Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall is the time to push your limits on the mountain bike - 5 rides suited to the task

Doug Lawrence on Bear Pete Trail at 8,000 feet. Bear Pete is a classic fall ride. 
Looking south deep into the Owyhee Canyonlands from the Silver City Skyline Tour, above Silver City  
Hi all,

I love the cool weather in the fall ... it's really the best time of the year for active outdoor adventures of any kind. You don't sweat nearly as much on the climb, and it's a beautiful time of year to enjoy fall colors.

This week, I'm recommending five advanced and strenuous mountain bike rides in Boise, Silver City and McCall. Everyone has been riding all spring and summer, and the fall is a great time to push your legs perhaps farther than they've gone this year and knock off some big rides. Get some friends together and go get 'em!

1. Dry Creek - Hard Guy - Dry Creek Loop - For advanced rides, Dry Creek is a favorite destination. You just need some time to ride it! It's a tough climb up Hard Guy but the payoff is big riding down Dry Creek and the new bridges, etc. Distance: 20 miles. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous climb). Travel time: 3-5 hours. Start at the Dry Creek Trailhead on Bogus Basin Road. Climb Dry Creek through the rocks to a creek crossing and junction with the trail spur to Hard Guy about 1.5 miles up the trail. This portion of the trail has been improved recently. Climb Hard Guy to the Ridge Road. Take your time and conserve energy. Take a break on top! Go left and ride 2 miles to the Dry Creek junction. Turn left off the Ridge Road on a singletrack that wraps around a ridge and hairpins into the densely timbered headwaters of Dry Creek. Stay right at the Shingle Creek junction. Proceed with caution. There can be downfall and various hazards on the way down the trail. It's 7 miles of fun and adventure descending Dry Creek. Ride through the rocky features and return to Bogus Basin Road. Whew! Time for a beer!

Dry Creek has multiple bridges installed for crossing the creek. Courtesy Idaho Statesman. 
2. Corrals-Scott's-8th Street-Ridge Road-Trail #4-Sidewinder-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop -Here's another big foothills tour that'll take you to the top of the Boise Ridge climbing via Corrals, Scott's and 8th Street, and then descending on the wide, sandy, dished-out Trail #4 motorcycle trail until you reach Sidewinder, and then it's a fast and smooth downhill from there. Distance: About 18 miles. Vertical gain: 3,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: 2.5-3.5 hours. Ride up Bogus Basin Road or the Highlands Trail to Corrals. Climb Corrals to Scott's, go left, and climb the steep singletrack to 8th Street. Ride another 1.5 miles on 8th Street to a junction for Trail #4 on the right. Follow Trail #4 connector over to Trail #4 and hang on for the tricky descent. Keep your weight back and plane through the sand! Trail #4 eventually returns to Sidewinder summit. Descend on Sidewinder to Crestline and then go right on Red Cliffs to complete your ride. Take Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge to Camelsback and you're done! Again, time for a beer!

3. Silver City Skyline Tour in the Owyhees - It's rated strenuous/advanced in my book, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. Distance: 16.8 miles, 2,750 feet of vertical gain. I love the ride because it provides a rooftop tour of the mountains surrounding Silver City, and it's nifty that you start and finish in downtown Silver City. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water. The old hotel in Silver City might be open (on weekends) for drinks after the ride. After the ride, there are lots of places to camp just outside of Silver City or along Jordan Creek, you make the call. 

Directions: Drive to Silver City and park off to the side of Main Street near the old hotel. To get there, go south of Nampa on ID 45 to Murphy. Watch for signs for Silver City on ID 78 as you're heading for Murphy, and follow the paved and dirt road to the historic mining town. 

Mile 0 - Ride back toward New York Summit from Silver City. 
Mile 1.2 - Turn right on BLM Road F483. This is your main route for the first half of the ride.
Mile 2.4 - Bear right on Road F483 at Y junction and climb.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle Mountain. It's a short, but steep sidetrip to check out the summit. Check out the old buldings and mine shafts at the Poorman Mine near this junction ... it's a short sidetrip.
Mile 5.9 - Back at War Eagle junction. Bear right on Road F483 and cruise on your middle ring to the ridges and mountains to the south.
Mile 6.7 - Bear right at Y junction next to livestock watering area. Bear right again shortly afterward and climb a steep hill with lots of mobile rocks.
Mile 7.9 - Come to sweet overlook to the left of the main road. Cruise over to the trees to enjoy views looking out toward Triangle and the big wide open country of the Owyhees.
Mile 8.4 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 9.2 - Bear right.
Mile 9.4 - Ignore trail going downhill on the right. Stay on the ridge.
Mile 9.6 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 11.1 - Bear right and pass through gate. Going downhill now on ATV track.
Mile 11.8 - Come to 4-way junction. Take a hard right and climb super-steep ATV trail to a saddle at 12.6. Parts of the climb are rideable; some parts not. Go left at the junction and climb a little more until trail flattens out.
Mile 14.0 - Come to 4-way junction. Turn right and descend into Long Gulch on a jeep trail. It's a fun descent back to Silver City. There are a number of creek crossings.

