,

The weather is warming up and many people from the Treasure Valley will be heading up to Cascade or McCall to stay cool, maybe take a swim and hang out at the cabin or go camping.

Audio from 94.9 FM The River for this segment. 

My own family has a wedding in McCall this weekend, so we're gearing up for that. In the spirit of enjoying the green and forested setting in Valley County, I'm offering up five fabulous kid- and family-friendly bike rides to consider when you're in the neighborhood. I've blogged about many other more expert trails in the area, but this week, it's about kids and families. These trails are just fine for adults, too, especially those who like a relatively low-key experience.  

I'll start with the easiest trails and work up from there. All of the trails except the Strand are featured in my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall.

1. The Strand in Cascade -  Kid-friendly rating ***** The Strand runs parallel to the North Fork of the Payette River from the south Hwy 55 bridge trailhead in Cascade to a point just short of Water's Edge RV Park. It's 2.2 miles one-way. At the north end trailhead, you just turn-around and ride back to the south bridge trailhead. This ride is cool because it runs along the river, where you might see wildlife, and then it also runs by Kelly's Whitewater Park, where you can see kayakers and surfers play in the waves. Plus, there's a nice lawn there and places where you can walk down to the river's edge and watch as close as you want. 
The Strand along the North Fork of the Payette River 
2. Crown Point Trail in Cascade - Kid-friendly rating ***** This trails runs alongside Lake Cascade from the Crown Point camping area 3 miles to the north trailhead at Vista Point Road. It's an out-and-back ride on a mostly flat surface with pine trees bordering the trail on both sides, or really nice lake views off to the west, plus West Mountain towers above on the opposite shore. There are some sweet beaches directly adjacent to the trail, where you could hang out and have a picnic, go swimming or just relax. Getting there: Take Lake Way from ID 55 to a point where it ends by the campground. There's a small parking area by the trailhead for Crown Point Trail. 

Spacious beaches next to the Crown Point Trail look inviting 
3. North Valley Trail - Kid-friendly rating **** The North Valley Trail is a little more challenging than Crown Point Trail because it has some singletrack sections, which might be difficult for young riders. Ideally, I recommend starting on the greenbelt path next to the City of McCall offices on Park Street in downtown McCall, and ride the paved pathway out south to where the path ends by the McCall Smokejumper Base on Mission Street. Go left (south) along Mission Street, pick up the paved pathway in River Ranch, keep riding south, and then follow signs to the North Valley Trail. It's about 1.5 miles or so from downtown to this point, and then it's another 3.5 miles on the North Valley Trail to Heinrich Lane. The trail ends here, so it's five miles back to the start; 10 miles total. The North Valley Trail is very scenic -- it runs by a large wetland pond, where you can see water birds, and it's bordered by pine trees for most of its course. It's a mix of two-track and singletrack on the old RR ROW. 

North Valley Trail is bordered by pines 
4. Bear Basin - Kid-friendly rating **** For kids 8 and up, the Bear Basin Trails are a perfect place to take the family for a low-key ride. The trail map shows green, blue and black trails by difficulty, which is helpful for those riding the area for the first time. I led a big group of my family on an intermediate ride last summer, starting on Baby Bear, dropping into the shadows of big trees on Sleepy Hollow, then climbing Blue Ridge to Upper Drain, a challenging switchback trail with big bermed corners. Even people who have never ridden banked corners do amazingly well when they try it for the first time. If it's too scary for some folks, have them walk down the trail. Upper Drain runs into Grand Traverse (not signed), the first singletrack trail you come to. Go left and return to Baby Bear junction. Try different routes and have fun in Bear Basin! 

5. Jug Mountain Ranch - Kid-friendly rating **** Jug Mountain Ranch continues to add more trails and knock it out of the park in terms of trail design and big fun factor. They've got a shuttle service to make it easy to reach the top of their trail system, or you can climb to Jug Mountain Reservoir and enjoy a super fun gravity ride downhill. The trail everyone is raving about lately is Berm N Ernie. Check out of the video and see what you think! Download their trail map here. One possible short loop is to ride the South Elk Loop, return to the trailhead area and take Basic Training to Mid-Mountain doubletrack, then take the lower part of Berm N Ernie back to the start. Or, take South Elk to the South Boundary Road, climb to the reservoir, ride Shoreline around the lake, descend on Vandelay, Harper's Hollow and finish on North Elk. JMR has a cool overnight shelter at Jug Mountain Reservoir that you can rent. Call (208) 634-5072 for more information. 

Have fun! - SS

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