Thursday, June 28, 2018

Heading to Stanley for 4th of July? Five rock-solid ideas for hiking and biking in the area

Group at Bench Lakes (courtesy of Knowles Gallery.) 
Hi all,

I sure am enjoying the cooler weather that we're experiencing right now, and it is expected to stay on the cooler side for the 4th of July holiday if you're planning on heading into the mountains. High temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s in the mountains this weekend (60s on Friday), and continuing into next week for the holiday. Perfect weather for hiking and biking!

I did a post recently on some popular and scenic trails that are open for hiking and biking in the McCall area, and so for this week, I'm recommending 5 rock-solid ideas in the Stanley area. These are mostly hikes and one ride. Overall, I am hearing that snow levels are between 8,500-9,000 feet in the Stanley area, creek crossings are high and hazardous (bring hiking poles and a rope for safety), but the snow is melting quickly. 

As you break out of the trees on the Boundary Creek Trail, the views get more and more spectacular. 
1. Boundary Creek Trail in the White Cloud Mountains - The Boundary Creek Trail rises steeply from the valley floor (trailhead is across Idaho 75 from the Sawtooth Hatchery), and for that reason, the trail affords magnificent views of the Sawtooth Valley, the Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake as you climb the mountain. Here's an online map of the trail. It's about 3 miles to the top, and 2,000 feet of climbing. Rated strenuous but worth the effort for the big view! This trail is best for hiking, but hard-core strong bikers could climb it as well.

Bridal Veil Falls (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review) 
2. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls from Stanley Lake - Roundtrip distance is about 8 miles. Only 570 feet of elevation gain. Rated easy to moderate. This is a popular hike for good reason ... it's very scenic at the falls. Here's a nice writeup on the trip with a short video of the falls. 

3. Hike to Bench Lakes from Redfish Lake Lodge - Take the Bench Lakes trail from the trailhead next to Redfish Lake Lodge and hike to one of the lower Bench Lakes. The uppermost lakes are likely to be snow-bound. There are five lakes overall. Here's a nice writeup from the Outbound Collective. Distance round-trip is about 8 miles, depending on which lake you go to. Rated easy to moderate.

Hell Roaring Lake (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review)
4. Hike to Hell Roaring Lake or Imogene Lake in the Sawtooths - It's an easy 5.5-mile hike to Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooths. You'll need a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. The trail is pretty flat, less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But the payoff is big with spectacular views of the Sawtooths at the lake, and super cool view of the Finger of Fate. See writeup and pics courtesy of Matt Leidecker, author of excellent full-color guides to the Sawtooths and the White Clouds.

Margie and a couple of teen-age boys loved the Potato Mountain Ride ... Quinn wasn't so sure at the time. 
5. Ride the Potato Mountain Loop near Stanley - This is one of my favorite bike rides. The crossing of Big Basin Creek might be kind of gnarley this time of year, but it sure is fun to do the ride. It's about 13.5 miles to do the loop. It starts out kind of steep but once you get over the hill and drop into Little Basin Creek, you're smiling all the way. The trail runs very close to the creek. See full description on the MTB Project site. I took my son Quinn on this ride when he was about 13, and he whined most of the way, but he survived. Several other teen-age kids went with us. So that's an option if you want to take kids.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!
- SS  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's on your list for summer fun? Steve's Top 10 must-do, must-see outdoor list

Climb a mountain is one of my recommendations ... this is in the Pioneers near Stanhope Peak. 
Hi all,

Today, June 21, marks the official beginning of summer, and also the Summer Equinox, the longest day of the year. The weather is warming into the 80s in the afternoons, so it's pretty much perfect weather conditions for just about anything outdoors. Welcome to summer!

To celebrate this moment in time, I am recommending 10 must-see, must-do activities for the summer of 2018:

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but the summer season opens on the Boise River at Barber Park at noon on Friday, June 22. Warm summer weather also gets people jazzed about floating the Payette River, either the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft & Kayak, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing.

