Long before I loved mountain biking, I loved Idaho. Growing up I spent a week most summers travelling to my family’s cabin up in the Panhandle of the state. I loved the lush forests, the lichen covered trees, and the way you could get lost in the maze of single and double track trails. Now that I’m a mountain biker, I see it a little differently. I love the composition of the dirt, and the steep unforgiving climbs and descents. One thing hasn’t changed though, Idaho is pretty rad and has trails all over the state just waiting to be explored.
1. Bear Basin – 24 MTB Trails for Everyone
These trails are perfect for everyone. They are easy enough for a beginner to navigate, but challenging enough for an expert to be plenty entertained. This trail system includes 24 trails with about 25 miles of riding. Most of the trails are blue and green, with two black trails to keep things interesting. Almost all of the trails connect in one way or another so that you have multiple loops to choose from and you can avoid the monotony of out and backs.
The Bear Basin trail system has big berms, switchbacks, dense forested areas, and rocks strewn throughout trails. There are signs throughout the trails so you should be able to find these spots without an issue.
Westy: This is best used as an uphill trail. It helps climb back up to the top after descending Lower Drain. The climb is gradual so that you should be able to maintain a steady pace and enjoy the lush greenery without going cross-eyed with effort.
Upper Drain: This is a less technical downhill than lower drain. It is smoother with banked berms and is extremely well designed and maintained.
Lower Drain: This is the most challenging trail at Bear Basin and should be and can easily be avoided by beginner riders. It has big berms, dirt jumps, and can be taken at high speeds.
Where is the Bear Basin Trail System?
Bear Basin Trail System is located in McCall, Idaho at the edge of Payette National Forest. There is parking off of North Club Hill Blvd with bathroom access. There is an additional bathroom off of West Face Trail. The parking lot can be accessed year round, but the trails are likely not open until June.
Pro Tip: Park in town or ride from your house in the center of McCall and take the Bear Basin Connector trail on the side of Highway 55. This way your body and mind are warmed up by the time you get to the trail. Warming up off of technical trails can help reduce injuries and crashes.
Bike Shops Supporting Bear Basin Trail System:
If you have a mechanical or need an extra part, help it only a few miles away.
- Edgewood Cycle and Sports: Only 3.6 miles and 9 minutes away from the trailhead. http://edgewoodsports.com/
- Home Town Sports: Only 3.8 miles and 10 minutes away from the trailhead. They are open 7 days per week. http://hometownsportsmccall.com/
2. Silver Mountain Resort – Long Downhills
Silver Mountain Bike Park has been voted the Northwest’s best bike park for 4 years in a row. It’s no wonder because they boast of North America’s longest gondola ride and almost 40 trails of singletrack excitement. They have trails designed for novice riders that only cover about 800 feet of vertical descent and will allow a novice rider to do more laps to gain more skills. The more advanced rider can go all the way to the top and descend 3,400 vertical feet which would take even the advanced rider nearly 15 minutes to descend.
Pro Tip: Consider using thick gloves for a day at the bike park. Descending will wreak havoc on your hands and fingers and a little extra padding will go a long way to keep you riding smoothly and to keep your hands on the bars.
With so many trails to choose from it’s hard to feature just a couple, but you’ll probably have trouble picking just a few to ride as well.
Lower Hammer: This is a black diamond trail with berms, big tabletops, and a couple of gaps. Make sure to always look before you just send it off of a lip.
Payday: This is a smooth machine groomed green trail. Big sweeping switchbacks require some skills and practice but the smooth trail with few rocks makes it a good place for beginner or intermediate riders to learn.
Lower Log Jammin: As a double black diamond trail, this is one of the most challenging trails at Silver Mountain. It has a wooden jump section, step ups, a ladder bridge, drops, and a road gap.
Where is Silver Mountain Resort?
Silver Mountain Resort is located in Kellogg, Idaho. The gondola is open June-September from 9:30-4 pm. On Friday nights they are open late. A one day pass to the bike park is $38 and a summer pass is $345.
Bike Shops Supporting Silver Mountain Resort:
The resort offers bike rentals, however if you need a repair for your own bicycle you can find a couple of bike shops less than a mile away.
Dirty Trends Bike and Coffee House: Come in and have a coffee while you get your bike repaired. They state that most repairs will be 30 minutes. They are open 7 days a week from 6 am-6 pm. https://dirtytreadskellogg.com/
Excelsior Cycle and Sports Shop: Open 9 am- 5:30 Monday through Saturday and 9 am- 4 on Sundays. For more information, check their Facebook page.
3. Williams Creek – Advanced MTB Skills
Williams Creek features 74 trails. 18 of them are blue and the rest are back diamond and above. While an intermediate rider may be able to manage these trails, they are best enjoyed by an advanced rider. The trails go through forest and grassland and feature beautiful views of Williams Creek. Many of the trails are extremely steep.
Come prepared to hike-a-bike some sections in order to access the best descents, or come with friends and 2 vehicles and park at the top and bottom of the descent in order to shuttle the trail.
