“A thrilling descent through amazing scenery. Can be heavily overgrown.”
— Chris Wandervans
The Cottonwood Creek Trail is a very popular trail and sees usage from hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers on busy weekends. Most of the trail is of moderate grade, and this makes it a great out and back. It is also common to use the Cottonwood Creek Rd and Bald Mountain Rd. to create a loop. There is nice camping at the bottom of the trail and also at the top at Thorn Creek Butte so this is a good place to spend the weekend. There are also hot springs up the road along the Middle Fork of the Boise if you need to heal some aching muscles.
The start of this ride is at the bottom of Cottonwood creek, but as mentioned above it can be ridden in many different ways. The lower 7 miles of the trail are of moderate grade and are easily climbed and also a blast to descend. The last 1.3 miles of this trail are steeper as the creek dies out and you get close to Thorn Creek Butte. The upper section is mostly climbable, but you might have a couple of short hikes in some loose sections. Descending on the upper 1.3 miles of trail is very fast and fun. Watch your speed on any descent on busy weekends, since this trail does see some high usage.
A couple of old burns have crossed the trail over the years, so be aware there is not a lot of shade in the lower half of the trail. Near the top you'll enter thicker tree cover and the trail gets a lot more shaded.
Note this trail can be heavily brushed in and impassible on a bike if the Forest Service has not maintained it. Fairly large sized loose rock also can cover trail. As of May 2016, it was not rideable past mile 1 going uphill towards the lookout. Be prepared to turn around or ditch bikes and hike. Or bring a chainsaw and brushcutter.