Mile 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it!     

Riding Elk Trail at Brundage Mountain ... great views of nearby Granite Mountain! Courtesy Visit Idaho
4. Bear Basin-Brundage Lookout-Elk Trail-Growler-488 Road Loop - We're moving on to the McCall area now. I did this ride a couple of weeks ago and it worked out splendid! This is a cool tour of the Bear Basin area on a climb to the top of Brundage Lookout, then you descend Brundage ski area on Elk Trail, and then take a trail and a road back to Bear Basin. Great tour! Distance: 18.2 miles. Vertical gain: 2,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous in places). Start by taking Bear Basin Road about 1.5 miles to a wooden fence by the east portal to the Bear Basin non-motorized trails. Park. The ride starts here (by all means, ride from town if you want!). Climb Bear Basin Road 9 miles to the top of Brundage Mountain. The road gets pretty soft and sandy near the top. Just grind out the climb. Once at the lookout, ride over to the Bluebird Chair and pick up the top of Elk Trail. Descend Elk Trail about 6 miles to a point near the bottom of the ski area. You'll see a trail on the left at a split called Growler. Go left on Growler and climb the singletrack through open slopes and deep woods until you climb a super-steep section in the woods and pop out into the open on Temptation. Take Growler across the grassy trail and then bear right as the singletrack continues to climb. You'll see an unmarked two-track road taking off laterally from the ski area. This is Forest Road #488. It's downhill all the way back to Bear Basin now -- enjoy it! Watch for tight corners in a few spots, but generally, you can let it rip on the wide gravel road. Head into McCall and grab a burger and a beer!

Mark Anderson above Josephine Lake.
Almost there! 
5. Bear Pete Trail - The McCall locals always do at least an annual pilgrimage to tackle Bear Pete Trail, and I often gather up some buddies to do the same thing. Everyone loves the ride because it does test you, makes you work hard, and sometimes hike-a-bike is required! The cool thing about Bear Pete is that it starts at a high elevation and after you make the big climb to the top of Bear Pete Mountain, you'll be riding at 8,000 foot elevation on the mountain for a number of miles, going up and down, with huge views off to the west (French Creek) along the way. Distance: 17.5 miles. Vertical gain: 2,500 feet. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: full day. Bear Pete Trail is located north of McCall via Warren Wagon Road. Past Upper Payette Lake, watch for a turnoff to Cloochman Saddle. This road takes you to the trailhead. You also should plant a vehicle at the north end of Bear Pete, north of Burgdorf Hot Springs, if you don't want to ride a long dirt road slog back to your vehicle at the trailhead. At the saddle, climb trail #142 Bear Pete and grind for a couple of miles to the ridgetop. You'll ride up and down along the high mountain ridge for several hours. There are a few junctions but stay on the main trail. On the north end, the trail plunges downhill to Forest Road #246, the road to Burgdorf Hot Springs. You made it! Bring your swimsuits and take a soak at Burgdorf after the ride! Always a good call! There are a number of places where you could camp along the Brundage Road, if necessary.

The Idaho Whitewater Association is looking for helpers for their 2nd annual ID 55 highway cleanup effort on Oct. 7th. See their Facebook event invite for more information.

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three yurts in Idaho City Park n' Ski system are open for rent! Make reservations now!

Fresh powder near Stargaze Yurt
Getting ready to shred some *pow* with Quinn 
Hi all,

After lots of hard work by Idaho Parks and Recreation officials and volunteers, three of the popular yurts in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system are available for rent as of today! Make reservations as soon as you can! 

The three yurts that will be open this winter are Stargaze, Skyline and Rocky Ridge.

You can make reservations online by going to: or by calling 1-888-922-6743. Agents are available 7 days a week, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain Time, or Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The online system is handy because you can see what dates are booked, and which ones are not.

The Boise National Forest is working on salvage logging in the area at the current time. It's not clear exactly what xc ski and snowshoe trails will be open in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system, says Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for IDPR, but the access trails to all three yurts will be open for sure by the time winter season kicks in.

Leo also expects that the Gold Fork Loop and Skyline Loop will be groomed for winter xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking this winter. It's also possible that the Banner Ridge and Elkhorn Loops may be open later in the winter. Loggers are cutting fire-killed trees in there right now.

It's great news that the three yurts will be open for the public to enjoy this winter after the wildfire closures in the aftermath of the Pioneer Fire.