Pro Tip: Many of these trails take you far away from roads or shops so you will need to prepare for a flat tire. Consider bringing a tire plug. Genuine Innovation makes great plugs that will allow for a fast flat fix.
Powerhouse Gulch: This is a popular trail for shuttling. There is parking on both ends of the trail. It is about 2 miles long with 1,298 feet of elevation change. The trail goes through meadows and really allows you to pick up a lot of speed.
Williams Creek: This trail is well maintained and some good work has gone into it. It has a few short and steep sections but it is mostly flowy. It has a couple of creek crossings as well. If you are an intermediate rider at Williams Creek, consider starting with this trail.
Horn Hunter: This trail is an easier climbing option in order to make a loop between Horn Hunter and Horse Mountain. This would make a small 3 mile loop that is perfect to practice on.
Where is Williams Creek Trail System?
Williams Creek Trail System is located in Salmon, Idaho. There are nearly 15 parking areas scattered throughout the trails in order to allow for shuttling or direct access to the trail that you wish to ride. Don’t forget to warm up on the fireroads before going straight into the steep trails. There is access to vault toilets at the Cougar Point Campground which is close to the Meadow trail. There is no water though so you will need to pack everything you plan to drink.
Bike Shops Supporting Williams Creek Trail System:
There are not many bike shops within a reasonable distance of the Williams Creek Trail System so make sure you are prepared when you arrive. If you do have an issue then you can contact The HUB of Salmon.
The HUB of Salmon: This shop is open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, but they also try to come in as needed. The shop owners cell phone number is online and he will make arrangements if you need a repair. https://www.ridesalmon.com/the-hub
4. Lemhi Mountains – Love Mountain Biking
The Lemhi Mountains are some of Idaho’s biggest peaks including Diamond Peak which maxes out above 12,197 feet. This type of riding is some of my favorite. The trails are long and spread out. It allows for the ultimate backcountry feeling and makes you feel totally at one with the mountain and separate from the rest of the world. Backcountry riding is what made me fall in love with mountain biking.
The Lemhi Mountains have 50 trails with 25 of them being black diamond trails. A beginner rider shouldn’t attempt this type of riding on his or her own. Mechanicals and other challenges can become even more daunting when you are stuck in the backcountry.
Pro Tip: At high elevations the sun can be even more intense and UV radiation is stronger so make sure to wear sunscreen for your long backcountry adventure.
Devils Basin: This is a 3.3 mile trail with over 2,000 feet of vertical descending. This is a very steep technical descent that goes through big rock gardens that should only be attempted by an expert rider. You can make a loop out of it by turning onto Park-Fork-Lake Fork and then doing a small part of Big Eightmile and Patterson.
Rocky Creek: This trail can be ridden in either direction. It is 4.7 miles with either 2,338 feet of climbing or descending. It has absolutely gorgeous views and is worth the effort.
Kadletz-Hayden: This trail is on the opposite side of the mountain than the previous two trails featured. It is a single track trail that goes from Kadletz Creek to Hayden Creek. The trail isn’t extremely technical but will be very physically taxing.
Where are the Lemhi Mountains?
The Lemhi Mountains are located in May, Idaho in the Salmon-Challis National Forest which is about an hour and a half drive from Leadore, Idaho. There is parking off of Bull Creek Road (103). There is also a campground called Big Eightmile Campground. The area is fairly remote so you should have extras of everything when you drive out to this location.
Bike Shops Supporting the Lemhi Mountains:
The closest bike shop to these trails is over 2 hours away. Make sure that all of your repairs are taken care of before you make this trip. Bring an extra tube, tire levers, mini pump, food, water, chain tool, multi-tool, quick link and anything else you can’t imagine riding without. Don’t risk it when you are so far away from assistance.
5. Tamarack Bike Park – Downhill MTB
Tamarck Bike Park is a lift-accessed bike park located in Tamarack, Idaho, 20 miles West of McCall. The park is open June 15- September 15 and has 40 trails to offer. The park has a lot of beginner and intermediate trails with a few expert options along with jumps, tabletops, and wooden wall rides.
In addition to the downhill bike part which costs $41 per day, there is also a large network of cross country trails throughout the resort which are free for the general public.
Pro Tip: Downhill bike parks can get really dusty because of the constant use. Consider using goggles instead of glasses so that you seal your eyes off from the dust and don’t have to spend your whole day blinking the dust out of your eyes.
6. Osberg’s Ridge Trail – Backcountry MTB
Osberg’s Ridge Trail is almost too good to be true. This ride is an 11 mile point to point trail located 45 minutes outside of Sun Valley, Idaho. It transverses across a ridgeline with a view as far as the eye can see. It’s an incredible day on the bike. It takes you to places where you feel like you might be the only person in the world. It’s the true definition of backcountry riding.
While the trail is a transverse, it undulates and has plenty of climbing to keep you working and fully engaged. The only downside of the Osberg Ridge Trail is that it isn’t that easy to get to. Since it is a point to point trail, you will need to employ a shuttle service. Check out Sturtevant’s in Sun Valley and take a ride in their big pink van.