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 
2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed. 

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there.

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

Go hiking in the Sawtooths (photo courtesy Michael Lanza/The Big Outside)
5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit   

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 
7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)
9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake.

10. Go see an outdoor concert! See Michael Deed's column in the Idaho Statesman for a full rundown of outdoor concerts planned in the summer of 2018.

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover. 
- SS

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Five premium mountain bike rides to get your adrenaline and fun meter in the red zone

Flowers are blooming in Ponderosa State Park right now along the super fun Huckleberry Trail 
Lunch break at Loon Lake 
Friends Barb and Paul on Jug Mountain Ranch singletrack 
Hi all,

The weather is supposed to cool off markedly this weekend, particularly on Sunday when it's supposed to hit only 65 degrees as high in the Boise Valley. In McCall, Stanley and Sun Valley, it will be much cooler with rain and snow in the high elevations predicted.

But neverthless, for this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending five premium mountain biker rides in Boise and McCall that are in good shape and ready to ride as of today ... the McCall trails will get wet this weekend, but the weather is supposed to snap back to warm temperatures by Tuesday and Wednesday. The summer season is upon us, and the kids are out of school!

The rides:

Typical view of Around the Mountain Trail on the backside of Bogus ... super fun! 
1. Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin - Distance 10 miles, riding time 1.5 hours, 1,500' vertical gain. This was voted as the best ride in Idaho by IMBA ... I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's definitely in the top 10. Bogus Basin is open for summer operations. See their web site for more information.

2. Eastside-Stack Rock-Sweet Connie-Chukar Butte to Boise - I'm not sure of the distance of this ride but I'd guess it's close to 20 miles if you end up at in Hidden Springs on Dry Creek Road at the bottom of Chukar Butte. Vertical drop has to be about 3,000-feet plus. This is a huge long downhill that's much improved with the trail-enhancement work that'd been done on Sweet Connie. Shuttle to the Eastside trailhead, ride Entrance Exam to Eastside to Stack Rock then take Sweet Connie downhill to Chukar Butte and go right on Chukar Butte over to Hidden Springs. This is probably one of the coolest downhill rides that you can do in the Boise area.

3. Jug Mountain Ranch, Lake Fork - The trails at Jug are opening up for lots of fun and enjoyment. See the latest list of JMR trails at this link. They've built a new beginner downhill trail called "Doe-Joe." I'm looking forward to riding it. It looks like Doe-Joe connects to Berm & Ernie, which is a super-fun flowy trail with banked corners. Another great loop is to take South Elk over to the South Boundary Road, climb that to Murphy Jct., climb to the Jug Reservoir, ride the Shoreline Trail around the lake, then take Vendelay downhill to Harper's Hollow and finish out on North Elk back to the trailhead.
JMR trail system map (courtesy JMR)
4. Loon Lake Loop - I checked with the McCall Ranger District and the trail has been cleared to the Secesh River. You may encounter a few downed trees on the way back along the Secesh River to the trailhead. Distance: 10 miles. Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Travel time: 2-3 hours. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic at Loon Lake. Here's the MTB project writeup on the larger Loon Lake Loop.
Here's a writeup and video on the 10-mile loop in my blog.

5. Huckleberry Trail Loop at Ponderosa Park - Distance 6 miles; riding time 1+ hour; vertical gain, 750 feet, Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Park staff built more singletrack a couple of years ago so you can hike, run or mountain bike around the whole park peninsula. The trail has tree roots and rocks on it, and it has lots of up and down, so it's a good training ride for more challenging national forest rides in the McCall area. MTB project didn't do the whole loop, but they have a description of most of the trail.

BTW, 10 Barrel Brewing is sponsoring a downhill bike race on Sunday, called "Bogus to the Barrel." Cash prizes are at stake. There must be some talent coming into town to compete for the cash! Might be fun to watch somewhere along the course, or to participate in ...

Have fun biking!
- SS