I was all suited up at the trailhead outside of Boise, Idaho, primed for a mountain bike ride on the e-bike I had rented when I was stopped in my tracks. Another trail user said that e-bikes are “illegal” on trails and pointed out the sign prohibiting motorized vehicles. I was in a quandary: An electric assist mountain bike is a bike, NOT a dirtbike or motorcycle. But it DOES have a motor. So…are e-bikes allowed on Idaho trails or not?
Is it Legal to Ride an E Bike on a Trail in Idaho?
The state of Idaho is fairly inclusive with laws regarding usage of e-bikes and allows them on bike paths and trails. However, it’s often not the state laws but local and county and rules that determine whether e-bikes are legal on a particular trail.
The state of Idaho (Idaho Code 49-106) defines an electric assisted bicycle as an electric motor-driven vehicle equipped with operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the rider, no more than three wheels in contact during travel. In addition, the vehicle must be equipped with an electric motor that is capable of applying a power output of no greater than 750 watts, and that is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 28 miles per hour on level ground. E-bikes are generally allowed to be used the same way as traditional bicycles.
The US Forest Service still categorizes an e-MTB as “motorized” and prohibits its usage on non-motorized trails. However, a recent change (Aug. 2019) allowed e-MTB on all other federal lands in any places where standard bicycles are permitted. Meanwhile, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation does not have an official policy regarding e-bikes, and local jurisdictions may have different regulations for e-bikes on their trails.
What Are the E Bike Policies for Idaho?
Because e-bikes share the same designation as “bicycles,” no title, insurance requirement or motorcycle endorsement is necessary, but on roadways the rider is required to follow the same rules as a bicyclist. They’re permitted on sidewalks as long as they’re being pedaled and not motor-propelled. Electric bikes are allowed on bike paths, but local governments have the authority to restrict their usage. In short, check local regulations for the trails where you want to ride your e-bike.
Here are several helpful references for Idaho e-bike laws. This link explains the bike laws in Idaho: https://www.bikelaw.com/2019/04/idaho-bike-laws/.
This link has a easy reference PDF on the Bike laws for Idaho: https://wsd-pfb-sparkinfluence.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2020/01/E-Bike-Law-Handouts_ID_2020-1.pdf
Can You Ride an E-Bike in Idaho National Parks?
Changes to federal regulations in August of 2019 opened many trails up to e-bikes in National Parks and BLM trails, allowing them the same access as standard bicycles. Still, riders are expected to use the motor only to boost their pedaling, not speed along on the trails solely on motor power. While the National Forest System still prohibits e-bikes on non-motorized trails, they will likely transition to the same policies as other federal lands. In the meantime, you’ll find many fun single-track rides in Idaho National Forests where e-bikes are permitted.
What Do I Need to Know About Trail Rules and Etiquette?
If you’re already experienced at mountain bike trail riding, you probably know the rules. But, if you’re new to mountain biking in general, there are some guidelines you should familiarize yourself with.
- Ride on open trails only. This means not just obeying trail closure signs but also making sure e-bikes are permitted.
- Leave no trace. Take your trash home. Don’t cut switchbacks. Don’t ride when trails are muddy as it damages the trail for months or even years.
- Control your bicycle. Control your speed and pay attention. You should be able to stop quickly at any point.
- Never scare animals. You may encounter horses, cows or dogs on a trail. Give animals time to get used to you and extra space when passing. Use a calm greeting to announce your presence.
- Plan ahead with the appropriate gear, trail selection for skill level and other precautions for a safe experience in the wilderness.
- When approaching others on the trail, bicyclists must yield to both hikers and horses. Slow down or move off the trail and communicate when passing.
More details about mountain biking trail etiquette can be found on the International Mountain Bike Association webpage (link https://www.copmoba.org/trail-etiquette/)
Should I Ride an E-Bike or a Traditional Mountain Bike?
The appeal of an e-bike over a traditional mountain bike is that it can supplement power that the rider lacks. This opens up extraordinary outdoor opportunities to people with disabilities or people without the physical ability to access a trail under their own power. An e-bike is not a motorcycle that propels the rider without pedaling, but instead allows the user to contribute as much to riding as they’re able and boost it with battery power when they reach their physical limit.
For newcomers to mountain biking, this opens new worlds of scenery and recreational opportunities. For seasoned mountain bikers, it may simply mean an added boost on a grueling climb and the chance to enjoy the summit without being dog-tired.
Some Great Bike Trails in Idaho (E Bikes Allowed)
These are generally multi-use trail systems where e-MTBs share the trails with hikers, dirtbikers, horseback riders and traditional mountain bicyclists.
- Greenhorn Gulch, Sawtooth National Forest – Sun Valley, ID. (22.6 miles)
- Big Casino-Little Casino Loop – Stanley, ID. (20.1 miles)
- Kennally Lakes Loop – McCall, ID. (22 miles)
- Continental Divide to 3 Mile Ridge – Salmon, ID. (17.5 miles)
- Sheep Creek Road – Salmon, ID. (16.25 miles)
- Independence Creek Tour – Pinehurst, ID. (20 miles)
- Grandmother Mountain Loop – Clarkia, ID. (18.1 miles)
- Peace Creek Summit – Cascade, ID. (15.2 miles)
- Route of the Hiawatha Scenic MTB Trail
Looking for e-bike mountain bike rides in Idaho? Find one anywhere in the country (or submit your own) with this e-mountain biking map, with info from the Mountain Bike Project (make sure the box is checked for “E Bike Allowed” in the trail description). link: http://peopleforbikes.org/emtb/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=CPC&utm_content=E-Bike%20Routes%20%26%20Rides&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_Om89_Pe6gIVBNvACh2jQQm1EAAYASAAEgITXPD_BwE
At the Summit
“The climb was brutal, but the views are worth it.” Or “A great trail if you like to hike-a-bike” are the kinds of comments I might have written about some of my mountain bike rides in Idaho – on a standard mountain bike. Instead, I enjoyed single track riding high above Stanley, Idaho with astounding views of Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth Mountains with pedal assist when I needed it.
If you want to ride your e-bike on mountain biking trails in Idaho, there are abundant options as long as you check that e-bikes are legal. But, of course, it’s worth the effort.