Pro Tip: You’ll want a camera for this adventure. Make sure your phone is handy so that you can snap photos of each breathtaking view.
7. Magic Mountain Bike Trail System
The Magic Mountain Trail System is located in Twin Falls, Idaho. It includes 36 trails designed for beginner and expert riders. The trail offers multiple loops that can be connected or a long out and back area for a great backcountry feel. Some of these trails feature sustained climbs and descents that are 4-8 miles long. Those type of climbs are perfect for an individual looking for hard training or sustained power numbers.
The trail features aspen groves and alpines and is described as high desert riding. Use caution as these trails are open to motorcycles and ATVs.
8. Frog Lake Loop
The Frog Lake Loop is located in Clayton, Idaho close to the Sawtooth National Forest. This big loop can be ridden in either direction and features 24 miles and 4,600 feet of elevation change. The trail starts and ends with loose, rocky, and technical terrain but in the middle is beautiful forested trails. The trail has berms, sharp terns, and high speed descents.
Pro Tip: If you have the option, consider using a full suspension bike for this trail. The full suspension bike will allow for better traction on the loose terrain and a smoother ride through technical sections.
9. Wagonhammer Trail System
The Wagonhammer Trail System is located in North Fork, Idaho which is 2 hours South of Missoula, Montana. There are 50 miles of trails in the area with more climbing and descending then you could ever do in a day, or even a week for that matter.
The trails range in difficulty level. There are three access points. One of the points is for cross country riding and the other two are for shuttle access if you wish for a day with less pedaling. As a bonus, there is a lot of wildlife in the area so keep an eye out!
10. Boise Foothills Trail Network
Located conveniently in Boise, Idaho this network features 22 trails primarily focused on beginner and intermediate riders. The trick to riding this type of terrain is to always focus on carrying momentum. These trails are rolling, and each uphill is followed by a small descent. If you are able to carry your speed from one descent up the other side of the climb, you will find yourself rolling with very little effort. This is an important skill to learn as a mountain biker.
There are multiple parking areas that will allow you to access your favorite trails directly. There is also a bathroom for pit stops or changing. You can make an even longer day on the trails by riding directly from the Boise Foothill Trail Network to Military Reserve Park or Hulls Gulch.
11. The Woodrat Trail
You might not see this trail listed on many online forums, but it is my own personal favorite. The trail is located in Priest Lake, Idaho, only a 2 hour drive from Canada. Priest Lake is my favorite places in all of the United States.
To get to this trail you will park near Hill’s Resort and climb a fireroad up to the trail entrance. I like to do any intervals or workouts I have on that fireroad. After the fireroad climb you will enter the Singletrack trail. The trail is extremely steep, both up and down and has challenging climbs and ripping descents. The descent has great flow and a few heavily forested areas that will make you feel like you’re in a fairy land. The end of the trail will dump you back out where you parked, right at the edge of the lake.
Pro Tip: The trails are extremely steep so consider adjusting your gearing. I like to run a 32 front ring with an 11-51 cassette. If you have too big of a gear, you will likely find yourself walking.
Super Pro Tip: Get ice cream at Hill’s Resort after your ride.
Clubs and Groups Supporting Mountain Biking in Idaho:
- Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association (CIMBA): CIMBA was started in 1997 with a goal of advocating for mountain biking and building and maintaining sustainable trails. CIMBA is an IMBA club and their work can be seen at Bear Basin and the Tamarack Bike Park.
- Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association (SWIMBA): SWIMBA is dedicated to maintaining world-class mountain bike trails in the Southwest region. They were established in the early 1990s and helped work with Hulls Gulch trail system as well as have made sizeable donations toward multiple trail projects.
- Boise Area Mountain Bike Association (BAMBA): BAMBA is a non-profit organization that works to better and maintain the great mountain biking that the Boise area has to offer. This club is also an IMBA chapter.
Bike Parks in Idaho:
Ketchum Bike Park: The Ketchum Bike park is a pump track located near the Hemingway Elementary school in Ketchum. A pump track allows you to work on your efficiency on the bike and the skills will quickly transfer to the trails. Plus, you’ll be surprised by how good of a workout you get.
Eagle Bike Park: Located in Eagle, Idaho this bike park has lots of singletrack trail to ride on as well as a pump track and jump line. It’s a great place for both beginners to learn new skills and experts to try creating bigger ones.
Military Reserve: This is a new bike park that is still being built and worked on. It is set to be finished sometime this fall (2019). There is a pavement pump track, jump lines, and wall rides. Boise Parks and Recreation will announce once the park is officially open.
Why Idaho for Mountain Biking?
Idaho has it all. High desert riding, backcountry adventures, deep, lush forests, and some of the most picturesque views you’ll ever encounter. It’s no wonder why Idaho is home to some of the country’s most famous and competitive mountain bike races. Whether you’re going to Idaho for a competition, a bike-packing trip, or a change of scenery I hope you will share the same love that I have for the state.