Since I posted this blog on Wednesday morning, many of the open dates for the Idaho City yurts have been reserved. There are still some mid-week openings on the online calendar.

But rest assured, if you'd like to go yurting this winter, there are more options!

  • Sun Valley Trekking has many different yurts and wall tents available for rent in the Smoky Mountains north of Ketchum/Sun Valley and they also have locations in the Pioneer Mountains and in the Sawtooths. 
  • Galena Lodge has four yurts that you can rent in the forested mountains adjacent to miles upon miles of xc ski and snowshoe trails. If you like to xc ski, Galena Lodge is manna from heaven. 
  • Sawtooth Mountain Guides - The Williams Peak yurt is very hard to book because a lot of dates are booked a year in advance. But what the heck, see what they've got available! I see some open dates in December ...  

- SS

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Five September hikes close to Boise - guaranteed to please!

Amy and Robin apparently thought this spot was photogenic! Between the Creeks in the Owyhees. 
Wendy getting ready to take flight on top of a mountain above Toy Pass in the Owyhees 
Hi all,

It's SO NICE to see the hot weather moderating and the skies clearing of smoke! The Boise forecast is calling for highs in the 60s on Friday and Saturday, and 70s on Sunday. That's almost unbelievable considering the string of HOT weather we've had nearly continuously through July and August ...

So my recommendation is to enjoy the cool temperatures and plan a hike this weekend in the Boise Foothills or the Owyhees. All of these hikes are detailed in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home, and The Owyhee Canyonlands, an Outdoor Adventure Guide. 

Here are my recommendations for five hikes guaranteed to please:

1. Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail - Distance: about 5 miles or less. Difficulty: Moderate. Time travel: You make the call. Take the kids and the dog and go for a hike on the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, starting from the BLM motorcycle parking lot about 3 miles up Eighth Street from the North End of Boise. Take the singletrack trail up the gulch, pausing to learn tidbits about geology and nature from the interpretive signs. Eventually, you'll come to a fork on the trail, go right to see the headwaters. Maybe the creek will be running? Turn around and return the way you came.

Exploring granite outcroppings above Hulls Gulch 
2. Dry Creek Trail - Distance: You make the call. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Time Travel: You make the call. It's a stout hike to hike on the Dry Creek Trail from the trailhead on Bogus Basin Road to the top of the Boise Ridge, but you really don't have to go that far. Just walk up the creek as far as you'd like, and enjoy the day in the cool, creekside, shady environment. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day! For the hard-cores, it's 6.8 miles to the top of the trail, if you want to do a 15-mile day and power walk it.

3. 5 Mile Creek-Watchman-Three Bears Loop - Distance: 6 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Time Travel: 2.5-3 hours. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road from the end of the pavement to the Five Mile Trailhead on the left. The hike starts here. The loop brings you right back to your rig. Pretty cool. Hike up Five Mile Creek several miles to the Orchard Junction, keep going straight along the creek, and the trail turns into Watchman at the top of the steep hill. Follow Watchman as it contours around the mountain, visits another creek, and then descends to the top of the Three Bears grade. Make sure you go left at the junction with Trail #6. Take a breather at the top of the grade, and then it's all downhill to Three Bears junction at the saddle, go left and drop down to Rocky Canyon Road. Go left on the road, and your car is around the corner.

Three Bears Trail heading back to Rocky Canyon Road rounds out the Five Mile-Watchman Loop 
4. Between the Creeks Loop, Owyhee Canyonlands - Distance: 8 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Travel time: 5 hours. See my blog post for photos and details of this hike ... it's one of my all-time favorite hikes in the Owyhees, especially because it's relatively close to Boise. Allow 1.5 hours to reach the trailhead, depending on how fast you drive. The scenic hike takes you on an upland tour of West Shoofly Creek and East Shoofly Creek on top of a plateau, hence the name, "Between the Creeks." The rhyolite canyons are craggy and beautiful.

Top of the mountain to the west of Toy Pass
5. Toy Pass, Owyhee Canyonlands - Should be beezy and cool up on Toy Pass this weekend, making for great hiking conditions. Two optional hikes take off from Toy Pass in the Owyhee Front, near Oreana, starting at 5,875 feet. One hike is 5.3 miles exploring the mountain to the east of the pass, and the other is 4.5 miles, exploring the small knob on the west side of the pass. Take I-84 to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and proceed to the state highway. Turn right at the highway and proceed to Grand View. Turn right on ID 78 in Grand View and then take the second left-hand turn to Oreana. Drive through the little town and go past the Basque church, then bear right on the signed Bachman Grade Road. Follow the well-maintained dirt road to the top of Toy Pass (about 13.5 miles). Park at the pass, and decide which mountain you'd like to climb from there. There are some nice car-camping spots on the south side of the pass, heading toward Triangle.
- SS